A good hostess understands that how you serve up Thanksgiving is just as important as what you serve at Thanksgiving. Proper presentation -- and we aren't talking garnishes -- make all the difference in a holiday meal. Think of serveware, table decorations and table settings as the grand entrance for the guest of honor: the food.
"Presentation is the deciding factor between an everyday dinner and a celebration," says Jennifer Sbranti, editor-in-chief of hostesswiththemostess.com.
This is the time to invest in the kind of serveware that separates you from someone having people over and a real hostess. Serve cheese spreads on cheese boards. Offer chips and dip on a tray intended specifically for both. And, distinguish red and white wines with the stemware you pour them in.
Sbranti recommends sticking to neutral tones for serving dishes, with just a few sprinkles of colors that pop. Cocktail glasses and table settings can act as fine accents.
To really fixate guests on the fixings, use serveware with height. Think cake plates and tiered stands. Not only do both lend a grand stage quality to desserts and side dishes, they also make great use of space.
When it comes to the rest of the table, keep dining dishes simple. Concentrate on things such as napkin rings and table decorations for means of flair. The former can easily go unnoticed, but one with an intricate design specific to the holiday can act as a conversation starter. For the latter, avoid centerpieces. The turkey fulfills that role. Instead, intersperse the table with several flourishes. Vases filled with vibrant rocks, flowers or candles work well.
If your head count calls for a kids table, pay this area just as much attention as the table at which their parents will dine. "Make it look different, but consider the ages of the kids," warns Sbranti. If they can still be fully entertained with a coloring book, put away the fine china. Replace it with themed paper plates and candy jars in various fall colors. For teens, grab a few scrapbooking pages -- animal and graphic prints wouldn't hurt -- and assemble a few quickie place mats. Substitute wine glasses with fun cocktail glasses.
Don't forget the greeting and exit you give your guests. Hang up the grease-stained, flour-covered "Kiss the Cook" apron for a stylish one that sticks to the tone of the event. As guests leave, send them home with a plate's worth of food in bakery boxes and tie it with a printed ribbon for that final touch.
"The little things can make a great impact," Sbranti says.