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wedding reception avaFor many couples, this is a serious problem – how to organize a wedding reception and have all the guests well-fed and happy? And there are so many things you need to know about wedding catering that it’s easy to get lost in that information. So, we decided to make a material dedicated to this very important aspect of a wedding. Let’s find out which wedding catering styles are best and worst, how to serve the adequate meal to your guests, how to save money on catering, and what the main tricks of a wedding reception are.

First, let’s see different wedding catering styles and discuss each of them.

Plated meal

The wedding guests are seated at the table/tables and the food is served to them. It is comfy, looks fancy, and everyone is fed. This catering style is also good for your budget because you can plan the exact amount of food, with very little extra. But you will pay the servers and if you have a lot of guests, the number of servers increases. The wedding guests usually like this scheme because they don’t have to do anything and are able to just sit, talk, and eat comfortably.


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What is not so good about this type of wedding catering? Guests get fewer options in choosing their meal. They get what the chef has prepared for them. Many modern brides create websites or social media communities to arrange the wedding and interchange info with their guests, so people probably already know what food they will be served. But still, they can’t choose the amount of food or change the decision about their appetizer, main dish, etc. Also, this variant, while letting you save on the amount of food, needs extra payment to the servers, as we’ve mentioned earlier.

Cafeteria buffet

That’s when the food is served from chafing dishes and the guests are lined up with their plates to get their meal. This catering style is not as fancy as the plated meal, but it definitely has its advantages. First of all, the wedding guests have more options, they can choose whatever they like. The whole serving process is fast and the temperature of the food is perfect. Also, the guests have a chance to have conversations with other guests (not only those who sit next to you at the table) and servers, which makes the whole reception more open, cozy, and family-style.

As for your budget, the situation is vice versa to the plated meal – you save money on the number of servers but, often, there is a lot of food left. And some guests are not so fond of standing in the line either.

Self-serve buffet

The food is in chafing dishes and on the stand, people come and serve themselves whatever they like. A big plus is that the wedding guests have a lot of options and can have as much as they want – because some people, women, in particular, are shy to ask the servers to add more food to their plate. And you save money on servers, but, of course, the amount of food must be enough for everybody to get what they would like.


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Though, there are several serious disadvantages of this catering style. First of all, there is nobody in the dining hall to help the guests, give them advice on what to have according to their dietary restrictions, monitor the portions (because there are always people who over-serve themselves and just throw the leftovers away), make sure the line is moving (as there are also those who are too slow to decide what they want), etc. Also, if you don’t have servers, no one is going to clean the tables and the whole reception can easily turn into a mess. So, consider in advance how the tables will be bussed – this is very important.


Catering stations are tables with various types of food situated in different locations of your reception hall. You can have servers near each table or not – servers will need to be paid but they can control the process better than the guests themselves. Stations are really trendy this wedding season (for instance, hot drinks, snacks, desserts stations, etc.) and can be fun. The advantage of this catering style is that foods are divided and people can go to a certain station to have a certain meal instead of getting into a single long line. And they can have as much of whatever as they want.

If to talk about minuses of wedding meal stations, you have to order up to 10-20% of extra food for everybody to get sated. And another important peculiarity of stations is that they take a lot of space. If your wedding reception hall or venue is small, stations won’t fit there. Of course, the tables are situated in the corners or near the walls, but they still take plenty of space. You don’t want your guests slamming into the tables with food while dancing.

Food trucks

This style is really entertaining and guests usually love the atmosphere. Also, you have plenty of options as to what food to have, so you’re able to make the party very individual and unique. If food trucks are your choice, it will help you stay in the limits of your budget because the servers control the amounts of food and you don’t even have to pay them extra – you pay for the truck, everything included. But remember about bussing the tables, as there won’t be anybody to do the cleaning.

The disadvantages of this catering style are the following. You need to pick 2-3 food trucks serving different food and to limit the number of dishes they cook. Otherwise, the wedding guests will possibly be confused and you might end up with plenty of leftovers. Food trucks are a good choice for small weddings because if you have over 100 guests, it is too hard to predict what truck they would prefer and there have to be lots of extra food. Another thing is, food trucks cook to-order, which takes a lot of time, so if you have many guests, they will be waiting for their meals for far too long.

Cake and appetizers

If you’re limited in your wedding budget, this option might be for you. It saves a big chunk of a budget because you don’t pay many cooks, servers, and so on. Everything is ready and stationed in the reception venue, people have whatever they like, and you don’t have to think about the time of serving, as with hot meals. You don’t even necessarily need tables and chairs – people can just hang out, talk, and carry their plates with them.

But if you choose this catering style, warn your wedding guests about it. They should be ready that they won’t get an actual meal. And even then, you need to have enough appetizers because hungry guests are unsatisfied and angry guests. Also, you need a bar – when people eat less, they drink more. They just don’t feel comfortable without something to do and with empty hands, so they occupy themselves with sipping wine or some other drink. So in the end, you spend less on food but more on drinks. A lot of people don’t understand and don’t like this catering type – when you’re going to a wedding, you’re anticipating eating and drinking much. So, be very careful with this wedding reception idea.

What else should you know about food catering?

  1. Time is of the essence for the wedding reception. Food should be served and eaten at the right temperature and fresh. So, it is important that the guests are served quickly and there is no delay. Everyone gets their food, eats, and moves to another activity, like dancing or taking photos or whatever.
  2. Give people some options. If you’ve ever planned a dinner, you know that, often, different people like different dishes, some of them might have dietary restrictions or allergies, others are just picky. Regardless of the reason, always leave your wedding guests options as to what dishes to choose.  But be careful to avoid giving too many options because it will just confuse them – 2-3 options are optimal.
  3. Think about the size of a portion. You might want to consult a chef or experienced cook about that. The portions should be big enough to feed even the hungriest of your guests but too much food, too many leftovers mean that you’re wasting money.
  4. And the previous point brings us to the next – cost. Take into consideration that wedding catering takes a huge part of your wedding budget. So try to plan your reception costs beforehand. See how much food and how many servers you need.

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