My 5 Tips To An Effortless Thanksgiving Buffet

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I feel like every year Thanksgiving creeps up out of nowhere. With the holiday right around the corner, I wanted to share the easiest spread to recreate for your Thanksgiving table. From my 5 tips to an effortless Thanksgiving buffet to how to set up your buffet in the first place! Today’s post will get you ready for the big Turkey day with friends and family.

From prep week, to menu planning, I know you’ve got this, friends! I teamed up with the incredible Jaime Roberts to help me create this gorgeous table and buffet. I was in charge of the food, and she was in charge of the decor. Honestly, I still can’t believe how easy it was for her to transform my space. You can see the before of this buffet area here. It’s where I hang my hats, and keep a few plants, books and photos. We took it all down to transform the area for the holidays and the before and after is insane!

All it took was swapping out the hats for a stunning starburst mirror (this one is almost identical and just a bit over $100) then draped in the most gorgeous garland that Jaime made. Okay, so it wasn’t THAT easy. The garland takes some time, but it’s actually fairly simple. You can check out the simple garland DIY here. Personally, I love that she went off-centered with it. It’s a bit more of a modern, cool twist. Throughout the buffet, we added a few orange pomanders (check out the easy DIY here), and mini Christmas trees to add some texture and round it all out.  With some pretty dishes, florals and a few more sprigs of greenery, the buffet was complete.

5 Tips To An Effortless Thanksgiving Buffet

Prep The Right Way

One week out from Thanksgiving you’ll want to begin prepping your menu and day out. Figure out how much food you’ll need, which dishes you want to make and what platters you’ll be putting them on.  By making a big list of the ingredients you need, what needs to be made when and where dishes need to go, you’ll be able to more easily visualize your Thanksgiving Day. It’ll feel SO much less overwhelming.

Simple Dishes

I really don’t think you have to fuss a ton for Thanksgiving. I know we all want to and go above and beyond. But you really don’t HAVE to. Having a few standout dishes that are simple will make life so much easier. For today’s menu, we did roasted sweet potatoes with maple and walnut syrup. Simple sauteed green beans topped with lemon and parmesan cheese. And my Mom’s classic stuffing with Italian sausage. A few other simple dishes you can add are obviously my warm autumn salad, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes which are always easy to whip up.

Have A Few Easy Dessert Options

Dessert is always a favorite part of the holidays. While a pumpkin pie is easy to make, so is a trifle and it’s a little unexpected.  I love this cranberry trifle because it brings in fall flavors and is so easy to make. Plus, the cranberry compote for the layers made SO much that we used it as our cranberry sauce for turkey knocking out two dishes at once. Also, be sure to make a double batch of the whipped cream and use it as a whipped topping to top all of your desserts and fruit for the holiday. So much easier than making or buying all separate items.

You can check out this holiday dessert bar that’s easy to recreate!

Shop & Cook Early

My mom is the absolute queen of this. I remember leading up to holidays that there was always a ton of stuff in our fridge and it was always off-limits. She was always super prepared and had a giant list of things to do which made it all so much easier. The great news is that a lot of these recipes can be made ahead of time. The cranberry trifle is easy to make a day or two in advance and just assemble the night before. Sweet potatoes can be prepped and ready to bake before T-Day. Stuffing is easily made a couple of days before and popped into the oven to cook through.

Ask For Help!

I’m guilty of NOT asking for help. But sometimes you just need to. Guests always (or at least hopefully) ask if they can bring anything. Don’t be shy to specify! Need more alcohol for your party? Tell friends to bring over wine, not dessert. Not much of a baker? Ask friends to bring their favorite sweet treat over to share for an epic dessert spread. Everyone ALWAYS asks what to bring, so when they do, recommend something that will benefit your menu instead of work against it. And yes, you can totally buy something storebought (these are a few of my favorites!)

How To Set Up Thanksgiving Buffet Table

Now that you know exactly what you are making and how many guests you’ll be having for your Thanksgiving buffet, it’s time to actually set it up! There’s definitely a method to the madness to getting it just right and looking beautiful. Here are a few of my go-to tips when creating any buffet table for entertaining.

Step One – Menu + Plates

Get your menu together and pull out all of the plates and dishes necessary. Add a post-it note to each dish so you know which is which. Don’t forget your dinner plates as well. If you’ll be placing them on the corner to grab to start the buffet, or adding them to your tablescape and inform guests to pull them for dinner.

Step Two – Decide On A Buffet Line Flow

Think about how you fill your plate and arrange your dishes in that order. You’ll want to maybe start with your turkey and move down the line with your sides. Keep any dressings near the items they accompany.

Keep in mind your desserts as well. You may need a separate table for this which is fine! You can also set them up on a separate table to be on display (I placed mine on my bar and decorated them there) and once the meal is over, easily swap out the food and move your desserts over. Then you’ll have the perfect Thanksgiving dessert buffet as well!

Step Three – Add Height + Interest

Once your dishes are placed, begin to add height and interest. It’s amazing what putting a dish on a small bowl can do to create some interest. Use any bowls, cake stands or even square baking dishes to add some height. Just do a couple, not everything. Also, adding height to the items in the back or on the corners is a good place to start! You can then add in some seasonal items like fruit or greenery to add more interest to your buffet.

Get The Recipes

Cranberry Ginger TrifleItalian Thanksgiving StuffingSautéed Garlic Green BeansSweet Potatoes With Walnut Maple Syrup

Photos by Hannah Michelle // Florals by ATL Petal Peddler // Styling by Jaime Roberts Designs

Jessica is an Atlanta life and style blogger. Aiming to bring practical tips to your every day life. Tips that you can easily tackle and make your life feel just a tad more 'put-together'.

Leave a Comment


  1. 11.13.18

    Looks gorgeous, although I’m slightly pissed I wasn’t invited over to enjoy the food post-shoot!

    Cathy, your Poor Little It Girl

  2. 11.13.18
    Laura Leigh said:

    Looks absolutely amazing and everything looks so yummy! Also, that garland really is to die for!

    xo Laura Leigh
    Louella Reese

    • 11.13.18
      Jessica said:

      The diy for it is so easy. Coming next week!!

  3. 11.13.18
    Jenn Loyd said:

    Your feast looks delicious and I love how easy you’ve made it!

  4. 11.14.18
    Kileen said:

    Thanksgiving goals! These are awesome tips babe and I am loving your setup. Totally agree with asking for help, it can be so overwhelming taking on all the tasks by yourself!

    cute & little

    • 11.14.18
      Jessica said:

      Even just a little help with dessert or drinks can make all the difference. One less thing on your to do list!

  5. 11.14.18
    Liz said:

    This looks amazing!! Both the food and the decor are just perfect!

  6. 11.14.18
    ashley hargrove said:

    This looks AMAZING!! Seriously, goals. I am so awful when it comes to Thanksgiving and I totally got that from my mom who refused to cook or decorate! I need to change that!

    • 11.14.18
      Jessica said:

      Well we can change that! I’ve never really done it before besides a few Friendsgivings so it’s good practice!

  7. 11.14.18
    Steph said:

    All of the details are beautiful and I love the center pieces!

    @trendyinindy|[email protected]

    • 11.14.18
      Jessica said:

      The flowers were beautiful. ATL Petal Peddler did a great job!

  8. 11.15.18
    Kate said:

    Omg your West Elm buffet is giving me life! ?

    • 11.19.18
      Jessica said:

      One of my favorite purchases for my home. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. 11.18.18

    Oh this looks like a great spread! My mouth is watering, YUM. I also don’t ask for help, I’ve learned that it makes my life easier when I do.

  10. 11.20.18
    Lindsay said:

    My mom sounds just like yours! She is so good at prepping ahead of time. Your spread looks absolutely delicious!

  11. 11.2.19
    Maureen said:

    I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Crazy how time flew this year! These are great tips for keeping sane during the holiday especially with food prep. I know it can be chaotic if I don’t prep ahead and like you said, even to what dishes to use make a lot of difference in terms of headache. Love how everything looked!

    Maureen |

  12. 11.3.19
    mary said:

    Happy Holidays
    Where did you get your sweater?? love it

    • 11.3.19
      Jessica said:

      It’s super super old but you can check out my latest post on sweaters to find something new!