How do you know what wedding reception meal style will be the most conducive for your big day ?

Let’s review the pros and cons for many wedding reception meal styles. From Plated, to Buffet, Stations, Cocktail Parties, and Family Style, there are many aspects to consider, before even discussing the food itself


Plated Service

Plated meals are the most traditional form of dinner service. There are usually at least two courses, salad and main course. The bride and groom may select two or three main course options for their guests, or opt to have a dual entrée for their guests to enjoy.

Pros – Plated reception meal service is the most traditional dinner style for weddings. It is formal and elegant, with servers placing beautifully plated entrees in front of each guest. Guests are able to sit and enjoy each other’s company as they enjoy each course. Activities, such as toasts and special dances may be spread between courses to provide more time for dancing and other activities.


Cons – Plated service requires a large number of staff (between staff for plating the meal and servers), which may increase the total cost of your event. Guests may also be limited to one entrée choice from a pre selected list. Also, this style of service requires the most work from a couple. You must provide the caterer with a list of who will get each meal, along with a code that will be on the place cards for servers to see what meal each guest ordered.


Buffet Style

Buffet style dinner service is often considered the most casual.

Pros – Buffet style dinner service is the least expensive of all wedding dinner service options. It requires the least amount of catering staff (though servers are still needed to refill the buffet, clear dirty plates, and refill guests’ water glasses). Buffets offer more options than plated service, allowing guests to pick and choose what they like, as well as the portion sizes of each selection. Buffet style is social and promotes mingling between guests, while going to and from the buffet, they are able to take in more of the venue as well.

Cons –Being the most casual, usually guests will be serving themselves at the buffet, and must carry their plate back to the table. This style of dinner service requires a larger quantity of food, which may lead to more waste. Each table must also wait their turn to go to the buffet.



Station style dinner service is where food choices are spread over various food “stations”. Each station has a theme or style, such as a Maryland station with crab cakes and seafood, create your own pasta station, or the traditional carving station. Some stations may have a chef preparing items to order. This style of wedding meal service tends to be very interactive for guests.

Pros – Stations is a great way for you and your significant other to showcase your personality. Guests love the interactive feel and variety of the selections. With stations spread out, your venue is utilized the most, guests are drawn to areas of the venue that they may not notice with other options. Similar to the buffet style, guests may choose the items they like and their portions. But having on average three stations, guests may not have to wait to receive their meals.

Cons – Having various stations requires more room in your venue. With interactive stations, a chef and extra service staff is often necessary which can increase the cost.


Family Style

Family style dinner service combines the traditional feel of a seated meal with the options of a buffet. Each table is given large portions of each menu item to share among the guests at that table.

Pros- During family style service, guests often receive their food faster than the other options (provided you don’t have a chatty aunt hogging the potatoes). It is essentially a buffet, without the line. Again, the food choices are more diverse than a seated meal. Family style meals force guest interaction with one another at their table.

Cons – Family style is the most expensive of all wedding reception meal styles. More staff is required than buffet, and the most food is used as well as wasted. While forcing guest interaction can be a great thing among your friends and family, careful detail must be given to your seating arrangement as guests must share with one another.


Only you know which of these options are most conducive to the theme and feel of your wedding. No matter which option you choose, your guests are sure to have an incredible time on your special day!