Some of my fondest memories are at the table passing food around and sharing stories. I think this is the case for many of us. It can work for a special event as well.
It makes for an interesting way to eat and focuses the event more around the food. People can take as much or as little as they want. There is typically food for seconds for the few that want it. Similar to the buffet option.
The arrangement of the tables is the key. 8 people at a 60” round table is not ideal. There is very little room for the platters and bowls of food and a centerpiece.
I recommend tables of 16 people. Preferable rectangular. You can put 2 8’ tables end to end. For more room in the center put four 8’ tables side by side end to end. You can ideally seat 20 people at this configuration.
We like to table serve the first course individually. The salad for example. Then after the salad is cleared we bring out the dinner plates and place them for each guest. Then platters and bowls food starts coming out. For a long table of 16 guests we would bring two bowls of each item and hand one to the first person at each end. Ask that person to help themselves then pass it down to their right. The last person would place any leftovers in the center of the table.
Start with the sides end with the entrees. Four things is best. A starch first, then vegetables, finish with the meats. Condiments or extra sauces should be placed on the table.
Recently I was at a family style served event from another caterer and the bowls of food were too large. No one could lift them to pass them. They were also simply placed on the tables and it was confusing which way to pass and who should start etc…
Many of us do this at home and for Thanksgiving consider trying it for a wedding company party or other special dinner event.