5 things expert hosts always pay attention to at Thanksgiving that you're probably forgetting

Incorporate these expert tips and tricks into your celebrations this year for an elevated Thanksgiving experience

A Thanksgiving tablescape celebrating the joys of the season
(Image credit: Lay London)

Hosting season is upon us, and while the holidays are a much-valued opportunity to spend time with family, it can be stressful. With all the pressures that come with hosting a large group of people, on an occasion such as Thanksgiving, it can be easy to forget things.

However, any experienced host will tell you that the key to a successful thanksgiving lies in the details. It's likely that no one will remember the napkins or the place names - or, dare we say it, even the decor - but they will remember the overall atmosphere that those elements worked to create. It's the culmination of many small details that really make all the difference. 

That's exactly why we've spoken to some expert hosts to find out the things they always do to elevate their Thanksgiving experience that you're probably forgetting. Transform your modern dining room into something far more magical in time for the big day with these five tricks that are all super simple to implement. 

1. Lighting levels

A cozy dining room table with fall tablecloth

(Image credit: Bloomint Design)

After all the preparation for Thanksgiving lighting is probably the last thing to cross your mind, however as soon as you switch on the big light all your hard work is undone. A successful host will ensure every guest is pulled into the overall story of the room, and lighting is one of the biggest parts of this. If it's too bright, cold, and harsh, lighting can ruin even the most beautiful Thanksgiving tablescapes.

'Every sense needs to be activated when you walk into a room, they all play a part in contributing to the story you're trying to tell,' says interior designer, Bilal Rehman. 'Lighting is an important way of transporting your guests into the holiday.' Instead of using overhead lights, he suggests utilizing alternative methods. 'We always try to create layers of lighting concept,' says Bilal. 'The lighting within your space should always come from every level.' 

To achieve this, use dimmable lights and candles to create a more inviting atmosphere, as well as warm-toned side lights like table lamps and floor lamps for a relaxing feel. This goes for your living room as well as your dining room lighting. You're bound to notice a huge difference in the way the rest of your room's decor appears.

2. Personalization

A floral Thanksgiving tablescape

(Image credit: Madeline Harper. Design: Anastasia Casey)

Integrating personal touches into your Thanksgiving table decor is an easy way to make your guests feel extra welcome. It's something the best hosts always do and it makes such a difference.

Personalized name cards can be a simple way to make your guests feel special. These can quickly be made by hand, allowing you to include something specific to each guest and have fun with it. 'If guests have traveled from out of town, I like placing a personal small gift on their place setting,' says interior designer Soledad Alzaga. 'This can be something locally made like a small box of chocolates or candy.' All the small touches combine to create a truly unforgettable Thanksgiving for your friends and family.

3. Music

Hog bristle used in a living room with fireplace

(Image credit: Dulux)

Part of creating a welcoming and relaxed environment is related to sound, especially in a dining room setting. Silence is never the ideal option but having music that overpowers can be equally disconcerting. 'Having music that's overly loud, or with too many words, is the first thing people will get turned off by,' says Bilal.

Music is an important part of hosting, and the right music can help to set the mood and create an elevated ambiance. The wrong music however can overpower conversation and ruin the meal. 'Music should be there to create the mood but dissipate into the background, and allow for you to converse and laugh, and have those special moments,' Bilal explains. 'Opt for soft instrumental sounds and always check the level is low enough to allow for conversation.' 

4. Overcrowded decor

A tablescape floral garland

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

One of the most recited pieces of fashion advice comes from Coco Chanel who says: 'Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.' This same principle should be applied to the Thanksgiving table.

Holiday decor has the tendency to be over the top. As much as we love the red and yellow leaf-inspired decor, it can feel too much and overcrowd a space. 'I always advise clients not to go overboard with decor,' says interior designer and founder of Arsight, Artem Kropovinsky. Instead, aim for a more minimalist look that feels more timeless and relaxed.

This doesn't mean you should hide all traces of Thanksgiving. 'I like the traditional-modern mix in a centerpiece still retains its charm,' Artem explains. Having a more refined tablescape instead of an extravagant table center piece will also make your guests feel more at ease and comfortable, and allow plenty of space around the table for drinks. 

5. Creating the elevated 'everyday'

An orange tablescape with glassware

(Image credit: Olive & Co)

When setting your table before guests arrive don't be afraid to use a variety of tableware. Tradition states that you must use a uniform collection of 'nice' plates and 'nice' glasses that are wheeled out annually, but this philosophy is a thing of the past. Bilal suggests utilizing your everyday items to curate a more elevated collection and an eclectic style

'There's no longer a formality with tableware,' Bilal says. 'Tableware might be mismatched but work together because they are in the same color family or texture. Making it cohesive but not a manufactured set is an easy way for everyone to elevate their tablescape.' 

Remember this when setting up for your hosts this year. It will instantly create a more characterful look on your table that makes everyone feel at home. Now let the celebrations commence!

Amy McArdle
News writer

Amy recently completed an MA in Magazine Journalism at City, University of London, with experience writing for Women’s lifestyle publications across arts, culture, and beauty. She has a particular love for the minimalist aesthetic mixed with mid-century furniture, especially combining unique vintage finds with more modern pieces. Her previous work in luxury jewellery has given her a keen eye for beautiful things and clever design, that plays into her love of interiors. As a result, Amy will often be heard justifying homeware purchases as 'an investment', wise words to live by.