Entertaining, Holiday

Thanksgiving “Dressing”

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At this point, you probably know what you’re going to cook for Thanksgiving, but don’t forget — you take your first taste with your eyes! What will your guests see when they step up to the table? Here are some tabletop decorating ideas to make your Turkey Day more festive: one a casual setting, the other a more dressed up affair.

What could be simpler than an ivy theme? (Keeping a sharp focus on planning helps you make decisions faster.) It’s always fun to poke around in my china closet for special occasion dinnerware, and once my eyes alighted on this fanciful set of plates with their rim of ivy leaves, I was on point!

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The deep shiny green is a great neutral that goes with everything, and staying with one detail brings a simple elegance to this setting. Even using an ivy leaf from my garden (inscribed with a water-based pen) for a place card and setting it atop a small handcrafted-by-me stand of twigs and raffia proves that nothing is too mundane to be considered for sprucing up the table.

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Scattering more ivy leaves across the tablecloth gives the setting a last minute “devil may care” note that keeps the casual theme authentic.

This is the time of year when I gravitate to warm colors and textures, whether it’s in my wardrobe or table linens. I’m happiest whenever I find anything non-traditonal to place on the table, such as an antique woven wool textile rather than a cotton tablecloth. And I particularly cherish the way my mother’s antique English plates play off the Persian motif in the textile, the gold service plates kicking up the special note another notch.

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Bettie Pardee Thanksgiving- Web Res-24 For a table setting that provides so many details upon which to fix your gaze – monogram-etched crystal heirloom goblets, William Yeoward embellished champagne flutes, gold striped water glasses, generously-sized hand-initialed damask napkins, gold engraved place cards – consider keeping the centerpiece understated and un-fussed over. My first choice for many years has always been large, green cabbages with their generous outer leaves still in place.

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Here, they’ve been paired with reddish-hued succulents straight from my garden, a first for this combination. In the center, I mounted a cabbage on a round, gilded stand to give it a “sense of occasion.”

Taking “Thanksgiving dressing” literally, I brought my favorite fall jacket to the party – a soft, double-faced wool in a yummy shade of rusty orange. To give it a little kick, and keep with the seasonal theme, I embellished the collar with feathers. If it’s good enough for a turkey…

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Practical note from me to you.

As you’re planning for Thanksgiving and looking through your drawers and cabinets for table setting items; re-checking menus and recipes and considering what needs washing, ironing or polishing…give some thought to Christmas plans. No point in going through everything again a month later; pull it out now, or jot down notes to cut your work in half for the next event. Always be thinking ahead!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

15 thoughts on “Thanksgiving “Dressing”

  1. Love hearing from you! And I am so very glad you will come to our Garden Club next year. Your new book is divine! Elaine

  2. Happy Thanksgiving Bettie! I love opening my email and finding your wonderful tidbits on making each event special. You have a delightful way of entertaining us with your exceptional ideas.

    Our family will be in the country for Thanksgiving. Just yesterday I filled metal buckets with the colorful oak leaves mixed with pumpkins and gourds. Our rustic and primitive house truly lends itself to what I imagine a little house on the prairie might have been like a hundred years ago. Thankfully we do have electricity, heat and air and plumbing but the rest is pretty much the same.

    Thinking of you at this happy time of year.


  3. Bettie, who wouldn’t want dine “at table” with you and the gorgeous setting you have created. I would just eat and drink it ALL in!

  4. Fabulous Bettie

    Am running out right now to find some beautiful cabbages!! Happy Thanksgiving and much love, Sue

  5. Bette,
    Inspirational settings and gorgeous photography – I look forward to receiving the next ones!

    Happy Thanksgiving,

  6. Thank you Bettie, for sharing initial thoughts. I’m in awe for all you’ve done … Pictures are all so captivating, beautiful, and sensational. It has given me warm nostalgic feelings of Autumn’s elegance, grace, and flair.

    From my home to yours, here’s giving thanks for simple blessings, Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Bettie. I LOVED this!!! I loved your photos, your creativity & your imagination. I got a kick out of your jacket… I could wear that.
    I have shared this with my family and friends. You really have something to offer. Have a good holiday.
    Best. Jackie

  8. Hi Bettie,
    What a joy to read and see your descriptive account of the Thanksgiving table setting.
    It was so vivid that I could, in my minds eye, hear the glasses clinking with holiday cheer and the background scent of dinner cooking.
    My appetite has been peaked.
    Have a wonderful and joyful holiday season
    .Wishing you all the best always jae

  9. Bettie!!! What a beautiful inspiration ! The greatest gift of all!!! Have a very wonderful thanksgiving. Love and kisses! Kath

  10. How gorgeous this all looks! So inspiring.
    It was so great to see you the other weekend.
    Best Wishes for the holidays for you and all you loved ones.

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