This entry is from our Expert Guest series where wedding and honeymoon professionals share their best tips on creating memories that last a lifetime.
So, you’re working on selecting menu items for your wedding reception. You’ve already decided on passed hors d’oeuvres—crab cakes, stuffed button mushrooms, and fried mac and cheese balls just for a fun twist—and you’re thinking of serving a light garden salad and lobster bisque combo as an appetizer. But how do you deliver the main course to your guests? When it comes to the question of a seated dinner, a buffet, or a serving station is the best option for the main course, let’s just put it this way: you have yet to determine which food service option to say “I do” to at your wedding reception.
Determining The Right Wedding Food Service Option
The size of your guest list, formality of your wedding, selected venue and catering company, and the time of day your wedding and reception will take place are all things to consider when choosing a food service style.
Let’s start at what is traditionally known as the most informal end of the spectrum—the buffet. Many couples who opt for a buffet lean toward this option due to their desire to see movement in the room throughout the evening, rather than a stagnant seated dinner that unfolds at a slower pace. If cost is a factor, buffets can also prove to be a more economical option as they do not require every guest to be seated at the same time.
The Seated Dinner
For those who prefer more formal dining experience, or who plan to host 200 or fewer guests, seated dinners are an appropriate selection. Most frequently selected for black and white tie receptions, seated dinners are a full-service dining experience marked by pauses between courses. Generally speaking, seated dinners are more expensive because they require a chair for every single guest, along with chargers, stemware, flatware, individual menus, table numbers, additional centerpieces, a server for the table, plus a server for beverages.
The Serving Station
Stations are another option, and fall right in the middle of the food service spectrum on a scale ranging from informal to formal. Ideal for weddings with a large guest count, food stations are also an excellent option for those who wish to accommodate a variety of menu needs or preferences.
For example, an Indian family following a vegetarian diet can showcase the bride or groom’s heritage by serving traditional dishes while also offering more universal fare at other stations. Alternately, a couple hailing from New York and Texas can treat guests to his-and-hers stations bearing Manhattan clam chowder and cheesecake to represent his Brooklyn background, and barbecue and pecan pie as a nod to her Houston roots.
For both buffet dinners and food stations, signage helps to reinforce the theme and further acquaint guests with the couple’s background. You can accomplish this via large chalkboard menus at the head of each station or by putting individual menus on each place setting.
The Hybrid Approach
The newest trend is doing a hybrid of food stations and seated dinners—ideal for the couple who wants the formality of assigned guest seating without limiting mobility throughout the evening. Just like at a traditional seated reception, each guest is directed to his or her assigned dinner seat via a place card. Following a welcome toast or prayer, wines are poured at the table and the first course is served by attendants. Afterward, guests are then dismissed to various food stations at their own pace. Another mix-and-match option is the family-style seated dinner, in which entrees are plated and guests help themselves to sides served on large platters. Although everyone has a seat at the table like at a traditional seated dinner, this casual style of dinner service is the furthest thing from stuffy—perfect for a ranch wedding or more casual reception environment.
Now that you have an understanding of the various food service options, all that’s left to do is finish up those menu selections. Enjoy your tasting appointments—and bon appetit!
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BIO: Led by founder Mary-Frances Hurt, DFW Events is a luxury event planning firm based in Dallas, Texas. Our hand-selected team excels in the areas of service, creativity, and communication. Whether you’re dreaming of a Dallas wedding, a destination “I do,” a country club soirée, or an event on a private estate, we have the experience, energy, and international design connections needed to convert your vision into an extraordinary celebration. Learn more: dfwevents.com | Follow us on Instagram: @dfwevents