Raise your hand if this is how you usually approach the Thanksgiving centerpiece: The day before the holiday, you realize you have nothing planned and no ideas in mind for the center of table. Rushing out of the supermarket, you grab a few types of squash-like vegetables and hope for the best. We’re not putting down pumpkins—in fact, you’ll find a few in this slideshow—but we are suggesting you look beyond the cornucopia. For help, we asked New York City event planner Maria McBride what she’d like to see on Thanksgiving tables this year.
“To be honest, my own table is usually so filled with food and wine bottles that I don’t have much space for decorative items once everything is out,” McBride says. That’s why she likes to use elegant, narrow candlesticks fitted with slim taper candles. “They allow food to be the star of the show and don’t take up important real estate,” she says. Go rustic with a metal like pewter or wrought iron, or pick an of-the-moment material like black glass. Be sure that the candle centerpiece you choose is scentless and about 18 inches high, so the flickering light is well above guests’ eye level and won’t create a distraction.
With its clean lines and neutral hue, a bundle of wheat, which is available at craft stores, acknowledges the season without being too obvious. You’ll want to bind it at the neck (just below where the pods start) with one or two rubber bands and give it a twist so the bottom half fans out. “You’re aiming for a pretty, rounded top,” says McBride, who suggests cutting it to about 10 inches high so guests can still see each other across the table. Finally, hide the rubber bands under a ribbon that coordinates with your table linens, and tuck leftover pieces of wheat into napkins or place settings for added flair.
If you can’t resist a gourd, McBride suggests updating your look by choosing “Baby Boo” (mini white) pumpkins. “This is a perennial favorite of mine. I love using them to fill a shallow pedestal bowl or piling them on top of a cake pedestal.” Leave them white or gild them with metallic paint to bestow a burnished look. If you’re painting them, first spray the pumpkin with adhesive and allow it to dry until it feels tacky (about 20 minutes). Then apply a metallic foil and rub it with a soft cloth so it breaks up. To get the aged effect you’re going for, spray on the adhesive unevenly so some of the pumpkin’s skin shows through.
Start saving paper-towel and toilet-paper rolls now. Then, a few days before Turkey Day, put the kids to work. The paper-towel rolls can be painted and stuffed with twigs and real or silk leaves to create a centerpiece of trees. Toilet-paper rolls can be cut in half and transformed into napkin rings. As for how to prettify them, you’re only limited by your imagination and what you can find at the craft store: Think paint, beads, tissue paper, ribbon, stickers and fabric. Bonus: Keeping the kids busy with a project gives you more time to prep for Thanksgiving dinner.