Turning Thanksgiving dinner into a buffet-style extravaganza is a surefire way to ease tension when you’re home (and hosting) for the holidays, especially when the meal itself takes days to prepare. Spend less time cleaning and more time eating – and let guests fill up on as many waistband-stretching helpings as they please – with these self-serve tips.
Location, location, location.
Be creative with your table placement. If you have both a kitchen and dining room, it’s easy to create separate zones for serving and eating. If not, you can host the buffet on a wooden sideboard, a dresser, a desk – or even a door propped up on sawhorses and covered with a floor-length tablecloth. Just try to keep the table away from the wall so guests can access it from all sides, and set up the décor and serving dishes the night before.
Define your color palette and style it seasonally.
Floral arrangements need not apply. Instead, take cues from seasonal bounty and style the table with gourds, grapevines, or crab apple branches. You can also place clustered vignettes (try any combination of rose hips, artichokes, beets, eggplants, mini pumpkins, and sweet peppers) between your serving dishes for a dazzling, colorful spread. If you’re craving candles, choose the flameless variety – no one wants a side of smoking sleeves with their sweet potatoes.
To create additional serving space, stack vintage wooden cheese boxes or bricks wrapped in cloth napkins, then place your platters and décor on different heights to spur visual interest and increase functionality. Just keep it classy, not cluttered, and make sure everything is stable. You can even move décor to baskets on the floor, mantel, or side tables to make more room for the all-important food.