As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. There’s so much pressure to produce all of this food, creating the perfect meal; worry over who’s coming, who will sit next to whom or who won’t; how will the house look?

Shake a Tailfeather: Turkey feathers, rosemary sprig, cloves, walnuts, handwritten table card. Photo and design credit: Kara Rosenlund, via

While all of the details need attention, we can also take a wider view and ask ourselves: How do we create the memory of what we want this experience of Thanksgiving to be for our tribe?

Tribe, because family is not the only way we create community. Our tribe, the people we bond with and celebrate with, because our connection to each other is about unity, care, protection, shared purpose, and love. Here are a few ideas for how to make this Thanksgiving energy-rich, joy-filled, and beautiful for the group of people you are choosing to celebrate with, whose many hands make this life lighter work.

Five Amazing Things to Help Gather Your Tribe And Have Them Love Coming to Your Home

Set the table first thing in the morning

I always set my table first, even before I start cooking the food. Doing this allows me to linger on the process, expand my enjoyment in creating the experience. Also, allowing the house to be beautiful long before my guests arrive nourishes me as I work on bringing the other elements together over the course of the day.

Bring the outside, in

When setting the table, using elements from the outdoors for centerpieces is always a great strategy; a tree branch, with fruit or seed pods, dried leaves; whatever my daughter finds when she goes outside to forage.

Try Tradish with a Modern twist

When a table is set beautifully, it makes people feel special. In my crafty period, I once took photographs of each prospective guest and made them into napkin rings, with something about them I was grateful for written on the inside of each one. The rings doubled as Christmas Tree decorations. Frankly, in my life today, I don’t have time or interest in that type of handicraft anymore. Still, a dramatic table can be thrilling. And I love to thrill and be thrilled.

Here’s a fun, easy way to play with the traditional tablescape that gives your dinner a Global-Chic vibe: Start with a white tablecloth. Get a roll of black paper to place down the center as your runner. Decorate with white pumpkins, deer antlers, and turkey feathers.

Bold in Black, White, and Green: Artichokes, pears and branches that grace both the centerpieces and the plates. Photo and design credit: Sarah Sherman Samuel, via

Set an extra seat for a mystery guest

Setting an extra seat is like welcoming a surprise, telling the universe you are open and flexible, allowing for spontaneity. Or simply allow for the spirit of spontaneity… Is there someone new you could invite? Someone on your list whom you could encourage to bring a friend?

Ask a question

Creating community through beauty is one of my favorite acts, connecting through thoughtful questions over a beautiful meal is another. Thanksgiving is the perfect time, of course, to ask your guests what they are thankful for.

Another tablescape idea: put out those rustic carved-wood pencils that look like twigs with beautiful cards for writing answers. Collect the cards in a large glass bowl or vase and then take turns passing the vase, picking and reading cards out loud during dessert.


Twist on Tradish: Antlers, succulents, air plants, eucalyptus branch, cards for writing out gratitudes. Image from
Sourced via Design credit: Therese Brady; photo credit: Jeremy Brady.

Bonus Tip: Break your own rules — or mine

I used to think I had to make every single thing, from the food to the napkin rings (see above), set every flower with my own hands.

Today, I don’t exert as much control, and I like it that way. I let it be what it’s going to be. It’s like giving a speech: you can write it, you practice, you’ve got it all down, and sometimes, it’s just not as soulful as if you scrap it and talk from your heart.

Whatever you do, what your guests will remember is the love you put into welcoming them into your home.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Piedmont Post