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How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget

The definition of insanity:  Hosting a holiday gathering at your house with over 20 attendees.

Or something like that. Merriam-Webster probably wouldn’t argue.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

Okay, okay truth be told, Robert and I actually love hosting big family gatherings at our house. Last week, we had 19 people over for Thanksgiving and the year before we had a grand total of about 25. If it weren’t for geography spreading out our families, we could fill close to 200 seats easily with just our relatives. We love love love our crazy bunch!

But I also love love love decorating the house to welcome our loved ones and one of the biggest challenges is definitely creating a pretty table for very little money.

So this year, I pulled out a bunch of penny-pinching tricks that would work for any big holiday gathering. And then I realized, hey, why not share them with y’all?

What you’ll need:  (Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more info, see my full disclosure here.)

  • Christmas tree trimmings (free!)
  • White flat bedsheets, fabric, or tablecloths (free or at least very cheap from thrift stores)
  • Burlap roll (I got mine for $8 at Walmart in the florist aisle.)
  • Pinecones (free!)
  • Various thrifted candleholders or wood slices (My candleholders were $2 each and the wood slices were free.)
  • Candles of the same color (Sometimes I pick mine up at the dollar store or for $3 each at Walmart.)

Total for all of my table decor:  $32

When Robert and I were picking out our Christmas tree from the lot (because we’re the crazy early bird people to practically assault the guys unloading the trees off the back of the truck), we asked if they had any tree trimmings they’d be willing to give us. And they said yes!

They were just going to haul it all off to the trash anyway. Snaps for recycling! We ended up with waaaay more than we needed. I’m sure many Christmas tree lots are willing to give up their trimmings if you ask.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

Pretty much every time I decorate our table for any season of the year (like this one from spring and this one from fall), I use an $8 roll of burlap from Walmart. It’s the perfect size for a table runner, and the edges are already serged. This one roll spanned across our three long tables. Good luck finding a runner that long for that cheap.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

For Thanksgiving, we pulled out two long plastic and metal folding tables and butted them up to our existing kitchen table.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

I spread out my mother-in-law’s hand-me-down white tablecloths, but if you don’t have tablecloths already, you can keep an eye out at thrift stores or use white bedsheets you might already have. Seriously, no one will know. And if they say something, just refuse them dinner. Kidding! Kinda.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

Once I rolled out my burlap “runner”, I spaced my thrifted candleholders and wood slices, alternating them in a line on top of the burlap. These wood slices were cut from a tree and were leftovers from our faux fireplace build.

Then, just put in your candles. I love off-white because I can use them any time of year, hence more budget-friendly. Colors like red and orange are limiting in spring and summer if you need them then.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

Between all of the candleholders, I tucked in the Christmas tree trimmings and I placed pinecones throughout.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

Voila! Instant fancy schmancy holiday table. I like buying the silver plastic cutlery and wrapping them up in the cloth-feeling paper towels with twine too. (Dishes after 20 guests? Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

And since we painted our lovely 70s orange metal folding chairs with a white grainsack look, we don’t feel quite so retro when we have to pull them out of storage for all of our company.

How to Set a Large Holiday Table on a Budget | blesserhouse.com

What do you think? A table fit for stuffing faces? The food was almost as amazing as the people around this table. Thanksgiving 2015: Success. As much as I loved hosting, I’m really glad the responsibility for Christmas dinner isn’t on my shoulders this time. (Thanks, Mom!)

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for decorating at a big family gathering? And with still having money for the actual food? There’s something about a pretty table that makes it even more special…and maybe encourages the little ones to not throw food. A mom can dream, right?

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15 Comments

  1. Awesome! I love beauty on a budget! My favorite are the folding chairs painted grain sack! Who knew?! The chairs are always my biggest dilemma since we have a gazillion family members! Something about cheep chairs and my wood table wasen’t mixing. BUT NOW!? And just when I thought I had used paint for everything!

    1. Aw thanks, Sharon! I couldn’t tolerate our orange and rusted metal folding chairs one more second. They’ve been really great for our big gatherings. Spray paint is magical stuff. 😉 Hope it comes in handy for yours!

  2. Lauren, your table looks so warm, inviting and peaceful! I wondered where to get burlap for a runner, so, thank-you for the info. The white candles and silver are so pretty! You have a very giving heart!

  3. I used your left-over scrap “trimmings” on my table. Since we use an artificial tree (I know – gasp!) it helps give the house that Christmas scent. In addition to the pine cones and candles, I nestled small Christmas ornaments that I found at the dollar store. A whole box for a dollar! I also bought some berry stems that looked a little frosted from the dollar store as well. I think it turned out well. I guess you will see for yourself at Christmas. Love ya!

  4. Love it LOVE IT!!! I did a similar thing when I hosted 12 people this year. Panic set in as I realized I only had a table for 6. But I shopped my own house and came up with candles, candle holders, and other decor. Major meltdown set in when I realized I didn’t have enough cloth napkins (who uses cloth napkins anymore?) I bought two sets of dishcloths to use for napkins ($1.99 for a set of 6) and they were fabulous!

    Thanks Lauren for inspiring me every single day!!
    Carol
    Lakeside, California

  5. Hey Lauren….love your holiday table!! So simple, yet so pretty and elegant – I know it was the perfect setting for your Family Thanksgiving Celebration! Thanks for sharing….
    Lanita