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The Pros and Cons of Plated, Family Style, and Buffet Meals

Oh the choices, weddings come in all shapes and sizes as do the options of meal styles available. Plated, family style, and buffet meals are some of the more popular choices each having their own advantages vs. disadvantages. Below we’ve outlined the details, pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision and be one step closer to planning the wedding of your dreams… Here we go!!! 

Plated: A plated meal is a dining option in which your guests remain seated for the entire meal, and are served each course by wait staff at your venue of choice. When choosing a plated meal you are giving your guests options to choose from usually a beef or chicken, fish and a vegetarian. Each of your guests will choose which one they would like prior to your event. When giving your guests options keep in mind that you have to keep a record of who orders what and relay this information to your caterer.

Pros: Being waited on can be less stressful for your guests than other service styles, namely buffet meals, because they do not have to wait in lines or get up to retrieve their food. You also will not have any wasted food with these meals, since plates are pre-portioned by staff.

Cons: This menu will have less variety than a buffet, so it is best to serve foods that are widely appealing in order to accommodate guests with dietary restrictions. A plated meal will also take up more of your reception time, reducing the time available for ceremonial activities such as toasts, formal dances, cake-cutting and casual activities such as socializing or dancing.

Family Style: This type of service style has gained a lot of popularity in recent years because it is less formal than a plated meal, yet more formal than a buffet. Essentially, waiters will bring your food to the table in large serving dishes, and these will be passed around for each person to serve their own plate. If you choose to order extra food, the waiters will then refill these dishes whenever they are running low. We would suggest serving a family style meal if you are envisioning a chic, yet casual and comfortable ambiance at your reception. Since this service style is still a fairly new concept, it’s also a great option if you’re trying to do something a little bout of the ordinary.

Pros: Family style encourages your guests to interact, and it creates a warm, inviting atmosphere while still allowing them to sit back and relax at the table. Also, like a buffet, your guests can help themselves to as much or as little of each dish as they want, but keep in mind that you will need to order additional food if you’d like to ensure that everyone will be able to have seconds.

Cons: You will be passing large platters of food around a table, so family style meals definitely have the potential to get very messy.

Buffet: With buffets, food is typically presented in chafing dishes, or on ceramic or glass platters placed on banquet tables, and guests walk along either side of it to help themselves to the food. It is also an option to have staff at each dish to help serve your guests. Buffets can be scaled up or down to match the formality of your wedding, but they definitely lend a much more informal feel than plated or family style meals. They are best for informal weddings or when you are on a tighter budget.

Pros: Buffets enable you to offer your guests a large variety of food in sizable amounts. With this service style, you should not have to worry about anybody going home hungry, and unlike a plated meal, if your guests choose something they don’t particularly enjoy, they can simply get up and find something else to eat. Also, since buffets encourage guests to be mobile and walk around, they will have ample opportunities to mingle with each other.

Cons: This service style can sometimes get hectic if too many people go up to get food at once. Keep lines at a minimum and avoid chaos by only having a few tables get up at a time. Another problem that can be encountered is having too much or too little food. There is no portion-control implemented when guests are filling their plates, and it is hard to know how hungry each person will be. For this reason, food for a buffet typically needs to be over-ordered because it is better to have a little extra than not enough. Your caterer will help you decide exactly how much you’ll need so that you don’t end up wasting lots of food.