Cooking For A Crowd
Recipes for Quantity Cooking

Serving Styles for Parties

Depending on many factors, how you choose to serve the food at your party will effect how the table is set. Very formal meals call for the food to be served in courses which insist that much of the tableware is brought to the guests on an as-needed basis; while less formal meals may need even fewer dishes than the basic setting calls for. Read through our simple explanations of serving styles and then explore the art of decorating the table with centerpieces.

Pre-Meal Appetizers: Appetizers and drinks may be served in a common party area before the meal. This option is great if a large amount of people will be arriving. This way, people can chat and snack while waiting for all of the guests to arrive.

The basic setting is appropriate (depending on the formality of your party). If guests are drinking wine during the appetizer session of the party, remove any wine glasses from their place setting before the meal starts -- unless a different type of wine will be served with dinner.

Multiple Courses: This is the most formal and work intensive of serving options. This type of meal requires someone to serve and clear dishes for each course.

The basic setting is appropriate to start with. As the meal progresses, specialty silverware and glassware should be brought to the table with the appropriate course.

For dessert: Desserts and coffee are brought to the table (along with appropriate dishes and silverware) and guests are served while seated.

Buffet: This is a rather informal option that's great when the dinner table will not hold all of the serving dishes and place settings comfortably. All of the dishes are arranged on a table separate from the dinner table and guests are invited to serve themselves.

A basic setting is appropriate, including all of the dishes you will be serving; or the table can be set completely without the dinner plates. Or, if you choose this option, stack the plates neatly on the buffet table.

For dessert: Desserts are organized on a dessert table along with dessert plates and silverware. Guests serve themselves and are invited to sit at the table or mingle while eating. When you are ready to lay out the desserts: Set napkins and silverware on the dining table, along with sugar and cream for the coffee or tea.

Course-Buffet Combo: If the table will not hold all of the serving dishes comfortably on the table but you would like a somewhat formal meal, this is a graceful solution. All of the dishes make their first appearance on the dinner table and are placed on a separate buffet table for the guests to serve themselves seconds at their own leisure.

The basic setting is appropriate.

The Magic of Centerpieces
Taking time to make your dinner table festive is one of those special hostess touches that effect the evening more than you might expect. Decorated tables center the gathering by capturing the guests attention as they sit down and causing them to enter another, more intimate, space.

Centerpieces can be as large, small, complex or simple as you wish. Don't get too extravagant, though. Your guests' views of each other should never be infringed upon by decorations. Also realize that centerpieces will take up what might be precious space on your table, so decorate according to how much other stuff (dishes, condiments, wine, etc) you intend to keep on the table. Centerpieces can be made of almost anything. Flowers are extremely common, but when your party will have a theme, it is always appropriate to decorate accordingly. Christmas ornaments can be placed in the centerpiece, as can a cornucopia (common for Thanksgiving or harvest feasts), and American flags for Independence Day. Time, table space and expense are your only limits, so let your creativity run wild!

Tammy Weisberger

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