We tapped our in-house style expert on how to do thrifty finds for the win. While these tips are perfect for the first-time Thanksgiving host (who’s yet to accumulate a full set of dinnerware), they’re easily applied to hosting any large meal.
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You finally have a place of your own and have decided to host your first Thanksgiving dinner (congrats!), only problem is... your dinnerware collection is somewhat skimpy, or at least not enough to serve a large group. No need to stress. As you get a few more Thanksgivings and other large dinners under your belt, you’ll gradually accrue more dinnerware and serving dishes. But for now, keep it modern and minimalistic.

“Thanksgiving is about the people,” Mindy Shapiro, senior photo stylist for Time Inc. Food Studios, says. She believes that any first-time Thanksgiving hosts shouldn’t worry too much about having the perfect table setting. Mixing and matching your plates can create a really lovely and intentional look. If you’re own collection is limited, don’t hesitate to ask a guest or two to bring some of their own plates over. Despite differing styles, if you decide on a specific color, such as white or beige, for your dinner plates, there will be a color thread that creates a cohesive look. “Napkins should be the thing to match,” Shapiro says. Matching napkins and linens are what really bring the table together in unison.

Another option to consider is disposable dinnerware. After all, dealing with stacks of dirty dishes isn’t exactly a host’s dream after prepping and (hopefully) enjoying a massive meal. Rather than rounding up traditional dinner plates, purchase dinnerware that you can throw away at the end of the night and skip the extra hours over the sink. Shapiro suggests corn-based plates or bamboo plates for chic, environmentally-friendly options.

For the host who is set on beginning to acquire their own collection of dinnerware, start your bargain hunt for dishes at consignment shops and thrift stores, keeping in mind that mixing and matching is a good thing. Just focus on the color scheme. Keep an eye out for hidden gems like funky candle holders, vintage silverware, and Pyrex dishes. The dollar store and craft stores will also great resources in this journey, as they typically carry inexpensive plastic servingware that you can spray paint gold or silver to instantly transform into plate chargers. You might even luck out and find some cute, sturdy glassware that’s not apt to break (and not a huge loss if it does). You may also want to purchase a package of string lights—they’re a great way to set a cozy mood with a warm glow. Head to the fabric section of your craft store to purchase a yard of fabric you like to cut into napkins and/or use as a table runner for the center of your table. Not only does this route save you money over buying a set of formal cloth napkins and table runner, but it gives you more room to choose the perfect color/pattern to match the rest of your decor.

For the finishing touches on your table, Shapiro suggests going outside to find greenery in your yard. Twigs, wild flowers, and acorns are easy upgrades to an autumn table. Someone in the neighborhood might have a rosemary plant that you can trim a few branches from to display on the table for a natural, earthy aroma. You can also visit your local grocery store’s flower section and pick up a bouquet to deconstruct. Cut the ends for shorter stems and arrange the flowers into smaller bundles to disperse down the table. And if you have a little bit of time to work with, try one of these easy and inexpensive DIY centerpieces.

According to Shapiro, the absolute most-important thing to remember is this: Do not stress. “Don’t worry about it… and do not take on the cost so much yourself,” she emphasizes. After all, if you can find the perfect table accents for free outside or for pennies at the local thrift store, why should you? We all know you want to impress family and friends with your Pinterest-worthy projects and ornate Martha Stewart inspired tablescapes and that’s great, but all of that ambition can easily add up to unnecessary stress. At the end of the night, when your belly is full and your people are sitting around you, your mismatched dishes and custom-made napkins aren’t going to be what matters (as impressive and truly worthy of admiration as they are sure to be). What your family and friends will remember most is the precious time that they spent with you, and whether or not your turkey was dry. So again, don’t stress!