The Pros and Cons of Wedding Reception Action Stations

A chef preparing food at an action station during a wedding reception.

The food at your reception is one of the things wedding guests look forward to most. Will they get a steak dinner, some mac and cheese, or just good ol’ cake and punch? One of the most popular things to do for food at weddings is having multiple action stations. These are areas where a chef prepares food in a small area. This food are usually smaller in portion and bigger in taste. Here’s some pros and cons to action stations at your wedding reception.

The Pros of Action Stations at a Wedding

Cuts Down on Cost

We had one of those weddings where you expect a catered dinner. Well, after sitting down to plan that menu, the food totaled to about $17,000. We didn’t want to spend that much, so our wedding planner started talking about action stations. They cut down on cost because they provide smaller portions to just grab and go. A seated dinner is usually more money as you are shelling out cash for meat and side dishes for every person, which drives up the cost. The cost is not as much at action stations because not every single person will want food from each station.

Unique Food Choices

A chef cooking at an action station during a wedding reception.

Action stations aren’t boring. The best thing about them is you get to eat things you don’t usually eat every day. For instance, some of the food we served at our wedding action stations were truffle mac n’ cheese bites and mini quiche. One of the best choices we made when it came to action stations was having a mashed potato bar. It’s so much fun to get to dress up your mashed potatoes with all sorts of fun toppings. Sushi is also a popular choice, as well as pasta stations with all sorts of sauce toppings. Action stations give guests options so they can play with different food pairings. You might not usually pair sushi with chicken fajitas, but action stations allow you to pick up two pieces of sushi and one fajita for the perfect little plate. Then, you get to go for the dessert action stations. How about a flaming chocolate concoction? It’s all up to the chef to have a little fun with their selections.

Interaction With the Chefs and Food Itself

Action stations allow the guests to really dive into the food selection. Many times, the chef is preparing the food right there in front of people so there is more interaction between the chefs and the wedding guests, and well as more interaction with the food itself. Compared to a seated dinner, action stations are more about having fun with your meal. The chef can guide you through the best taste selections as well.

Flexible Eating Time

Some guests are ready to devour the food right when they get to the reception, while others want to mix and mingle before diving in. Action stations allow guests to decide when they want to roam around to the stations and eat. They can even go after having a few dances. Most of the time, the action stations don’t stay open throughout the entire reception, but do allow ample time for guests to meet and greet.

The Cons of Action Stations at a Wedding

Extra Catering Costs

I said before that action stations usually cut down on the budget, but it can get out of hand if you aren’t careful. Adding chefs often adds to the catering costs. Just be sure you aren’t adding too many action stations that require you to pay over your budget for each chef. Sometimes action stations don’t even require chefs if the venue brings the food into the action station. This is especially true for things like finger foods or basic things like mashed potatoes. (The chef doesn’t need to mash the potatoes right in front of you, right?!)

Guests Have to Serve Themselves

A wedding guest filling their plate with food at a reception.

Some guests expect to be treated with a served meal at a wedding. They don’t want the hassle of having to get up, stand in lines, and get their own food. It’s great to be served a fancy meal complete with a roll on the side, but guests need to remember they might not like everything the couple chooses to serve them at a traditional wedding dinner. Action stations are more about picking and choosing your food rather than having a set menu in place.

A Big Space Is Necessary

If you’re going to have action stations, make sure there is enough room in the venue to space them out. Sometimes, people begin to gather around the action station to watch the chef prepare food, and not notice the line forming behind them. You want guests to be able to pick up their food and either move on to the next action station or go back to their seat. People are usually hungry when it comes time for the reception, so they might just push you out of the way to get to the mini slider—and you don’t want a fight to break out!

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