In most cases, the bulk of your wedding budget will be spent on food and beverage. When providing dinner service to your guests, you as the host will choose from 3 styles: Buffet, Sit Down, or Stations. Each choice has pros and cons… it just depends on which fits your style!
Reception Style #1: Buffet
What is a buffet? It is a meal consisting of several dishes stationed on a long table from which guests streamline through and serve themselves. To create a more formal buffet, servers will sometimes assist guests. But in the end, this style is considered to be the most casual of meal service.
Pros: Buffets provide your guests with more options of meat, sides and sauces. You can please the masses without having your guests choose their entrée prior to your event. Buffets also save a small amount of money for wait staff since the caterer needs fewer people tending to the buffet instead of each table.
Cons: The downfall of buffets include time. Since guests are not professional food handlers, they tend to move at a slower pace when moving through the line. Also, a buffet requires an overage of each dish to ensure no entrée or side runs out. Caterers cannot guess how much each guest will take; therefore, an overage of food increases the cost.
Reception Style #2: Sit Down
A sit down, plated style of dinner is considered the most traditional and formal option as guests are served an individually plated meal… in most cases, one they have pre-selected in their RSVP. The meal typically consists of three courses: an appetizer/salad, entrée and dessert. Caterers will usually give guests the option between two entrées, which are selected beforehand, or they will offer a duo plate consisting of two proteins.
Pros: All of your guests will be served at the same time! With preselecting meal options, the caterer will know exact amounts. A plated dinner also provides the opportunity to time event formalities (such as dances and toasts) between courses to keep guests entertained and engaged throughout the meal service.
Cons: A greater number of serving staff is required to cater every table individually. Also, some venues do not offer a plated sit down due to lack of kitchen space. Imagine 300 entrée plates lined up in the kitchen… that’s some major square footage!
Reception Style #3: Food Stations
A station style reception is where the event’s meal choices are distributed at various tables in your main event space. Station examples include a carving station, a raw bar, a tapas station, a pasta station, a dessert station, and the list goes on.
Pros: A fun variety of dishes can be made available including themed stations (like a pierogi or taco bar) that you might not see at a more formal setting. With “cook to order” stations, guests can request the amount of sauce or level of spice, etc.
Cons: Considered a new-age style of event dining, many of your guests treat it like a buffet… taking a full dinner plate of food at each station. Stations are made for snacking, tasting, and enjoying smaller portions of each fun theme. The amount of consumption and waste may rack of up your catering bill.