Thanksgiving Centerpieces. Some DIY Ideas.

I’ve got some Thanksgiving centerpiece ideas for your table this year, (one that I made yesterday with just stuff I found in my kitchen!) Whether you’re gathering together in real life, celebrating alone or with a virtual Thanksgiving feast, make it special. Because – 2020. 🙄 Ugh.

Skip right to the ideas.

Thanksgiving is only a WEEK AWAY.  Calm down my American friends.  I’m talking about Canadian Thanksgiving.  Canadian Thanksgiving differs from American Thanksgiving in that we hold our Thanksgiving in October as a way to celebrate the end of the year’s harvest. Whereas Americans have theirs in November as a way to celebrate WKRP in Cincinnati throwing live turkeys out of a helicopter.

You can watch the clip here or buy the full episode (Season 1, episode 7, Turkeys Away) here for $1.99.

Presently many Canadians are alarmed because most of us didn’t realize Thanksgiving was in a week. Thanksgiving.  The sneakiest of all the holidays.   Now’s the time to start debating whether to get a fresh turkey or a frozen turkey and if you get a frozen turkey whether to let it defrost in the fridge or in a sink full of cold water.  If you aren’t the type to have already pre-ordered your organic turkey, you will ultimately decide to buy whatever turkey is the cheapest and the right size regardless of whether it’s frozen or fresh, so don’t waste anymore time debating.

Now is also the time to start thinking about how you’re going to set your table or what kind of centrepiece you’d like to have.  I don’t care if you’re having a simple dinner for 2 or a huge dinner party, you need to have a Thanksgiving centrepiece.  You have to.  Otherwise your table will look incomplete. Like a face with no eyebrows.

I currently have a garden filled with so many Dahlias that I know that I’ll be making a Thanksgiving centrepiece using those this year.   Looking back on some of the centerpieces I’ve done I’ve discovered two things about myself.  A) I really like ornamental cabbages and b) I’m REALLY glad I painted my brick wall.

Which leads me into my next statement; last year I proclaimed I was going to refinish my dining room table before Thanksgiving because I haven’t liked the finish since the guy who built it walked it through my front door.  Now that my courage is sufficiently fed after painting the orange brick wall and refinishing my orange pine floors so they don’t have orange in them anymore, I think I can tackle the orange dining room table without fear of any post traumatic episodes.  If I down a glass of whiskey beforehand I might even think it’s fun.

Thanksgiving Centrepiece Ideas

You can copy these ideas exactly as is, or you can just use them for inspiration.  In case you were worried there were rules to this post and I was going to knock on your door Thanksgiving evening asking to inspect your centrepiece, I am not.  Do whatever you want, I will not judge.  Mainly because I won’t be able to actually see it.


Vegetable centerpieces

My favourite. The best centerpiece I’ve ever done.  I might even do something like it again this year.

This all-vegetable arrangement is my absolute favourite arrangement of all time.  I made it a couple of years ago when I was doing a talk for Lee Valley on Thanksgiving decorating.  I wanted to make something that truly represented a Canadian Thanksgiving that honours the harvest.

Literally every single thing in this arrangement is edible. Yes. Ornamental cabbage is edible.  Learn how to make the arrangement, where to get the metal stand and all the food that goes into the arrangement in the original post here.

If you have cake stands of different sizes you can stack them like this and they’d work really well too instead of buying new stands.

TOO MUCH? Simplify it.

You can make a MUCH simpler edible arrangement with just chard, kale, beet greens, dill and parsley.  Whatever you can find in your garden or grocery store. Or fridge!

Either way I really, really like  using vegetables and edibles for the Thanksgiving table.


A 5 Minute Emergency Centerpiece

I shopped my kitchen and came up with this fast centerpiece to show that you don’t have to go and buy a bunch of stuff and you don’t have to spend hours making a centerpiece.

In my kitchen I had some apples, dried hot peppers, black popcorn I grew and some sprigs of rye. I also grabbed an antler that was in my living room and stuck it in. I also ran to the garden and found a dill head to balance out the green in the apples.

Nope. You probably don’t have the same things in your kitchen as I do but if you look you’ll find stuff that’ll work for a fast centerpiece.

Big, BOLD, over the top centerpieces.

A year or two before I used many of the same flowering elements like Amaranth and ornamental cabbage to make a HUGE free flowing centrepiece.  It’s another favourite but there’s a real trick to making something that’s so messy look pleasing.

Basically you have to make a tidy mess if that makes sense.  Using a pre-defined  colour palette (for me it was purple, green and red) and keeping the arrangement quite compact will make your job arranging this kind of centerpiece easier.  See what the entire table looked like in this post. The rustic, casual table setting remains my favourite tablescape to date.  LOOK there isn’t even a tablecloth or placemats.  It’s mayhem I tell you.  And I like it.

Easy Ornamental Cabbage Thanksgiving Centerpiece.

O.K. this is as easy as it gets.

Like ornamental cabbages but don’t trust yourself to do some huge, over the top arrangement? I don’t blame you.  Even I get myself into a sweat doing them.  

Make it easy on yourself and just put a row of cabbages down your table.  Either straight in a line or mixed up a bit like these.    

Yes it looks a bit anemic at the moment, but that’s only because the table isn’t set. Once you have that done the cabbages will stand out and look beautiful.

Jugs of Flowers for the Thanksgiving Table

Whether it’s a row of them or just one really nice one, a jug filled with flowers always looks good plus it as easy as cutting the flower stems and putting them in a jug.

In my part of Canada, Southern Ontario,  Amaranth and Dahlias are usually still blooming so they make a perfect fall feeling centrepiece especially in colours normally associated with autumn and Thanksgiving – rust, brown and orange. But to offset the drabness that might come with those colours, use something shiney or metallic to offset it.

If you’re in America, where Thanksgiving comes a month later you can still find seasonal mums to fill your jugs with.

For jugs with flowers to look good you don’t want to see any stem. Or at least not much. So make sure some of your flowers are level with the rim of the container.

Pumpkin Table Toppers

(as seen above too)

Foam pumpkins for the win.  I got mine at Michaels when they were on sale because NO ONE of sound mind and body buys anything regular price at Michaels.   Just add a few candles in cheap glass vases and some preserved moss for a beautiful Thanksgiving tablescape that’s  reusable from year to year.

I know a lot of people don’t like to spend money on flowers because they last a week tops.  With foam pumpkins and preserved moss (this is how you can preserve your own moss) you can stick everything in a Tupperware bin and pull it out year after year.

Flowers & other materials

Some of my favourite stuff you’d typically associate with Thanksgiving or just looks Thanksgivingy to get your mind whirling around what you can do yourself this year.

  1. Coloured fall leaves
  2. Mums
  3. Ornamental Cabbages
  4. Grains (rye, wheat, amaranth)
  5. Pumpkins
  6. Dried flowers and grasses
  7. Apples
  8. Sunflowers
  9. Orange/peach toned flowers
  10. Branches
  11. Corn
  12. Dahlias
  13. Antlers
  14. Rose hips
  15. Pine cones
  16. Celosia
  17. Tarnished silver

Bonus Place Setting Tip

Don’t worry if you don’t have enough plates that match. Or cutlery. Or chairs. As long as there is one thing that’s consistent on the table (in this case the individual table runners) it will all look nice together.

I personally like it when there’s mismatched stuff. It gives you the feeling that this night is different. That people who don’t normally come together for dinner every night are coming together for dinner.

So there will be all NEW and different fights this night.


I almost forgot the most important distinction between Canadian and American Thanksgiving; Canadians do NOT put marshmallows on their casseroles.  The thought of such a concoction is revolting.  Marshmallows only go where they belong.  In a salad.  

 

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Thanksgiving Centerpieces. Some DIY Ideas.

46 Comments

  1. Cheverly says:

    My grandmother would double down on the marshmallows and put them in her salads AND on the sweet potato casserole. Because… Texan grannies do what they want? I dunno. But I never ate the salad because that always seemed weird to me. Guess I moved south at too young an age to fully appreciate it.

    I had to chuckle at myself because I didn’t remember any one part of your house being too orange-y (wall, table, floor) UNTIL I saw them all in the one glorious photo above. What a difference a few years and sweat equity make! Kudos to you for ignoring the masses and doing the stuff you wanted to. You give me hope.

  2. Cherie says:

    I have a gazillion squash and pumpkins this year, different colours and sizes. Some of your ideas will be great for my sideboards (yes, I have more than one — just because) and for the table. Only 5 for dinner this Thanksgiving so a small turkey. Pumpkin pie, of course, from one of my fresh pumpkins — of which I have far too many so am gifting some. It does sneak up on you, Thanksgiving, but then so does Christmas. And the only place for marshmallows is the end of a long stick for roasting over a fire — unless they are home made pumpkin marshmallows and then just eat ’em, lots of ’em. Happy Thanksgiving, Karen. Thanks to you for all your fun and always fun posts.

  3. Avril says:

    LOVE the ornamental Kale!!!! One of my favorites too! Also love the way you’ve positioned the napkins that hang down from the plates… a great idea, and it looks so nice. Happy thanksgiving!!!

  4. Rochelle M Fernley says:

    Karen,
    Your writing makes my day each time. Thank you for your contribution to happiness during this unbelievable time!
    Happy Thanksgiving from Colorado.

  5. Jo White says:

    Absolutely and organically fabulous, even though you used your tall, skinny lense. And now that America is the accepted worldwide laughingstock, I no longer have the right to make fun of words like colour or centrepiece. 🤣🤣🤣🤣

  6. Claire Collins says:

    For some reason, I can’t see the comments (only that there are 34 of them), so I don’t know if this has already been asked. Are you hosting Thanksgiving as usual and if you are, how are you planning on handling social distancing while catering a full multi-course meal?

  7. Kimberly Wiebe says:

    Do they really put marshmallows in casseroles? I need to google this. Also I got lost in the rabbit hole of your floor transformation again. It really is lovely.

    Our floors are 100 year old fir. And they have a bit of an orange hue. Though not extremely. At the time you redid your floors I wondered if I should redo ours. Some neighbours redid theirs quite light.

    But tbh. I actually think I prefer the warmer tone. Or at least like it equally to the lighter tone. Maybe because it’s fir and not pine? Maybe because I’m low class? 😆 I wonder if the hue is quite different. Because I had fake laminate floors in a townhouse that were SERIOUSLY orange and I loathed them. So maybe these seem less orange by contrast. Or maybe they are just wood coloured. Either way I don’t know why I felt the need to get this into it with my fellings about my floors.

    I should have stuck to my feelings about centerpieces: they look pretty but I always end up taking them off the table because it gets so annoying talking through them.
    😆

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Your floors probably weren’t quite as orange. Fir doesn’t pull orange quite as much. The polyurethane that most people put on top of the floors also darkens and gets more orange over time amplifying the whole Orange thing. And yes, if the arrangement is big, I pull it off the table before serving. ~ karen!

  8. Christine says:

    I can’t see any comments! I click on 32 comments above here and I get nothing, just back to this page. and in previous posts when I click on “Newer Comments” I get nothing. Just back to the end of the post again, where it says “Newer Comments” and round and round I go. Is there something wrong with the settings in my computer or is the posts?

  9. I can see what you mean about refinishing your table. Orange? For the kind of wood that it is? Ugh. Get something that makes that beautiful wood look rich and lustrous!

  10. Brenda says:

    HA!! My grandma always had a salad with marshmallows in it at family dinners!!

  11. Mary W says:

    I just had to let you know – finally baked all the extra garlic accumulated from Blue Apron and Marley’s. I did it like you said (forgot 2 layers of foil but used heavy duty). It is FANTASTICO! So creamy and sweet – just like I love. All our crackers were eaten, no good bread in the house, and no wine. So, I checked with your recipes and Garlic Dip was the first one under appetizers – so thoughtful! You mentioned I could freeze it so I smooshed it up but didn’t add the olive oil and stuck it in the freezer. This Friday while you are working hard on a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, I will be eating my roasted garlic dip on baguette toasts and drinking some wine. What a lovely evening I’m imagining. I will be being thankful for you – very much!

  12. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    The first is definitely your best so far but I love dahlias so I will have to see if you can top that one this year!

    • Nancy Blue Moon says:

      Also logically…if you are talking about a centrepiece…the face would be missing a nose not eyebrows…center…get it?

  13. Nic says:

    Question, you linked the old post about preserving moss with two methods. You vouched for the glycerine/alcohol combo, but hadn’t had long enough to vouch for the longevity of the glycerine/hot water combo. Do you remember how it held up?

    Love the center pieces, especially the really simple one with the potted cabbage (which is convenient, since my lazy ass would be likeliest to attempt something like that, as gorgeous as the others are!)

  14. ElenG says:

    9 days, you say? I’m just going to get on a train with a flask for 1 and stare out the window. No centerpiece involved… though those are all lovely. :-D

  15. Benjamin says:

    Oh for goodness sake, would someone please paint that tired brick wall next to Margaret?
    Asking for a friend…

  16. Marlene says:

    My “good plates” are old dishes, all mixed up, different patterns, too. Some are from my mom and some from my grandmother, both who have long passed away. It also gives me an excuse to go to the flea markets for more!! Have you tried Mizeners up the hill from you? A bit dumpy, but I have found some good deals. I actually see one of my plates on your table!! I love everything old or unique, plus it goes well with our dining room set, which use to be my husbands grandparents …. it’s really old, cause he is too!!
    No Thanksgiving dinner for us this year, as we are travelling back from Puerto Vallarta, our son is getting married there next week ….. yea, more hot and humid weather :(

  17. monica says:

    I am thankful for all my Canadian friends (both the internet and in-the-flesh variety) who remind me that Thanksgiving here in the US is coming up in a month-and-a-half. So I can be prepared and look like I remembered it all on my own. Sort of a Thanksgiving Early Warning System, if you will. Cheers to the TEWS, and to you, Karen!

  18. Eileen says:

    no, no, no, no…thoughts of Turkey Day when we’re due for a “heat bubble” and temps are going to be in the high 80s? no…way….happy to wait for end of November.
    But the centerpiece ideas are beautiful!

  19. diane says:

    Thanksgiving Centrepiece #2
    While looking at #2 post in 2014, I spotted that tree on the wall. Can you explain how you did that? Inquiring minds would love to know.

    All centerpieces are stunning!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Diane. That is literally a dead fig tree. The ornamental kind for inside the house. It was my friends that she owned for years and years. She didn’t want to throw it out so she brought it to my house for some reason. I hung it on the wall with a piece of fishing line attached to a nail on the wall. Looked great. :) ~ karen!

    • Alena says:

      I have always liked that little tree on Karen’s wall. I can’t believe the post is from 2014.
      I have always wanted to something similar. I have a manzanita branch that really does not have a home right now (since I removed some bookcases on top of which it used to live). I am debating whether to hang it the same way it would grow in nature (the thicker end of the branch pointing down) or upside down. It does not have the root ball, it looks like a broken off three branch.
      It looks very much like this one:
      http://www.save-on-crafts.com/manzanita1.html
      Any thoughts on that?

  20. Katie C. says:

    I just made my way down through the click-hole until I got to the Thanksgiving where everyone got their heads measured. I think my family and yours would get along delightfully.

    One Thanksgiving we ended the night by lugging out my parent’s gigantic Webster’s dictionary and looking up bad words.

  21. Nicole says:

    I’ve been panicking for a couple of days after I realized it was just over a week away. This is what happens when you move to the States: you don’t have television shows that remind you it’s almost Thanksgiving! I throw a big bash with all my American friends invited (usually 20-30 people) and do a buffet. I’m hoping this year to have enough space to do a centerpiece or maybe two end pieces as someone else suggested. My big concern is finding a large-ish “off season” turkey (the poultry farm I used to go to folded last year and is now condos).

  22. Paula says:

    Fun, almost enough fun to convince me to go the extra mile setting my table. 😉 “I aren’t” “concoction” grammar and spelling police moment.

  23. Sally says:

    I like all of the variations (particularly the pumpkins), but no.2 does rather make me think that that is the one for extreme introverts who do not wish to be seen by any other diners!

  24. Constanze says:

    Centerpiece? For a Family (celebratory) Dinner? O_O
    like, decoration stuff in the middle of the table???
    How… I mean it’s pretty, but where does all your food go?
    The amounts of food my mom has to put on the table for festivities (Christmas, Easter, etc. we don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving in Germany with a big bash, “Erntedank” is mostly just a mass at church) leave no space for decorations that take more space than a small candle XD (family of six, plus girlfriends and extended family)
    So I guess our food is our centerpiece?
    But yours are really pretty =) I like the cabbages, I have even seen them used in wedding decorations (when I found out those pretty flowers are cabbages I was like whoooaaaa )

    • Karen says:

      The centrepiece stays on the table until people are seated and then it gets whisked away and replaced with the platter of turkey or potatoes, or whatever else. ~ karen!

  25. Marna says:

    Love all of it! The link to amazon for the tiered stand went nowhere. I just went to amazon and entered galvanized serving stand. There are several I like. I have been looking for something similar anyway, so thanks. I might try to make the all vegetable display, it is so cool! I really like ornamental cabbage, especially the little ones you can get now. I try to grow them year round near my front door, go great with succulents and flowers.

  26. Kathleen Aberley says:

    Gorgeous… especially the last one. Pity we don celebrate Thanksgiving here in South Africa.
    And foam pumpkins? Who would have thought! (When I saw the centrepiece, I thought you had just painted Halloween pumpkins.)

    • Alena says:

      What’s stopping from starting a new tradition? Announce to the family that October Xth (or November, or whatever month works for you) will be a Thanksgiving celebration and make the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
      Next year, they wil BEG YOU to repeat it. :)

  27. TucsonPatty says:

    I was going to go back and click, glad I didn’t until you fixed it! I love the hodge-podge of the table setting look. I also love a good crammed full of everything Christmas tree. Chaos and disorder for the win! Happy Thanksgiving, Karen. (I did indeed have a little heart attack reading the subject line/title, for just a second. You scoundrel, you.)

  28. Christine says:

    These centerpieces are beautiful, but we always have so many platters of food on the table there is no room for even a candle!

    • Beth W says:

      Ditto!

      This year I’m trying to do something different – with two separate ends worth of centrepiece, but the centre empty for my platters. We’ll see! (in 9 days – eek!)

  29. Lavada says:

    When talking about your plates, you included a link indicating it was an “old post.” When I clicked on it, it took me to this URL:
    http://www.diffen.com/difference/Thanksgiving_in_America_vs_Thanksgiving_in_Canada

    Is that what you intended? If so, I just don’t get it and will have to re-read the post and look again.

    Thanks for all you do.

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