Choosing a Wedding Reception Menu Service Style

Wedding Reception

September 1, 2021

The food at your wedding is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of the whole event. No matter which style you pick, whether it’s a formal plated dinner or a buffet-style reception, the menu should reflect the two of you as a couple.  Here are the pros and cons to many of the popular wedding reception menu service styles to help you choose the right style for your wedding.

Plated Meal

Coasterra Wedding Plated Meal

Plated Meal


  • Perfect for formal receptions since plated meals are more elevated and elegant experience.
  • Having trained waitstaff deliver plated meals straight to your guests guarantees that everyone is served quickly
  • More time for dancing and mingling since no one is standing in a line for the buffet and would finish their food faster if it were a plated meal.
  • Best way to ensure everyone eats at the same time.
  • You may be surprised but plated meals may be more cost-effective. Since your caterer will have exact numbers, no need to estimate portions, and no additional rentals are required.


  • Guests have fewer opportunities for interaction.
  • Guests will need to choose their meal when they RSVP.  You will have to track all the RSVP’s and meal options for each guest.  Don’t forget to list the allergies or restrictions.

Buffet Style

Buffet Meal


  • Buffet style may better reflect your wedding style. If you are looking for a more informal reception, then buffet is a great option.
  • Choosing a buffet does not mean you have to serve something standard. You don’t have to skimp on extras, either. You can add more unique, personalized options like a carving station, or even action stations where guests can make their own mashed potato combinations or select a custom-made pasta dish.
  • Guests can take what they like.


  • Important to think about food safety. All entrees and sides must be properly labeled and list common allergens such as gluten, eggs, seafood, peanuts, dairy, etc.
  • You want to avoid keeping food out longer than necessary, and make sure that your caterer is up-to-speed on how weather can affect the freshness of the food itself.
  • Open buffet also leads to uninvited guests such as bugs or bacteria.
  • Harder to accommodate guests with allergies.
  • It will take longer for guests to eat since guests have to wait for others to go through the line and then sit down.
Family - Style

Family – Style

Family-Style Meal


  • Don’t have to wait for every guest to make their way to and through buffet line.  Family-style allows the rapid deployment of entrées and sides. Once they’re at each table, guests can then begin serving themselves immediately and directly from their seats.
  • Guests don’t have to pre-select a meal. Woohoo! No meal tracking with RSVP cards.
  • Family-Style is a great way to get your guests talking to each other.  Think about it, during Thanksgiving you use Family – style and you have to ask for your Uncle Joe to pass the mash potatoes. Then, it leads to conversation.  This is a great ice-breaker too for guests that may be sat next to someone they don’t know.


  • You may pay more for rentals since each guest will need a dinner plate, serving utensils, and serving platters.
  • Guests will serve themselves and possibly a hearty portion than a plated meal. Leading to a more expensive food cost.
  • If you plan on having elaborate centerpieces or display a variety of items on the table, then Family-Style is not right for you.  Especially, if you plan on serving different entrées and sides. The more menu items served the more space will be needed on the table. The dishes take up a lot of space.
In-N-Out Food Truck

In-N-Out Food Truck

Food Truck


  • Great for a more picnic style wedding.
  • Unique experience. Creative dishes.


  • At first it may seem as if the food truck option may be more cost effective than a caterer.  Traditional catering quote will typically include rentals, staffing, and oftentimes beverage and dessert service. Food trucks typically bring their food and their truck … not much more than that.
  • Long lines, guests eating at different times, and dinner service taking longer.  Leading to less time on the dance floor and mingling.
  • No help with set up of reception.  A separate service would be required to come in for set up and clean up.
  • No one helping guests at the table.  No water glasses being refilled.
  • Caterers will have their own event insurance. Food trucks will have to purchase day of insurance and that will be an additional cost to you. Or worse, they don’t get coverage and your responsible for any damage.
Carving Station

Food Station / Carving Station

Food Stations


  • Guests can take what they want.
  • Creative food stations that are entertaining to guests.
  • Wide selection of food.
  • Guests don’t have to wait in lines since the food stations will be spread out among the space.


  • Expensive.  Catering has to estimate portions, more staff to serve at the stations or cook, and more rentals.
  • Venue will require a large amount of space to accommodate the food stations.
  • More staff / chefs to accommodate any cook-to-order stations (pasta, carving, etc.).
  • Potential for running out of food since guests can serve themselves hearty portions.  Especially, if there are a few menu options that more popular than others.
  • Leads to unwanted to guests such as bugs or bacteria.
  • Food borne illness if food is left out longer than it should.

leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thank you!

 Look forward to taking you from start to finish and putting your wedding or event in the Winner Circle!

join the list