When a formal, sit-down dinner feels like too much to handle, setting a casual table and inviting your loved ones over is all you need for a memorable time. Just about any occasion can be made casual, whether you’re planning a weeknight family dinner or a summer barbecue. Hosting casual gatherings is one of our favorite and most attainable ways to entertain.
If the idea of hosting intimidates you, a casual gathering is the perfect way to practice before you work your way up to hosting a larger or more formal party. Since the menu and serving style are usually easier and more forgiving, and the table is usually set with simple table settings, you can set out to create lasting memories with friends and family around your table without too much stress. Discover why we enjoy casual events, learn how to set a simple table setting, and find inspiration for your next get-together.
What is a Casual Gathering?
Casual gatherings are typically laid-back events hosted with minimal dishes. Generally, the more formal the occasion, the more dinnerware and serveware are needed.
There’s a wide spectrum when it comes to casual gatherings—you can include real dishes, linen napkins, utensils, and glasses, go fully casual with all disposable items, or do something in the middle! You can easily entertain with the endless types of casual get-togethers, whether setting a casual table for a birthday party or hosting a sports watch party where guests perch about and eat from paper plates on their laps.
Why We Enjoy Casual Gatherings
We’ve noticed that casual gatherings tend to be less intimidating to plan than other, more formal events, making them completely approachable for any host. Depending on your experience with hosting or what you’re willing to take on for a particular party, setting a casual table is always a simple and efficient way to make your guests feel cared for.
With minimal setup, a simple table setting, and a less formal atmosphere, casual gatherings encourage guests to engage in conversation, get to know one another, and linger around the table. Whether you’re throwing burgers on the grill or inviting kids over for a playdate, the more relaxed tone of a casual party makes everyone feel like part of the family. Suddenly, the purpose of the gathering becomes about coming together rather than putting on a fancy show.
Casual gatherings also thrive off spontaneity. While more formal dinners require thoughtful design, attention to detail, and preparation, casual events can be thrown whenever you feel like it. As long as you have delicious food, useable dinnerware, and serveware, setting a casual table is the easiest and most impromptu way to entertain.
When Should a Gathering Be Casual?Determining when your gatherings should be casual rather than formal can feel difficult. While you may enjoy planning a four-course meal, sometimes an event calls for a laidback get-together with minimal dishes and a simple table setting. With endless reasons to celebrate with friends and family, any event can be made casual. If the event is last-minute, feels more toned down, or it’s more of an everyday occurrence, consider setting a casual table instead.
Pro tip: because there are so many ways to host casual gatherings, we typically find ourselves using a casual style for most of our large parties and get-togethers, saving the more formal occasions for holidays or extra-special milestones.
How To Determine if Your Gathering Should Be Casual
Whether planning a birthday party or an intimate dinner for friends, you must determine the style of your event. While a formal serving style is a way to go for many momentous occasions, sometimes, setting a casual table is best. As you write your guest list and plan your event, use these three questions to determine if a casual style is right for the occasion:
Time and effort you want to invest
Components you want to include
1. What is the Intended Purpose of Your Gathering?Some occasions, like wedding showers, engagement parties, baby showers, and major holidays call for a more formal feel. Still, any celebration can be made casual with the right intention and vice versa for formal events! Some of our favorite pastimes have been strong juxtapositional themes where a full table is set, but delivery pizza is served, for example.. Girls’ nights, tailgates, and more can range from casual or formal, depending on your mindset and goal. If setting a casual table sounds like the tone you want, and your main goal is gathering your loved ones, you can make any celebration casual. Take it from us—sometimes, a simple table setting is all you need to make your guests feel welcome.
2. How Much Time and Effort Do You Have to Plan This Gathering?
As you decide how formal your occasion should be, be honest with how much time, effort, and expense you can devote to preparations and simple table settings. Casual celebrations can be hosted in endless ways—while many involve more themes, dinnerware, and planning, some of our best memories come from sitting around with paper plates and good company! So, whether you want to use disposable dishes and invite everyone to your patio or you enjoy setting a casual table inside for brunch, casual gatherings are perfect for when you want to host with minimal effort.
Don’t let the stress of hosting weigh you down. Formal dinners have their time and place, but following through with a simple table setting at a casual event is better than nothing. Don’t abandon all entertaining intentions because it seems like too much work. We find that any effort to host a casual gathering is enough to make a memorable event.
3. What are the Essential Components for a Casual Gathering?
Casual gatherings can be built with staple items from your curated dinnerware collection. Setting a casual table involves fewer dishes, mainly using simple dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, napkins, glasses, and one set of flatware. More formal occasions call for intricately layered place settings with chargers, multiple glasses, and assorted flatware; it’s clear to see that creating a simple table setting is an easy way to entertain and impress.
The menu is an essential part of a casual gathering. Where formal menus may call for multiple courses to be served to the table, casual menus feature fewer dishes and might be a mix of store-bought and homemade recipes. With a simple table setting and an easy menu, your guests can load their plates as they pass every dish around and serve themselves family-style.
Pro tip: save yourself endless runs to the kitchen and make sure you have a drinks table set up somewhere so guests can serve themselves.
7 Occasions for a Casual Gathering:
How to Prepare for Casual Gatherings
The best part about hosting casual gatherings is that the preparations are little to none. Hosting is a breeze when all you have to do is send the invite and decide how you’ll be setting a casual table.
Are you setting a casual table or having guests serve themselves from a buffet and perching about your home? If you're planning for a simple table setting, will you be inside or outside? Next, determine what entertaining spaces must be prepared beforehand so your guests can entertain themselves and each other as they enjoy the company and delicious food.
Look at your menu to determine what dinnerware your guests will need. Your menu likely won’t involve multiple courses, but there might be different utensils and dinnerware components needed depending on the recipes. Whether setting a casual table or serving buffet style, ensure you have the right amount and type of dishes and serveware for each guest. There won’t be a lot of time needed for setup, but make sure to set your dishes and food out in an organized way before your guests arrive.
Setting a Casual Table
Casual gatherings typically feature simple table settings that any host can handle. While you can add flair with themes and stunning centerpieces, the basic table setup remains the same.
For a simple table setting, you focus on the individual place settings first and foremost. Every spot at the table needs a placemat, flatware, a dinner plate, a glass of water, and one for their beverage of choice. Sometimes your menu may demand an extra layer in the form of a salad plate or a bowl, but you can always start with these basics as you design your simple table setting.
Start setting a casual table by putting the dinner plate in the middle of the placemat, with the option to place the salad plate and bowl on top if needed. Next, lay your favorite everyday napkin to the left of the plate with a fork on it. To the right of the plate goes the knife; make sure the blade is pointed towards you, not your neighbor, and the spoon on the outside. Place the glasses in the upper right-hand corner, and voila! You have a beautiful yet simple table setting for any casual gathering.
3 Casual Gathering Essentials:
1. Setting a Casual Table with Everyday Plates
We enjoy any excuse to show off our beloved everyday plates, and a casual gathering is a perfect time. Choose between a cohesive set of dinner and salad plates for a ready-to-go tablescape or unlock your inner designer and mix and match different patterns. When setting a casual table, your plates should show off your style, no matter the occasion.
Go-To Everyday Dinner Plates:
Matching Everyday Salad Plates:Signature White Ruffle Salad Plate
Deco Gold Scallop Salad Plate
Fundamental Wood Ruffle Salad Plate
2. Choosing Everyday Napkins for a Simple Table Setting
Napkins are essential for bringing a vibrant pop of color to any casual table. Whether you’re setting the table for brunch or a celebration with friends, a cloth napkin is a thoughtful way to elevate any simple table setting. For this reason, we love our versatile, minimalist Color Block Napkins in every colorway.
3. Finding the Perfect Utensils for Casual GatheringsSetting a casual table would not be complete without utensils. Look at your menu to determine if your guests need forks, spoons, or knives on the simple table setting. But just because utensils are everyday items doesn’t mean they must be average. We enjoy giving our tables a playful, rustic flair with Sabre Flatware.
Do You Need Serveware for Casual Gatherings?Sometimes setting a casual table involves a couple of pizza boxes, and other times, serveware is essential. Choosing the right serveware for a casual gathering can mean anything from serving boards for appetizers and charcuterie, large serving bowls for salads and snacks, and platters for any main course. As you plan the menu and set a simple table setting for your casual occasion, take stock of your favorite serveware to ensure you have the right type of dishes. You'll find that function is key when selecting your minimal serveware for a casual gathering, and we have tons of shapes and sizes designed specifically with this in mind.
Our Casual Gathering Inspiration
We never say no to hosting one of our curated, casual gatherings—and we almost always choose a theme. Whether we’re hosting a casual Oyster Roast over the summer or a festive Frond Fête, going that extra mile with a simple table setting to make our loved ones feel welcome in our home is one of our specialties.
Not all casual events need a reason—you can always host one just because inspiration strikes. From inviting friends over for a game night to welcoming the start of summer, you can enjoy setting a casual table, whatever the occasion. Feel inspired by our simple table settings, mix and match table linen colors for a bold look, plan a laidback menu, and enjoy company with casual gatherings all year long.
We believe anyone can host a casual celebration. Learn how to determine if your event calls for a laid back atmosphere and understand what everyday dinnerware items a simple table setting requires. You never need an excuse to host a casual gathering—as long as you’re prepared to make unforgettable memories surrounded by your loved ones, there will always be a reason to get together!