We may have to work a bit harder to ensure the holidays feel special this year, but tastemaker Ragan Cain says that's all the more reason to think outside the box and get creative with your Thanksgiving tablescape. She plans to spend Thanksgiving on her grandparents' front porch this year—something her family has never done before—but she says this brings an exciting element to the festivities.
"I'm very lucky to live in the South where the climate is easy for entertaining almost year-round," she says. "My family is very much rooted in tradition, and we have the same meal every year, and at least that will be the same even if we present it, share it, or eat it differently. We've never done Thanksgiving outside before, so why not? It gives us more reason to get creative and the opportunity to change things up."
Cain and several other Alabama-based tastemakers—Susan Gordon of the eponymous pottery brand with a serious cult following, charcuterie board extraordinaire Courtney Wright, and antiquing queen Beth Hubrich of Mary & Wilma—gathered (safely!) to create this stunning Thanksgiving table rooted in casual elegance and show how to use what you already own to create a personal, creative setting. Here are their best tips for creating a beautiful Thanksgiving of your own outdoors.
Get Comfy by Bringing Your Best Furniture Outside
"Thanksgiving is a great time to be outside and enjoy the beautiful weather," says Hubrich. "Don't be afraid to move your dining table outdoors to the patio or backyard. There's no rule that says you can't move your table."
"You can also take your beautiful dining chairs outside to pair with your outdoor table to make the seating more comfortable and the overall environment more special," says Hubrich. "It's always nice to linger at the table a little longer and a comfortable chair helps with that."
Set a Meaningful Table by Mixing Tableware You Love
For this tablescape, the group combined their talents by incorporating Gordon's ceramics, Hubrich's vintage and antique finds, Wright's knack for styling, the group's collective love for Estelle Colored Glass, and Cain's impeccable Mark Sikes–designed home as a dreamy backdrop.
"We used things we already had, be it vintage, old, new, or modern. Combining the various styles without worrying about how perfectly they matched made it so fun," Gordon says. "People are longing for things that spark joy these days, and something I'm loving now is my grandmother's flatware or candy dishes. They aren't really worth anything to anybody—except me. Now, her pieces aren't just great because they remind me of her, but also because there's no longer this one style of how a table is supposed to look," Gordon adds. "You can incorporate all kinds of pieces that mean something to you and that you value into your decor, and I wanted to inspire people to do that on a tablescape as well."
Reduce Stress by Outsourcing Dinner or Dessert
Although Wright loves to cook and her annual Friendsgiving is a favorite time to try out new recipes and remake old favorites, she's keeping the state of the world in mind, considering boxed dinners over family-style, and keeping her favorite local small businesses in mind to help her celebrate this year.
"I think it's great to take some of the pressure off meal planning and take advantage of the amazing restaurants we have here in Birmingham that are struggling," Wright says. "I want to concentrate on using as many locally owned businesses as we can. It's a great way to bring them into our celebration and help support our favorites."
Serve a Foolproof Cocktail
No outdoor Thanksgiving meal is complete without a refreshing, festive cocktail to enjoy as you dine. Wright's Sparkling Bourbon Cider recipe has become a must-have for her annual Friendsgiving dinners, and it's sure to become a favorite of your holiday gatherings too. Simply mix two parts spiced apple cider (she says spiced is key!) and one part bourbon, pour over ice, and top with sparkling cider, ginger ale, or prosecco.
"While our gatherings may look different and smaller this year, this is a great opportunity to make the setting more intimate and feel really special—whether you are entertaining inside or out," says Hubrich. "When you take time to make things beautiful, I think it shows your guests what they mean to you. You are taking the time to make them feel wanted and loved. This doesn't mean your table has to be elaborate or formal. Something as simple as a small brass bud vase next to someone's place setting can accomplish this."
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