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Buffet or Plated Dinner at Your Wedding Reception?

Have you thought about whether you’ll have a buffet or plated dinner at your wedding reception? Is a buffet dinner really less expensive? Maybe you’ve been told that a plated dinner is more formal. Don’t forget the family-style dinner when you’re considering the meal for your wedding reception.

Wedding catering decisions are a delicate balance between good food that will please your guests and staying in your budget.

Selecting your caterer is one of the most important choices you’ll make, right up there with choosing your wedding venue. It’s also one of the most expensive items in your wedding budget. Your caterer may provide food, cake, beverages, linens, silverware, and tables. This all adds up!

While sit-down evening dinners have traditionally been popular, couples today are opting for a wide variety of choices.

Sweetheart table and bridal bouquet

Plated Dinner

You might also hear this referred to as a sit-down dinner. All guests sit down and are served at the same time. Servers typically serve your guests three or four courses. Speeches, toasts and your first dance can be done during the meal since everyone is seated.

If guests need to select their meal choice, then response cards must be included in your invitations. You’ll also need escort or place cards that denote the type of meal each guest ordered so the servers will know which entree to serve.

Many caterers suggest a duet or 2 meat option plate, then everyone gets the same thing. Also, not having to navigate guest choices means the dinner will go faster and you can get to the dancing sooner.

What We Love about Plated Dinners

If you’re having a black-tie or cocktail attire wedding, then you might want to consider a plated meal since it feels more formal. We love that everyone is served at the same time.

How to Save Money on a Plated Dinner

  • Limit the number of courses and the number of meal choices.
  • A combo plate (beef and chicken or fish and chicken) offering could cost less since your caterer is providing the same meal to everyone.
  • A plated meal can be less expensive since the caterers can plan in advance how much food they need to prepare.
Should you serve a buffet dinner or a sit down dinner at your wedding reception?

Buffet Dinner

This is a very popular option and allows your guests a choice of what they want to eat and how much they want to eat. Buffets require fewer servers. Your guests can serve themselves or you may opt for servers to dish out the food. Check with your caterer or venue about how they dismiss the tables for the buffet and how they ensure the lines don’t get too long.

It’s typical to have the salads at the table before the guests are seated so they have something to eat as they wait for their turn in the buffet line. You can jazz up your buffet with carving or cooking stations!

What We Love About A Buffet Dinner

Guests who have food restrictions (vegetarian/ vegan/ gluten-free/allergy) have choices and they can select foods that work for them. Picky eaters especially love buffets as they’re bound to find something they like. Buffet-style is less formal and promotes mingling and interacting among guests.

Since the bride and groom eat first, they have time to visit their guests while the guests are eating.

appetizers before a wedding reception dinner of pizza.

How to Save Money on a Buffet

  • Work with your caterer on the number of offerings, especially the protein options.
  • Will your caterer provide linens, chafing dishes, and serving pieces or will you need to rent these separately?
  • Buffets need fewer servers so you may save money on your catering staff charges.
Outside wedding reception in Saugatuck, MI

Family Style Dinner

Buffet or plated dinners at your wedding reception are not the only options. Family style dinners are rising in popularity. Think Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma’s house where everyone sits around the table and passes the dishes.

Servers will bring the serving platters and dishes to the tables and your guests will all eat at the same time. You’ll need extra room to set down the large serving platters, which may mean larger tables.

What We Love About A Family Style Dinner

This is a very inviting and interactive approach for your wedding dinner and allows guests to get to know each other as they dine. Guests can help themselves to as little or as much food as they’d like and all your guests eat at the same time.

How to Save Money on a Family Style Dinner

  • To accommodate the large serving platters, you may choose to scale down or eliminate centerpieces.
  • Limit the number of protein choices to one or two items.
  • Choose less expensive entree items.

Other Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding Reception Dinner

Here are a few more money-saving tips:

  • Look at the size of your guest list. This impacts the costs of food, linens, servers, etc.
  • Appetizers – Check on the cost of passed hors d’oeuvres versus appetizer stations or consider not serving them at all.
  • Instead of a champagne toast, let guests toast with the drink of their choice
  • Serve beer, wine and one or two signature drinks instead of an open bar.
  • Evaluate the need for centerpieces, especially for Family Style dinners. Can you minimize the centerpieces?
  • Floor-length table linens can be more expensive and your guests won’t notice if your linens aren’t floor length.

Are you having a buffet or plated dinner at your wedding reception? Or are you considering a family-style dinner or food stations? We’d love to hear from you!

Blue Skies!


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