1. Give centerpieces a new home.
Free up prime dinner-table real estate by moving oversize arrangements to the buffet. And don’t bother with elaborate floral fantasies: Just go “shopping” in your backyard for branches of holly, crab apple, or bittersweet berries. Then bring in-demand items — butter, gravy, cranberry sauce — to the middle of the table.
2. Embrace the idea of a kids’ table.
To accommodate your youngest guests’ abbreviated attention spans (and your desire to linger over dessert), cover the children’s dining surface with kraft paper and set out pots of crayons for tic-tac-toe. Bonus: This tablecloth is a cinch to clean up. Stamped birch name cards ensure kids feel as special as grown-ups.
3. Label the dishes.
Nuts, jalapeños, sausage: Your menu can’t please everyone all the time, but you can allow for a caveat emptor. Spare vegetarians, picky eaters, and friends with food allergies the awkwardness of asking you to rattle off ingredients by labeling dishes clearly — we used parchment-paper leaves.
4. Pinecone Door Hanger
Not all DIY front-door decor requires a foam wreath form. To make this elegant cluster, we selected 8 four- to six-inch pinecones and 8 two-foot-long pieces of silk ribbon. Use a hot-glue gun to adhere the last two inches of each ribbon to the base of a cone. After the glue dries, collect all the ribbon ends and stagger them so that the cones fall at varying lengths. Tie the ribbon ends together in a knot, trim the tips so they are uniform, and slip the knot over a finishing nail.
5. Reinvent “game day.”
Post dinner, fight the tryptophan sleep urge with a round of old-school parlor pursuits — from charades to A Weekend in the Country, this Old Maid — like card game.