How to Set a Perfect Casual Table

Our family is passionate about hosting whenever we can — we don’t always need a reason! Whether we’re curating a themed casual gathering to celebrate our loved ones or inviting our friends and family over when a burst of spontaneous inspiration strikes, laid-back meals are our forte. When we recall some of our most cherished memories, many are gathered around a casual table setting—and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Understanding how to set a casual dinnerware place setting is essential for any host, whether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned pro. From deciding when to set a casual table to gathering all the necessary dinnerware and serveware items, take a page out of our book and learn all about casual table settings today.

Why We Love Hosting Casual Gatherings

While there will always be a place in our hearts for formal dinner parties, we love inviting guests for a casual gathering. The entire event can be put together with minimal effort, from the dinnerware place settings to the menu and overall design elements. The small amount of preparation doesn’t detract from the joy of our parties—because we can focus on pulling the best serving dishes and designing a quick and stunning table setting!

Because a casual gathering can happen at the spur of the moment, the host can spend less time fretting about the planning or preparation. Take the common hosting stressors out of the equation and stop worrying about planning the perfect gathering or the clean-up afterward. With a smaller to-do list, the host can be present and linger around the table with loved ones.

With casual gatherings, we can even ask family and friends to pitch in with the menu and bring their own dishes for everyone to enjoy. When an event is planned on a whim, hosting potluck style is a way for everyone to get involved, leaving the host with less to do. Whether you’re gathering for a holiday or a backyard barbeque, a casual table setting comes together easily when everyone helps out.

When to Set a Casual Table 

We don’t always need a set reason to invite guests over—the spontaneity is part of the fun! If an event feels last-minute or you want a more toned-down vibe, consider acting on your hosting impulses and making a casual table setting to gather around. Generally, we find ourselves hosting a casual gathering whenever we have larger get-togethers, saving a sit-down table setting for formal occasions and holiday gatherings.  

Typically, the more formal a gathering is, the more serveware and dinnerware are needed, but when we want to gather friends and family while keeping it laidback and are using multiple dishes, we prefer a casual table setting. If we’re celebrating something as a family or inviting close friends over for an easy night of fun, we don’t need to go all out with name cards and multiple courses—a casual table will serve us well. 

Our Favorite Occasions for Casual Table Settings:

  • Weeknight get-togethers
  • Game nights
  • Buffets
  • At-home date night
  • Birthday parties
  • Backyard barbeques
  • Sports watch parties

What Items Make Up a Casual Dinnerware Place Setting?

A casual dinnerware place setting is made up of a dinner plate, a cloth napkin, a water goblet, wine glass, and a knife, fork, and spoon. A smaller salad plate or soup bowl can also be set out if the menu calls for it. Generally, the menu for a casual gathering doesn’t involve “courses,” so one or two dishes should do the trick for each dinnerware place setting. Any extras, such as stylish placemats or cocktail glasses, are up to the host. 

Where is Serveware Set in a Casual Table Setting?

When setting a casual table, we can drop the formality and make the table setting our own. As opposed to plated tables, you and your guests can always see the food and serving dishes. Play with placing your serveware on the dinner table or a separate table for a buffet style. 

Must-Haves for Casual Dinnerware Place Settings

We love nothing more than designing bold and unique casual table settings. Whether you’re looking to spice up your weekly Sunday night family dinner or are throwing a themed birthday, these six items are needed for creating a casual dinnerware place setting

1. Dinnerware

    Casual table settings are made up of the least number of dishes possible, so the plates are the star of the show for dinnerware place settings. For most gatherings, you’ll only need dinner plates for each guest, but this can vary if your recipes are best served in a bowl or pasta bowl. The more dishes you add to the dinnerware place setting, the more formal it can feel (and the more clean-up is needed), so only set out what’s necessary.

    The plates or bowls you set at a dinnerware place setting are your main way to customize the look of your table setting, so it’s time to pull out your favorite dinnerware collections. We enjoy setting out our Fundamentals dinner plate to give our table a warm, rustic look. When you set a beautiful base layer with dinnerware, you can add vibrant pops of color and texture with accent dishes from the Iris Blue Collection or Blush Collection. Mix and match collections or find a cohesive look and curate the tone of your casual gathering with every item on your dinnerware place settings. 

    2. Glassware

      Glassware is a staple of any dinnerware place setting, but that doesn’t mean you have to go the traditional route. For casual table settings, each guest will need a water glass. For adult friends and family, set out a wine glass, as well. If you have little ones in attendance, have a second glassware option for non-alcoholic choices, such as lemonade or soda. 

      Our family uses modern and colorful Estelle glassware or the timeless Anthropology drinkware. Choosing unique and bright glassware can elevate the look of any casual table setting. Whether we’re looking to spruce up our family gatherings or curating a themed dinner, it’s always a hit. 

      Pro tip: Depending on the type of gathering, we may even set out a set of mugs for hot drinks. Offering an after-dinner coffee or tea to our guests is one of our favorite ways to stretch out our time together. What’s not to love about hot chocolate at a Christmas gathering with our Signature White mugs or a seasonal apple cider in the fall? The look mugs bring to a dinnerware place setting adds a special touch to any table setting.

      3. Table Linens

        We don’t believe in saving the “formal” table linens for special occasions—when you have a rotating collection of cloth napkins and placemats, you should also put them to use at casual gatherings! Every casual dinnerware place setting needs a napkin, whether you set it to the left of the plate or rolled up in a basket in the middle of the table. 

        This simple touch adds a stylish flair to any table, and choosing beautiful color combinations and designs is one way to personalize the look of your laidback event. Collect different styles of cloth napkins, from the blue and red Color Block napkins to elevated Deco Gold napkins, to customize any table setting

        4. Flatware

          In terms of flatware, casual gatherings don’t need any elaborate utensil setup. Every casual dinnerware place setting requires a single knife and fork. If you do have a salad or soup round, you can include an extra fork or a spoon.

          Our family can’t get enough of setting dinnerware place settings with the flatware from Sabre. For spur-of-the-moment al fresco gatherings, disposable utensils are a great option for easy clean-up, but when designing a beautiful table setting, using high-quality and unique flatware elevates the entire event. 

          5. Serveware

            Don’t reserve your favorite serving platters for special occasions—set them out at casual gatherings to present your delicious menu and pull together a beautiful table, even on short notice. Whether your laidback party calls for charcuterie board serveware or a few serving platters for tasty sides, you can hand-curate your tablescape by choosing serveware of different shapes, sizes, and patterns.   

            Serving bowls are the perfect fit for any casual table setting, and whether we’re serving an Italian Chopped Salad or Head-On Shrimp, they make the perfect dishes for a simple table. Having a collection of serving bowls will help you set out your casual menu for any gathering. From wood bowls to our Signature White bowl, these versatile dishes can hold just about anything—and look good doing it! 

            When we set a casual table, we’re looking for as little preparation as possible, and the cookware we use is essential. When you prepare a few side dishes, mains, or desserts in a stunning casserole dish or loaf pan, the cookware can go straight from the oven to the table. That’s one less dish to clean at the end of the night without sacrificing the design of your casual table setting.

            6. Tabletop Accessories

              A casual table setting can be as elaborate or as minimalist as you’d like, and table accessories, while not necessary, are a simple way to pull your tablescape together. For our more curated looks, we may plan to incorporate a few fresh flowers from our garden or seasonal decorations to solidify a theme. But, for any last-minute gatherings, something as easy as a few candles in the centerpiece can be the perfect touch. 

              If the casual table setting you’re designing is planned at least a day or two in advance and has a specific reason for the occasion, go the extra mile with a few thematic accessories. For sports watch parties, use the colors of your favorite football team. For game nights, sprinkle poker chips or cards across the table and dinnerware place settings. Your options are endless!

              7 Steps to Setting a Casual Table 

              Casual table settings are accessible and versatile, and with seven easy points to follow, any step can be changed to suit your design dreams: 

              1. If you’re using placemats, lay one before each seat.
              2. Place a dinner plate in the center of each dinnerware place setting.
              3. If you need a salad plate or a soup bowl, set it on the dinner plate.
              4. Decide where to put your napkin, whether it’s folded to the left of the dinner plate or draped on top of the dinnerware place setting.
              5. Set out a fork to the left of the plate. Then, put the dinner knife to the right, with the blade facing in. Any salad fork needed will go outside the dinner fork, and any optional spoon will be set outside the knife.
              6. Place the water glasses over the point of the knife.
              7. Set out any additional glassware and wine glasses to the right of the water glass. If your guests are not drinking wine, you can remove the glass once they’re seated.  

              Find Inspiration for Casual Table Settings

              If you’re looking to host a casual gathering and dream of decorating with a theme for your table setting, look no further than our favorite curated casual gatherings. With a few insider tips and tricks, you can make your casual get-togethers look elaborate and elevated with little effort. 

              Every item in your casual dinnerware place settings and centerpiece should be carefully chosen. Consider the color palette of every item and decide if you’d like to go for a timeless, cohesive look with a matching collection and hues or mix and match bold and vibrant patterns to create a one-of-a-kind table setting your guests will never forget. Pair different seasonal colors with classic designs and use the reason for your gathering as inspiration.

              Our Favorite Casual Gatherings:

              When we have a reason to host our friends and family, curating a casual table setting is easy. Here are some of our most popular casual gatherings for inspiration:

              Anyone can pull off a casual gathering with the right tips and tricks! From finding inspiration for creating themed tablescapes to learning what dinnerware essentials should be in your collection, you’ll be prepared the next time you feel inspired to set a casual table. 

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