Tips for Choosing Your Reception Style

From plated to buffet, the differences between each and how to determine what works for you

Plated starter course

As personalization continues to define weddings, it’s no wonder that couples are looking to choose a style for their reception that reflects the way that they enjoy food and entertaining. We’ll look at four reception styles, as well as a couple of interesting hybrid styles, and discuss how to determine which one is a perfect match for your wedding’s vibe, guest count, and budget. (Photo courtesy of Anna Sawin Photography)


1. Plated Dinner or Luncheon

This is the classic wedding reception style. Three or four courses are plated and served individually to guests at their table, usually beginning with an appetizer, occasionally a soup or salad course, an entrée, and then dessert. Depending on the complexity of the food, kitchen staff costs can add up quickly as many hands are needed to rapidly plate the courses for a crowd. Ideal for couples considering an elaborate or expansive tabletop design since no room needs to be left on the table for serving dishes. (Photo courtesy of Summer and Boyd)


2. Buffet

Have voracious eaters or a need to please a wide range of palates? A buffet, either entirely self-service or with servers to assist, can be an excellent option. While many cuisines can be featured, it’s best to have a unifying idea for the food to avoid a hodge-podge. Think gourmet comfort food, brunch staples, or classic surf-and-turf. While less staff is required for a buffet, food costs can be higher since the caterer will have to prepare extra to ensure there is always enough food. Buffets work best for weddings with fewer than 150 guests to minimize wait time and the dreaded “chow line” feeling. (Photo courtesy of DeShelia Spann Photography)


3. Family-Style

All food is brought to the table on platters that guests pass and from which they serve themselves. Just as the name implies, this makes guests feel as if they are sitting down to a meal with loved ones. Food should be easy to serve; think mashed potatoes, roasted or grilled vegetables, or entrees that can be served sliced such as flank steak. In practice, it works best if servers are nearby to help guests if and when platters need to be cleared or replenished. (Photo courtesy of Erin Hearts Court)