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Wedding Food Service Style: What Is Right For You?

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

One of the biggest (and most anticipated) planning portions of a wedding is deciding on and tasting the food! There are a lot of factors when planning your menu, and how to serve the meal. There are four main ways to serve food to your guests: buffets, stations, family style, and plated meals.

Buffet- typically featuring a protein or two, a starch, veggie, salad, and rolls; options are in abundance with buffets! Our advice is to make sure that all of the food on your buffet tastes like one cohesive meal. Think Italian, Caribbean, Southern, etc. Guests are released by table, placing all of their food on one plate, and are welcome to go for seconds after all of the other tables have been released.

Tip: if you have a large guest count, and the layout permits it, you can create double sided buffet lines to allow faster service. We also recommend having a wedding planner or catering lead release tables so lines do not build up!

Stations- essentially broken up, mini buffets, stations can be served two ways. In the first way, all guests have a seat, and tables are released similar to a buffet, except guests can choose from a variety of small plates instead of one meal. This allows for you to play around with different types of foods. Maybe a pasta station, taco bar, and carving station, for example.

Stations can also work well for couples who desire a more cocktail style reception, which encourages more social interaction. In this scenario, there may not be seating for everyone, and guests are encouraged to grab plates of food as they’re hungry, in between dancing, and throughout the night. In this situation, there is no set “dinner time.” Food, dancing, and drinks are happening the entire evening.

Tip: Place your stations around the room, away from each other. This allows more tables to be released at once, and helps alleviate the creation of one long line.

Family Style- the least common type of meal we see at weddings, family style is when large bowls and platters are placed at each table, and guests serve themselves without leaving the table. Family style feels intimate and casual. Family style functions like a buffet in that guests can choose what they want on their plate, but doesn’t require as much movement around the room.

Tip: Make sure to account for bowls and platter sizes when designing your tables for a family style meal. They can take up a lot of space on the table and the size/style of your centerpiece should be taken into consideration.

Plated- the most personalized, plated meals are also the most formal of wedding meals. Plated meals do require a bit more work prior to the wedding, but result in a more restaurant, service oriented dining experience. Couples ask their guests to select a meal preference on their RSVP card (typically two different meat options and a vegetarian selection). Generally, a salad is served first (or already placed at the table before gues

ts enter reception space), followed by the main course. Plated meals allow guests to remain seated and not have to worry about serving themselves. Remember that catering requires place cards for each guest with their meal selection indicated with this meal style!

When deciding which menu style is right for you, think about the atmosphere you’re trying to create at your wedding. If the focus is on dancing/mingling, think stations. If you love food, and want a formal dining experience, choose plated. If you want your wedding to feel more intimate and focus on conversation, family style might be for you. And if you want your guests to be able to choose their own quantities, buffets or stations are a perfect option. Whichever type of meal you choose, make sure to enjoy the tasting!

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