How to Decide Which Style of Meal Service Is Right for Your Wedding Reception

Tacos at a wedding reception.

Many would argue that having delicious food is one of the most important components of a great party. With that being said, the food that you choose for your wedding reception is definitely an important piece of the planning process, making it something you want to put time and thought into. There are many things to consider as there are quite a few choices when it comes to the different meal service offerings. To help you narrow it down, we’ve included a guide to the different options as well as what type of wedding style each service fits best into.

The Classic Plated, Sit-Down Meal

The most traditional meal offering at weddings is a plated, sit-down dinner. This is where guests choose their meal ahead of time, typically either from a meat, fish, or vegetarian option. Guests receive an appetizer, entree, and dessert as part of the meal.

This meal option is perfect for couples who are looking to have a more traditional and formal event. It’s also a good way to keep things pretty simple; the food is served to all guests at the same time, making it easy for scheduling. Also, with a limited offering of only several dishes, it doesn’t require too much mulling over when it comes to choosing the menu. If you’re looking for something straightforward, elegant, and simple, this is for you.

Buffet Style

A buffet of food at a wedding reception.

A buffet styled wedding reception meal allows guests to choose from a wide range of food options and to take only what they actually want to eat. Rather than being served at their dinner tables, guests serve themselves from long buffet tables filled with generous food offerings. Servers will work behind these long tables to assist guests in plating the food they want.

A buffet style meal is great for couples looking to offer their guests a wide range of different foods. If you have an abundance of wedding guests attending with food allergies or dietary restrictions, this is a solid option as it makes it easy to widely accommodate these restrictions. Buffets may be a more casual option, but they also promote mixing and mingling among guests, making it a more social experience. If that’s important to you for your wedding, this is something to consider.

Family Style Dining

This option is somewhat similar to a sit-down dinner. However, rather than being served plated meals, guests serve themselves from large portions brought to each table by servers. This is another simple way of serving guests from a more limited menu.

This option is good for couples who want to avoid any situation where guests get up and serve themselves, yet want something a little different than a traditional plated dinner. This has a more casual feel than plated meals and is also efficient because guests can begin eating the moment they serve themselves the food placed on their table rather than having to travel to a station or buffet.

Food Stations

Food stations, also known as action stations, have become more and more popular as a meal service at wedding receptions. For this option, multiple “stations” are set up around the reception space for guests to visit. These feature an array of culinary displays, some with chef attendants who are creating culinary experiences for guests as they visit the station.

This option works well for couples who want to be more creative with their food offerings at the wedding reception. It’s easy to incorporate a theme into stations—for instance, making each station a different type of ethnic dish for “food around the world.” This also gives couples the ability to have some traditional wedding dishes, like chicken or steak, as well as more “fun” food like a mac and cheese or burger bar. If you want to let guests eat at a more leisurely rate, food stations are also the way to go. Stations typically stay open longer than a buffet, allowing guests to eat in between steps on the dance floor.

Food can be a hugely personal thing, and that’s true even at your wedding! Choose the meal service option that feels the most authentic to you as a couple and best fits with the vibe you’re going for at your wedding. Choosing the menu for your wedding should be fun and exciting, so don’t let this be something that stresses you out. As long as the food is delicious, you can’t go wrong with how it’s served!

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