Catering Your Wedding: Plated, Buffet or Family Style?

After selecting your wedding venue, the next big thing to do during the wedding planning process typically involves figuring out how your wedding will be catered. Most venues have a preferred list of caterers you must choose from, while others have in-house catering, and some venues even allow you to bring in whoever you’d like as long as they are a licensed caterer. Once you’ve hired a caterer, you now have to decide how the food will be served. While plated and buffet is most common, we are seeing an increase in family style lately which is why we wanted to also touch base on that. We’re also seeing some couples incorporate food stations, cocktail-style receptions and even food trucks.

Plated (Sit-Down Dinner)
As wedding planners, this is our personal favorite. However, we usually say it depends on the venue and theme. For example, if you are getting married in a gorgeous ballroom with crystal chandeliers and opt for black tie, plated is considered the norm. If you’re getting married at a barn or farm and looking for a casual wedding, buffet might make more sense. When doing a plated meal option, guests are able to sit and mingle throughout dinner while the servers come around from table-to-table typically starting with salads. Your guests are then served an entree based on their meal selection they opted for when filling out RSVPs (your guests place cards will indicate what they’re having for dinner so the servers know). As far as costs are concerned, plated typically ends up being less than buffet since you provide an exact guest count and what entrees are selected a few weeks out before the wedding. However, if you’re doing higher-end entrees, that is where costs may increase (think filet mignon and lobster). Also, keep in mind the service costs will end up being higher than buffet, for instance, since you will need more servers.

Photo Credit:  The Bride Box

Photo Credit: The Bride Box

Photo Credit:  The Bride Box

Photo Credit: The Bride Box

Buffet (Self-Serve)
Buffet is also a very popular option at weddings. The head table and parent tables are always excused for dinner first (the bride & groom should be the first ones in line or better yet sometimes they are even served so they don’t have to get up!). From there, your wedding planner/coordinator or catering team will go around and excuse the remaining tables one-by-one. If the guest list is large enough, sometimes two buffet tables are needed to ensure the line doesn’t get too long and the buffet is moving along. One downside of buffet style is the last few tables to be excused are typically getting a bit antsy to get up and grab their food. But, just know that eventually they will get theirs :) The nice thing about buffet is that if there is leftover food (and there usually is), guests can get up and dish up for round two if they’d like. As far as costs are concerned, buffet typically ends up costing more than plated meals since more food is needed and it’s hard to gauge how much your guests will dish up. However, you won’t need as many servers as you would for a plated dinner so you can cut costs here.

Family Style
We are starting to see an increase in the number of weddings that opt for family style dinners. It’s definitely more intimate and is somewhere along the lines of plated and buffet combined. Servers will come around with large portions of meals and set them down at the table to be passed around. Each guest will then self-serve and dish up the amounts/types of food they want. There is typically leftover food as well so there is plenty for round two if your guests are still hungry :) One downside is that with the glassware, flatware, china, centerpieces and now the family style plated meals, the table can often get a little crowded. Other than that, it’s a great option and is becoming increasingly popular!

Melody Hall