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You’ve got the turkey in the oven (or the grill) and the pies have been made. As you check your menu list and tend to those last dinner details, it’s not too late to think about your Thanksgiving table. How you set your table can set the tone for your meal, making your guests feel extra special and encouraging them to slow down and savor the moment a little more than usual. After all, you’ve spent all week cooking and preparing, don’t let all that love and care go unnoticed! Make sure your table is a worthy partner for those treasured family recipes and the priceless moments your family will spend gathered around it.

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Sometimes, just knowing how to set the table can be a challenge. Whether you are serving courses or preparing a buffet –style service, having a grasp on where to put all those forks, spoons, and knives at each place setting can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

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When I get stumped, I pull out “my girl” to give me a hand. “My girl” is Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette.  A very large book, hard-bound in blue, this invaluable resource given to me as a high school graduation present has been an invaluable go-to for everything from how to be a gracious host, writing letters and notes, professional protocol, and phone manners. Miss Post offers a variety of diagrams and illustrations for table settings and buffet traffic flow for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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However, this year, I just let the courses to be served dictate which utensils I included at my place settings and used the rule of thumb of “work from the outside in.” Salad and soup first (spoon and salad fork on the outsides), then main course with meat (knife and fork—knife blade pointed in during peace times and pointed out during war).

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With the technical stuff out of the way, let’s talk centerpieces and dishes. This year’s table setting was all about mixing and matching (like families tend to really be, right?) to keep the table from getting too formal. I mixed my formal silver pattern with everyday stemware and casual stoneware dishes in seasonal colors while gourds, seed pods, and magnolia played off the rustic, home style dishes that always take center stage at our family Thanksgiving dinner.

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Mixing and matching also made room for a variety of textures. From bumpy gourds and to burlap and lace, the table offers a little more in visual interest as the guests take their seats. The lace napkins are really hand- crocheted doilies made by my husband’s grandmother.

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I loved the way the doilies contrasted against the texture of the burlap and offered a bit of nostalgia to the table. I always jump at the chance to incorporate precious family items. Holidays are special times to celebrate family, heritage, and traditions.

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So this year as you check those last details off of your menu list and make sure that those pies are just right, don’t forget the table. Honor your family with a table that shows them just how special they really are. Set the table; set the tone.

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Tips of the Trade:

When preparing for a large group that requires multiple tables, setting and dressing those tables can be tough. Focus your attention on a main table or on the food service areas while keeping other tables simple but welcoming.

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To see more photos of the ASD Thanksgiving table and coffee buffet, click here.