Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanksgiving Table Decorations - The Cheap and Easy Way

Growing up, my family was never very big on decorating the table for Thanksgiving - we let the food set the stage. I always secretly wished that we could be like one of those WASPy families in movies that has ornate centerpieces and crystal candlesticks and stemware that cost more than my first car. (As an adult, I appreciate that I can wear my eatin' pants to our family celebration.)

Just the Zandi family sitting down for a casual Thanksgiving.

Now that I know how much work goes into throwing a Thanksgiving, I get why decorating the table isn't a high priority, which is why I wanted to try and do a (very) low cost ~tablescape~ . I'm no Sandra Lee, but I wanted something very quick and very affordable that would help camouflage the fact that I'm a terrible cook who is likely accidentally poisoning her guests. 

If you want to keep things easy, but cohesive, try to map out some kind of color scheme beforehand. I decided to go with neutrals and metallics, because it would be the easiest way to pull things from around my house. Anything black, white, gold, silver, or craft-paper colored could stay.

I have plain white dishes, which are a good base, but look a little plain on their own. Instead of setting the napkins under the place settings, I decided to put them on top of the plates. One problem? I don't own any cloth napkins. I looked at Target and online for cheap tea towels, but even the cheapest sets work out to about $2 a towel, and when you're expecting a lot of people, that adds up. Good thing this is a diy blog, people.

I went to Joann and bought a yard of plain black cotton fabric for $2.99 a yard, with a 50% off coupon. After cutting the fabric into four evenly-sized strips, I folded over the long edges about an inch and ironed them flat, to create a clean edge without having to sew them. Next, I took Martha Stewart acrylic paint (which works on fabric!) and created a confetti pattern using a pencil eraser. (A tip: stamp randomly and quickly, don't think too much about it. My first napkin I was slow and deliberate, trying to not to leave any awkward gaps and I ended up creating a pattern, which is not how confetti falls! Just go buckwild, it works better that way.)

Next up, is place cards. I love the fancy calligraphy ones, but I just don't have the skills. Plus, since the rest of the table will be pretty glitzy and metallic, I thought it was okay to go a little utilitarian with the cards.I bought a small pack of cardstock for $1.50, and busted out the $1 stamp set that we've used a time or two before. 

I stamped on the guests name, and folded the card in half. 

On the inside, I wanted to add a personal touch, so I thought writing one thing you're thankful for about each guest inside the placecard would be a nice surprise just between you and them.

And for a final touch, I bought a little bouquet of fake flowers (one that had the most leaves) and spray painted those gold, to glue onto each card.

The cost of the leaves, card stock, paint and fabric makes each place setting less than $1. I also picked up a few yards of white muslin to create an inexpensive tablecloth that people could spill red wine on without worry. 

I didn't want to add too much fuss to the middle of the table, because that's where the food goes! I ran a roll of wrapping paper from the Target dollar spot down the middle as an inexpensive runner, and lit a few dollar store candles. In lieu of flowers, which can be prohibitively expensive, I brought some greenery to the table in a metal pot that matched the metallic theme. It still adds the life that flowers would add, but is much cheaper, and will last much longer.

If you're going to have separate tables, because of space, or perhaps you have a kid's table, you can make table numbers by spray painting an old bottle of wine black and gluing on a graphic number. Mine is cut out from last month's Stendig, but you can print one too! It also makes a great candle holder for long tapers. 

Nearly everything on this table was repurposed from around the house, making it a very inexpensive, but still festive way to dress up the table for Thanksgiving with minimal effort.

The table number? You may recognize from the calendar in the bedroom, glued to any old wine bottle.
The plant? Was in the guest room yesterday. 
The namecard stamps? Seen em' before.

You could get away with doing this whole table for under ten bucks, even less with a coupon. What's that? You don't have a coupon? I got you.
Click to print

Looking for more neutral and metallic items to dress up your table on the cheap?
Apartment Therapy did this great roundup of items under $25 that fit the bill! 

Okay, well that was a very long post for a really simple concept, but hopefully it comes in handy as you host your Thanksgivings and Friendsgivings! Speaking of, since my first Friendsgiving post turned out to be a sleeper success, stay tuned to tomorrow for part two! 


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  1. Love this idea! We'll be spending thanksgiving elsewhere but we're hosting Hanukkah at our home (since it starts the same day and runs for 8 days). I'll definitely be using some of these ideas. Thanks! :D

  2. love it! love the look and love how simple and easy it is to accomplish. always love your DIY ideas :)

  3. I'm in love with the wrapping paper from the Target dollar spot. I bought the valentine stuff on clearance and used it as a cheap runner for a bridal shower. Love it.

  4. love that you keep things thrifty yet still wonderful/chic. great post!

    xo, Lily on Fillmore

  5. Very pretty tablescape! I think this would also be great for a low key New Years Eve party!


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