Party planner Serena Merriman suggests livening up your holiday table with party crackers. We like these whimsical poppers, from UK-based Etsy vendor Postbox Party.

How to Get Creative with Your Holiday Table

Even if your holiday menu is heavy on tradition, you can still mix it up with some festive — and inventive — table décor.

It’s that time of year: The holidays are just around the corner and the proverbial goose is getting fat. But even if you’re leaning hard on Granda’s recipes to create the menu, you can still design a holiday table that’s all you. For guidance, we turned to Serena Merriman, founder of New York City-based event planning and design firm Merriman Events and a contributing editor at Domino. Her go-to strategy is “to create a visual and experiential storyline around the theme of an event.” Here are five easy-to-action tips to help make your holiday even more special:

Photo courtesy of Merriman Events

Have Fun With Color

“I like to use unexpected colors on my holiday tables,” Merriman explains. For one Thanksgiving, the event planner used a cornflower blue linen tablecloth, which made the fall colors on accent pieces seem even more striking. “There is no rule that says you have to do green and red in December or orange and brown for Thanksgiving,” she says. “Do whatever feels fun for you.”

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Photo courtesy of Merriman Events

Incorporate an Element of Surprise

Add something fun to the table that encourages guests to play, such as party poppers or so-called surprise balls that you can purchase or make that have treats or trinkets tucked inside them. Or sometimes Merriman will leave notes under the dinner plates for guests to discover that might provide clues or directions to a party game. “Another way to introduce surprise is with dessert — something on fire like Baked Alaska or a king cake that has a toy baked into it,” she says.

Include the Kids

“Holidays are about sharing with families and loved ones, so get the kids involved,” Merriman advises. She asks her children to color paper table mats or spray paint pine cones that can be used as place cards. “I like to be thoughtful of kids when setting the table as well,” she says. “Give every guest a party hat or party cracker at their setting — the kids will feel included, and those are great family bonding moments.”

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Use What You Have

Getting creative doesn’t mean you have to ditch family traditions. “This is the time to serve pecan pie on your grandma’s china,” Merriman says. “Don’t have family china? Go into your children’s room and get some of their toys and use them for your table scape.” One Thanksgiving, Merriman arranged handmade puppets from the 1940s to create a parade as her centerpiece.

There’s no need to go to the florist or nursery for a centerpiece or greenery, either — DIY will work fine. “I also don’t think you need to splurge on fancy flowers,” she says. “Go outside and cut some branches from the trees — it’s cost effective, brings the outside in, and feels warm and seasonal.”

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Light It Up

“Everyone knows that lighting is important, but it’s worth repeating,” Merriman explains. “Candlelight, candlelight, candlelight. Even during the day!” And be sure to vary the presentation: Merriman likes to combine mercury-glass votives with candlesticks to create different heights. “And don’t feel like ivory is the only color option for a candle,” she adds. “Colorful candles are a great way to make your table look festive without spending a lot of money on flowers or decorations.”

 

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