The Architecture Of The Thanksgiving Dinner And How To Navigate Your Table

Alex Garkavenko Alex Garkavenko

Before the reality of the family dinner truly kicks in, (and you remember why you stopped talking to that one cousin in the first place), it is important to approach the whole occasion with a strategy, providing yourself with an adequate safety net ahead of time. The same approach should apply for the Thanksgiving dinner table itself, which is the physical fulcrum around which the night revolves. Like for any ritualized structure, there are certain formal rules that that keep the archetype intact, and in this case, those rules come in the intricate formations and alignments of place-setting.

It’s a little like urban planning, if you think about it – setting up the infrastructure, you can try to potentially predict and control how the night will play out. Is your table more of a top-down planned Corbusier, or a bit of a buffet-style Jane Jacobs, where the action happens in the common ‘streets’ of the table? You may think that we’re kidding, but as any urban planner will tell you, layout matters, whether you choose to accept it or not.

To get you started, here are some basic measurements and laws by which the dinner table is typically run. It is up to you to break or follow the rules as you deem fit.

Table Settings Diagrams by

Or, if you need a bit of an extra hand, try the Cheat Sheet Placemat by LLOT LLOV. (Or perhaps try the tech-version with the How To Set The Table app by Devil Apps.)

Take a slightly more organic approach and turn your table into a work of art, like this Table Setting by Pensive Pool.

Thanksgiving Etiquette Table Setting Guide by Adirondack Authority

Lead image via.