A Tavola Non Si Invecchia

A tavola non si invecchia. – Italian proverb.

Translation: At the table with good friends and family, you do not become old.

Ever since I was little, I remember many many family events that occurred around a table. Even though my grandparents and I had a difficult time communicating (my Chinese is awful), food is the universal language that everyone speaks. It never mattered what was going on, everyone always got together for a lovely dinner.


Seriously, how ridiculous is this picture? / Image via Ashleys Bride Guide / Photo by Buca di Beppo

During special events, I always loved the mountain of food, the seemingly endless stream of things to try. I didn’t realize it at the time, but our large tables seems to be a very Asian phenomenon. Having that type of family-style dining is not common at fancy events like weddings.

There seem to be two major options available:

1) The three-course dinner: I don’t think you can get any more standard than a three-course dinner with your usual choice between the standard chicken, fish, and vegetarian option. I understand it makes catering easier for the chef, who doesn’t have to prepare as many different entrees, but it doesn’t make for an interesting meal. Furthermore, being related to the world’s pickiest eaters ever (on both sides of our family), I’m not sure there are things that everyone can agree on.

2) Buffet/stations. I like the idea of giving people options here, and they can get as much or as little food as they like. However we’re not a big fan of buffet. We’re heard many horror stories about buffet lines taking forever, food running out, etc., etc. and, furthermore, we don’t like the idea of people having to wait for food while other people are finishing up already. Because our venue is fairly tight on space as it is, I just don’t know if buffet/stations make the most sense.

However, in my heart, I really would prefer to have it served family style. Mainly being able to have lots of food choices is something that is very important to PBear and me. We are definitely foodies at heart. We love trying new restaurants and food is a very central part of our relationship. We would like to incorporate that love into our wedding. Dinner is a large part of the reception, especially since we don’t plan on having dancing. We’re envisioning a large dinner-party type of feel. We don’t care if it takes a while as long a the food is good and the food keeps coming.

I’m thinking of something more similar to tapas, or small plates.


Photo by Becca Dilley Photography / Food from Solera

How gorgeous does that look? We want to be able to bring in a multitude of different types of foods, everything from mac-and-cheese bites:


Source: Enjoy Life, It’s Delicious

To possibly sliders:

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Photo by: Brandi Welles on Inspired By This via Lover.ly

Fries in a cup:

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Photo by: Todd Rafalovich on Inspired By This via Lover.ly

Or any type of bite-sized foods really. I think this could become quite a fun and fairly unique experience. My goal would be to have formal dinner party feel but add a little bit of a fun twist.

PBear and I have been to family-style wedding receptions and loved them, but I am a little worried about how other people will like it. I’m worried that they’re going to get really confused and weirded out. Has anyone else done family style? Did it work? Did you enjoy it? What problems did it have?


Mrs. Panda

Boston, MA
Wedding Date:
June 2013
We Start Today: Family Shots And A Little Regret
Where We'll Say Our I Dos

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  1. genie Member
    genie 723 posts, Busy bee @ 12:25 pm

    My family reallllly wanted to do family-style for the Bengali wedding, but couldn’t make it work logistically. In Bangladesh, all reception dinners are served family-style.

  2. genie Member
    genie 723 posts, Busy bee @ 12:27 pm

    There’s a lot to think about: How much room will there be on the tables? Will there be enough waitstaff to take away empty dishes and replenish them? Will there be enough food for everyone at the table? Will it be served in courses? Like I said, a lot to think about.

  3. Member
    happyface 5777 posts, Bee Keeper @ 12:27 pm

    I like bite-sized foods. I would try to make that work!

  4. trailmix Member
    trailmix 6663 posts, Bee Keeper @ 12:39 pm

    We did family style and it was awesome!!

  5. mstreasure Member
    mstreasure 1655 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:40 pm

    I looooove the idea of doing a family-style dinner. We opted to go with a plated option because we don’t like buffets and we thought it would be too crowded to have that many dishes floating around.

  6. Member
    almostmrsj 3604 posts, Sugar bee @ 12:44 pm

    We did family-style for our reception and it was awesome. At least I got no complaints. :)
    I sat 8 people per 6′ table, 6 people per 5′ table (just 1 of those). The 6′ are the size they recommend for 10. That left plenty of room for elbows and bowls of green beans. Remember to keep your centerpieces smallish, too, and either lofty or short enough to encourage cross-table conversation (pass the cheesy potatoes!). For that I just had gobs of flowers in 5″ square vases, it was lovely.

  7. Member
    alleycat 661 posts, Busy bee @ 12:49 pm

    Mine was plated, but I have been to two family-style receptions. Both have worked out good. One of them did have a problem where there wasn’t quite enough beef, but the other had TOO much food (Maggiano’s). Not that I complained 😉

  8. snowcone Member
    snowcone 1141 posts, Bumble bee @ 12:58 pm

    We had a multi-course meal that was served by a wait staff, but we had a big bowl of m&c served family style at each table. People loved it! I think it was a good blend of comfort/familiarity with the family style without being overwhelming with lots of bowls/plates being passed at once.

  9. Member
    BabyBlueEyes 235 posts, Helper bee @ 1:08 pm

    I’m envisioning a similar feel for my reception, although I didn’t realize it until I just now read your post (yea, way to wait until the last minute to figure out your vision, my wedding is in less than 2 months!). I also don’t want dancing, other than a first dance between me and my husband (!) and dances with our parents. I do want it to be like a better version of a typical family dinner, with lots of laughter and talking amongst all the tables, and me and FH will be able to travel around the tables and associate with everyone. Unfortunately my wedding is before yours so I can’t see an example of how it will turn out, but I guess you might be able to see mine (I say unfortunately very lightly, I actually wish it would be here sooner!). Glad I’m not the only crazy one out there with this vision! I hope you’re wedding planning and wedding goes very successfully!

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    Lisa, Guest @ 1:30 pm

    We did family style at our reception and everyone loved it. We had our reception at a restaurant and the Chef was a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. He put together a 6 course tasting menu for us. It was served very formally, each course was brought out separately and plates were changed out in between each course. This was something that the Chef and manager of the restaurant had decided to do, not something we specifically requested. It was great, it was formal, but also had a family dinner feel. And it got our guests discussing the food and what would be next (we did not prepare a menu, we wanted our guests to be surprised and the Chef to feel free to make last minute substitutions if he had to). I had so many people say to me that they had never had such great food at a wedding and that they loved the idea of it.

  11. graywolf Member
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 2:03 pm

    1) i’m starving.
    2) i wish we could have done family style – but the extra rental prices (had to rent all the larger serving ware) wasn’t worth it, and it took away some flexibility for centerpieces (since those serving platters take up space). i’m jealous though- doesn’t seem weird at all, especially for your smaller size wedding.

  12. panda Member
    Mrs. Panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:57 pm

    @Mrs. Genie: I love Bengali food, I’m glad to hear of other cultures that have similar traditions. It makes me feel less weird. I’m not completely sure how the logistics of making a family style dinner work, but we only have 7 tables… It can’t be *that* hard, right?

    @almostmrsj: I’ll try to keep that in mind about the small centerpieces. It’s so hard, I’d love to have the centerpiece look substantial, but I’d hate to have to have them whisked away to get things to fit.

    @Alleycat: I love Maggianos. We actually looked there for our rehearsal dinner, but got vetoed by my mother. Oh well.

    @BabyBlueEyes: I do hope you come back and let me know how it went!

    @Lisa: That sounds so good, now I’m hungry

    @Miss Gray Wolf: I’m hungry too. These food pictures are killing me. I haven’t gotten the quotes yet about the rental prices for the extra dishes. I’m expecting it in the next couple of days and I’m trying to brace myself. If it’s insane, I’m wondering if it’s possible to just buy the plates. We’ll have to see!

  13. beanstalk Member
    Mrs. Beanstalk 770 posts, Busy bee @ 3:15 pm

    We’re doing a plated dinner. We toyed with the idea of doing a buffet, but there were just SO many options we could choose from, it became a bit overwhelming! Plus, when we went for our tasting, I really liked the way the food presentation! I have attended two weddings that had dinner served family style and it worked great! It’s a nice way to mingle with guests at your table!

  14. castle Member
    castle 1191 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:45 pm

    I love that photo! Our rehearsal dinner was at bucca and my Mom begged us to have it in the Pope’s room! I said no… I love the idea of tapas and family style food! I think as long as there is good food people will be happy no matter how you serve it! We did a buffet and it worked out well for us but I know some people really don’t like it.

  15. genie Member
    genie 723 posts, Busy bee @ 5:09 pm

    @Miss Panda: With only 7 tables, I can totally see you guys making it work! I had to contend with 25 tables, which was much harder. That would probably only require 4 servers, and would be so fun! Family style is still my favorite way to eat.

  16. Member
    mzjynxie 783 posts, Busy bee @ 6:09 pm

    I think your food plan sounds really good, go foodies! I’m a little partial to dancing myself, but I’m also partial to stations – for both, cocktail, reception, and after party. :)

  17. painauchocolat Member
    painauchocolat 2298 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:29 pm

    I like the idea of a partial-family style, a la Mrs. Snowcone, that way if guests are hungry and the wait for food takes too long, they can dig in.

  18. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 8:04 pm

    I love tapas! I think that would be so amazing and fun for a wedding.

  19. Member
    jacofblues 1468 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:49 am

    I love the title of your post and family style sounds awesome!

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