Wedding Catering: Plated or Buffet?

Published February 9, 2016    

Catering can be one of the largest expenses for a wedding.

Some estimates put it at 50% of the total budget. One of the big questions that come up on this topic has to do with whether the food offered is plated or buffet style. We will review some of the benefits of each option in generalities. However, a good catering company will be able to go through these options more specifically with you. It is a good idea to get price quotes from several catering companies and ask good questions, and as always, it all starts with a good baseline education about what you are looking for.

A balance between your budget and giving your guests an enjoyable experience is the bottom line goal. This is the first meal you will be sharing as a married couple and should celebrate the occasion as much as any other component of the wedding. There are three main options available overall: Plated Catering, Buffet Wedding Catering, and Family Style.

Plated Wedding Catering Option

Plated Catering is typically the most expensive option. This is partly due to increasing staffing to allow for serving and additional attention for the guests, including allowing for special dietary requests. These dietary requests will have been made ahead of time by using a meal request card that was sent with their invitation. Guests will be assigned seating at tables while a server attends to them.

In this option, guests remain seated, so there is no buffet line that guests are waiting in. The chance of running out of food is low, as there is an accurate head count that the catering company preps from based on the RSVP cards. This scenario allows the bridal party to manage the flow of the event, reducing chaos and preventing the “herding cats” phenomenon. It is also ideal when food presentation is desired, as the individual servings can themselves become a work of culinary art.

This option is best for smaller weddings to give an elegant feel or for weddings where the bridal party wants more control- over portion sizes and food selections and seating arrangements. So if seating charts, RSVP menu options, and an intimate experience sound perfect, then this may be the right option for you.

On trend: Use locally sourced foods and have each table feature a uniquely themed centerpiece and favors from where you first met.

Buffet Wedding Catering Option

The buffet option can vary in price, especially when specialty items are added such as carving stations or sauté bars. Usually, a variety of foods are chosen as to meet the needs of the guests. Special diet considerations can’t always be made and so are incorporated in the food choices if possible, such as offering a salad that has fixings separate to accommodate a variety of needs including gluten-free, vegan, nut-free and more.

Guests are either formally dismissed by the table or allowed to approach the buffet at their leisure. This option could allow for food to be emptied before everyone moves through the line, and, there is a possibility of confusing or long lines if the large tables aren’t set up in an efficient way.

This option is best for couples looking for a more informal feel and a lower price. If you have a large wedding and guests who like to mingle, this may be a great option. No seating charts are required, and unique spins can be added such as centerpieces, an ice sculpture or even a special food station.

On trend: adding a station that offers an adult beverage pairing for the foods offered.

Family Style Wedding Catering Option

This interactive wedding catering approach is gaining popularity and blends the two other styles. Guests are seated around large tables or tables lined up beside each other, like a Thanksgiving feast. You can choose to have these seats assigned or not and wait staff will bring large platters and bowls of food with serving utensils to allow guests to take what they’d like and pass the dish.

Make sure your wedding venue can re-arrange tables or offer larger tables to have this option work as seamlessly as possible. Short centerpieces, if any are used, are recommended, so there is room for people to see each other and to create space for the dishes to be set down on the table.

If you love the idea of community meals reminiscent of family holiday dinners, this may be the right option for you. Casual like a buffet, but offering an intimate feel, the family style option may be the perfect blend that allows connection and personalization in a managed way.

On trend: offer options that celebrate your ethnicity or have a hometown treat.

Are you getting married in 2016 or 2017? The Quebec Place at Fairmount is a beautiful new wedding venue in Denver. Space was created with you in mind. Call today to schedule a tour and see if the Q is right for you and together we can create your perfect day!

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