How to Choose a Serving Style for Your Next Gathering

As you are preparing to host a gathering, whether it’s a lavish holiday soirée or a casual cocktail party, one of the first steps of planning is to determine how you want to serve your guests. Ways of serving vary, so we always recommend determining your preferred serving style in the beginning stages of planning as this will allow the rest of the process to unfold seamlessly, from plate settings to preparing all your serveware essentials. 



Selecting Your Serving Style

We’re going to dive into three different serving styles – family-style meals, plated dinners, and buffet serving. The serving style you choose will largely be determined by the type of gathering you are hosting. Choosing a serving style and planning the flow of your gathering will ensure a memorable evening for your guests. As you begin to envision your gathering, first ask yourself a few questions to decide which type of event you are hosting.  

  1. Is this going to be a more casual setting or formal?

  2. Large gathering or intimate?

  3. Inside or outside?

After you’ve answered these and determined your type of gathering, the serving style and table setting will be simple to choose as it will be the one that best suits your preferred gathering.    


3 Types of Serving Styles 

  • Family style meals

  • Plated meals

  • Buffet settings

Why We Enjoy Family Style Meals

We enjoy hosting family style meals because they give us a chance to connect with all of our guests as we pass dishes and serve ourselves. Unlike other serving styles, every dish is set on the table, and each guest can help themselves! We recommend family style meals for intimate, casual gatherings.

How to Host a Family Style Dinner

One of the most common types of serving is family style, as it invites an inclusive atmosphere at the dinner table where guests can gather and enjoy a shared meal. The perk of this serving style is that it typically involves less preparation.

Family style meals include arranging a few serving platters of food and allowing guests to pass each dish and build their plate, all while remaining at the dinner table. This is one of our personal favorite ways to gather as it invites everyone to linger a bit longer around the table and simply enjoy the company over a shared meal.

Perfect Gatherings for a Family Style Meal:

  • Birthday dinners 

  • Thanksgiving feasts

  • Family dinners 

Setting the Table for Family Style Dinner

When setting the table for a family style dinner, utensils, napkins, glasses, and dinner plates should be set at their plate setting. Serving dishes, including platters, trays, bowls, and serving utensils, are set in the center of the table. When it’s time to dine, guests can start passing each dish around the table to help themselves.   

3 Must-Have Items for Family Style Meals: 

Iris Blue Drop Mango Wood Salad Server Set
Fundamental Wood Large Ruffle Bowl
Deco Gold Scallop Platter

Our Favorite Parts of a Plated Dinner

Certain special occasions call for a more formal celebration—and we recommend plated dinners. When we plan a plated dinner, the gathering feels sophisticated and elegant, whether it’s for a family wedding or holiday. There’s no need to set serving platters of your menu on the table because each course is brought to the table on individual plates and bowls.

Elevate Your Event with a Plated Dinner 

For a more elevated approach to serving, we recommend serving a plated meal for your next formal celebration. This serving style is perfect for hosting a sit-down dinner where guests will be taken care of. It’s also a great opportunity to break out your favorite plate settings, like those from our glamorous Deco Collection, and set a stunning table everyone will enjoy.  
The plated meal serving style is also great if you plan to hire caterers for your event. Often the caterers will include additional help for plating and serving each guest. This takes the pressure off you as the host and allows for a more relaxed atmosphere where you can be attentive to your guests rather than serving the meal.   
If you are planning to serve guests yourself, make sure you have all the serveware you need to make it go as smoothly as possible and that your guests are occupied while waiting for their plates to arrive. Arrange appetizers on the table for small bites and have bottles of wine readily available as well. Adding a platter to the place setting can also be multifunctional. The platter can also serve as a charger; as courses progress and dishes are cleared a charger lays the foundation for the individual place setting. 
Pro tip - one of our personal favorite shops for selecting unique wines is Spiro Wines. A family friend owns this boutique shop, and we love getting their recommendations for our gatherings and dinner parties. 


Best Occasions for Plated Meals:

  • Rehearsal Dinners  

  • Intimate Gatherings  

  • Christmas Gathering

3 Dinnerware Essentials for a Plated Dinner 

Deco Gold Scallop Place Setting 
Iris Blue Burst Ruffle Salad Plate Set                       
Layered Diamond Blush Place Setting 

When and Why We Choose Buffet Serving

When we host a larger guest list, a buffet setting takes the pressure off the host. We prefer to use buffet serving when we’re hosting more casual gatherings, so our guests can mill around and help themselves to the dishes they want before heading back to their table. Any tabletop or furniture surface in your home can be used to create a buffet setting. Or, if you have an open space, you could always pop up a folding table and cover it with a tablecloth.

Buffet Serving for Casual Gatherings

The perfect serving style for casual gatherings and larger events is buffet serving. This type of serving allows guests to help themselves from serving platters featuring an assembly line of dishes with accompanying serveware and creates a more casual dining experience. Buffet serving is a great way to feed a larger gathering, as you can invite guests to bring a dish if that suits your type of get-together. 


Ideal Events for Buffet Serving Setups:

  • Office Potlucks  

  • Holiday Parties 

  • Parties with a Large Guest List 

 3 Serveware Items for Buffet Serving Style 

Citrus Mango Wood Footed Bowl 
Signature White Ruffle Pitcher 
Deco Gold Scallop Bowl 


Whether you prefer a more formal plated gathering or you are simply looking to host a casual family-style event, each serving style can be altered to fit your gathering. Determining your serving style is just one of the decisions to make when entertaining – check out our ultimate guide to entertaining for more entertaining tips and tricks. 

Take our cue and find your preferred serving style and spend more time celebrating and less time worrying. 


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