If you’re anything like me, you like to see a perfect explanation of something before making a decision. Like I am ALL about instructions, how-to’s and YouTube videos explaining how to put something together or just understanding a product or service better.

That’s why I put together a handy-dandy guide to explaining ALL the different styles of dinner at a wedding and how not to freak out when your caterer ask what you are wanting. I’ll go over pricing, pictures, pros and cons.



Photo: Kaitlin Rodgers

This is easily the most common type of serving style due to price and list of food options available. Pretty much all caterers offer this style of service since it requires less staff members and prep time. With a buffet-style dinner service, guests will be dismissed by table after the blessing to go and get into the buffet line. Often times the planner will be the one to dismiss tables so there is not a giant rush up to the food. Popular meals served in a buffet line are Mexican and BBQ.

Some pros: The line can be controlled, guests can serve themselves, there is usually a surplus of food left over (sometimes a con), cheapest option by far.

Some cons: Line can get become too long if nobody is controlling it. Food can get gross sitting out for that long no matter how hot the serving vessels are. Guests have to either A. Take their plate at their table up to the buffet line to get the food or B. There are only plates at the buffet line leaving the tables bare and empty.

I am not the biggest fan of buffet style as it causes a lot of unnecessary time in between the start of dinner and the next event (usually toasts). Although I love any place a couple can save money, I think buffets are more useful for a late night snack opportunity later in the night.


Photo: Honey Gem Creative

Ok so plated. I have mixed feelings about plated-style dinners for a lot of reasons. It requires almost nothing on the part of the guest but we’ll get into the pros and cons in a sec. Plated looks really nice and if you have guests with a lot of allergy restrictions, it can be easy to let your caterers know in advance so that they receive a specialized plate. This option is often pricy because of how many hands it takes to pull it off. Often times, it can still take a while especially if you have a large guest count since each and every meal is delivered right to the table.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will have to work with your planner to create a system that shows what each and every guest has ordered. First it starts with RSVP’s on you wedding website where guests will chose which meal they want (usually a chicken/beef, seafood option and vegetarian option). Next you will have to arrange guests at each table by seat and send to the caterers before the one month mark (typically) with a note of what each guest ordered originally on the RSVP selection. This could be more difficult due to guests not coming last minute or telling the caterer they actually wanted the beef option when originally they selected seafood on the RSVP. Plated looks pretty and sounds great in theory but the logistics can be tough.

Family Style Dinner

Family Style. This is easily my favorite style of dinner service. If you are genuinely trying to fit a intimate vibe to your dinner service then family style is easily the best option. Your planner will work with your florist to design a space on the guest tables that fit portions of the dinner that will feed your 6-10 guests at each one.

I love this style of service because it truly creates a space of conversation and almost a “Thanksgiving” type dinner for your guests. One con about this is that is can often times be the most expensive of the styles of service. This is because of the larger portions of food the chef will allot for each table. For plated, you get one portion and for buffet you go through a line once, maybe twice with someone serving you (most of the time) but for family, the idea is almost to have leftovers so your guests won’t feel like they are serving small portions to make sure everyone gets some.

Other styles of dinner

The three mentioned above our easily the most common but some other ideas include, cocktail style where there are only small bites and snacks while your guests mingle and stand around. This is used commonly for brunch weddings.

Another is self-serve. This can be used along with cocktail-style with server passing small-bites and then a separate section of the room has food stations similar to a Buffett but with smaller plates and more “snack” type foods.

I hope this article helps you understand the basic styles of dinner and give you a more informed idea when creating your dream wedding day.



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