How to Properly Set a Table...Like an Adult | Skimm Picks | theSkimm
Setting the table like an adult

Thanksgiving is coming up quick. And your guests are expecting the food to put them to sleep, not your party. No pressure. Here are our tips for how to set your Turkey Day table smarter...

I know how to set a table but I want to hear you say it.


You don’t want to fork this up. Setting the table is easy if you remember this fun acronym: 0 f**ks. As in, I’m an adult who gives 0 f**ks...except when I want to impress everyone I know.


- your dinner plate
- forks on the left

** - fancy spoons and dessert forks on top
K - knives on the right

- spoons on the far right

What should I put in the middle of the table?


You wanna centerpiece of me? Your centerpiece should reflect the season slash vibe of the dinner and the size of your table.

For when your table is as long as is takes to cook the turkey...
Take a cue from your timer and set it long and low. Stretch a low-profile centerpiece across the length of your rectangular table. It’ll make for good conversation without getting in the way of it. It also means that when politics come up, awkward eye contact with your cousin on the other end won’t be obstructed.


For when appetites are big, but your table is small...
Skip the centerpiece altogether. Use your wall or overhead space to decorate and save room for the main attraction: dinner. PS: when you do set those dishes down, place them onto multi-tiered trays to make the most of your small surface.

How do I make it look nice?


You might not have your grandma’s cooking chops, but you can at least give ‘em a feast for the eyes...

For when you’re prone to spilling...

Skip the tablecloth. Let your wood table shine with a simple table runner. It’ll make for a more casual setting and take some of the pressure off. For something Joanna Gaines would be proud of, make placemats out of butcher paper and write personalized notes on them for each guest.

For when you have 10 spoons and 0 forks....

Rent flatware from a company like this one. It can be cheaper than filling the gaps or buying a new set. Plus, when the last bit of stuffing is scooped up, don’t worry about clean-up. Just scrape off the food and return to the rental company.

For when you want to spice things up...

Use fresh herbs and spices as part of your tableau. Lay a sprig of rosemary into the fold of your napkins, or use cinnamon sticks as placeholders for name cards. Pro tip: put away the scented candle. Nothing should compete with the (totally not burnt) smell coming from your kitchen.

For when you already have a Thanksgiving hashtag in mind...

Make Instagram-friendly moments in areas you know people will gather. Think: your coffee table. Take dollar store or leftover Halloween pumpkins and gild them with a quick layer of gold paint or foil. Instant Insta cred.

This year, do it all smarter

How do I set the *mood*...

The devil is in the details. Here’s how not to tryptophan...

For when you want to avoid small talk…
Sing. Set up a fool-proof playlist like this one so you’re not busy changing songs in between serving and hosting. FYI - music should be played soft enough to be talked over, but loud enough for a hint of head-bobbing.

For when you want ambiance, not ambivalence…
Get the lights right. Set them low and use unscented candles for a cozy touch. Hint: go long and tapered for rectangular set-ups and use pillars and votives for most everything else.

For when your Thanksgiving dinner falls between a million weddings...

Something old, something new, something borrowed. Use family recipes and glassware from your mom or MIL’s collection. Hand-me-downs make good conversation starters and help create a nostalgic vibe. Don’t have a family recipe? Borrow one from Molly Yeh’s dad.

For when you want friends to become family…

Buffets are no bueno. Make sure to place food at the table so people know this is a seated dinner where they’ll have to *gasp* talk to each other. Psst...if you don’t have enough chairs, rent some.

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