Good food plays a part in any holiday, but it's especially important at Thanksgiving, when families gather together to commemorate the historic feast celebrated by the pilgrims and American Indians. That being the case, you'll want to create a festive table on which to share the bounty.
Consider the size of your group and design a centerpiece proportionally. The height of your creation is important, since you'll want to make sure people on both sides of the table can see one another.
"A hostess's rule of thumb is to put your elbow on the table and make a fist," said Rich Salvaggio, vice president for publications and industry relations at Teleflora. "The centerpiece should never be taller than that."
If the piece you have in mind exceeds that limit, Salvaggio suggested moving it to the buffet table or the area where guests will gather before they come to the dining room.
Color is also a critical component. "Centerpieces in tones of brown, warm colors and earth tones are always the most popular," Salvaggio said.
He's expecting bouquets of bright orange roses, yellow lilies and rust-colored mums to be popular this year, and he said he's also noticing a strong and repetitive use of aubergine -- the color of red grapes as well as eggplant.
His company will be offering these arrangements in satiny cylinders and hand-blown art glass vases in autumn colors, but he said another way to create a classic look is to ask your florist to fashion the arrangement in the gravy boat or soup tureen that matches your china. Take a plate and a napkin so that he or she can work with your color palette and get a sense of the ambience you're trying to create.
If you'd rather make your own centerpiece, Jo Pearson, the creative expert for Michaels Stores, has lots of ideas -- some that use items you probably already have on hand.
If your table is large, use a wreath as a base and add a cornucopia filled with vegetables. If it's small and intimate, cluster a few candlesticks inside a grapevine wreath.
Fill apothecary jars of varying sizes with real or artificial fruit. Suspend sliced fruit treated with lemon juice in water, or fill them with potpourri or autumn leaves. When Thanksgiving is over, the same containers can hold pinecones or Christmas-tree balls.
Pearson agreed that purple is the hot new Thanksgiving color, and she said that oranges and browns are more vibrant and less muted than in the past. Shine is also making an appearance.
"Everything's a little more glitzy," she said. "Flowers with glittered stems are more glamorous and not quite so 'country.' Fruit beaded with rhinestones look elegant, and it's something you can do yourself."
For a sophisticated look on a budget, string several lengths of luxurious ribbons or silk honeysuckle vines down the table; then add candles, berries and fruit. Use the same ribbon for napkin rings and tie it around the chairs to bring your theme together.
"It's an accent that is less expensive, but it really jazzes things up," Pearson said.
If you still prefer the more homespun look, she suggested using antique finishes on flowerpots and pieces of wood to bring a little bit of the outdoors inside.
"Don't be afraid of mixing colors and textures," Pearson said. "Go outside of your comfort zone. Have fun."
If there are children in your household, be sure to involve them. Using a real or fake pumpkin, poke feathers from a craft store in the back center and add a foam head to make a turkey. Wooden spoons that the kids have painted also make excellent feathers. Or use a flowerpot for the body of the turkey, glue on feathers and add a head.
Let them dip their hands in paint and press on paper to make turkeys that you can post on the refrigerator or display under a clear plastic tablecloth. Or have them decorate tiny pumpkins as place cards or turn small gourds into animals by gluing on eyes.
"Kids want to be a part of everything," Pearson said. "This way they can help Mom and feel like they're involved in the Thanksgiving dinner."