Wedding Catering Serving Styles Guide - Buffet, Seated Dinner, or Finger Food Reception

Wedding Catering Serving Styles Guide - Buffet, Seated Dinner, or Finger Food Reception

Before you begin choosing between filet and chicken, consider how you’d like to serve them. The most common options include seated meal, buffet and passed-tray (appetizer) reception. To help you decide, we’ve compiled all you need to know about these serving styles.

Things to Consider:

The time of day during which your event takes place -
If your reception will be held during brunch or cocktail hours, a 5 course meal may not be necessary. If your reception will occur during dinner hour, you should serve more than just appetizers.

The formality of your event -
While it’s perfectly acceptable to have a buffet at even the most formal of events, tradition still tends to dictate that a sit-down meal is the most formal. If you envision guests dressed in white tie, sipping French champagne and serenaded by a full orchestra, a seated meal may be the way to go.

Your guests -
Always take into account the nature of your guest list. Elders or more traditional guests may feel more comfortable at a seated dinner, while younger guests may yawn at the idea of being forced to sit still for a few hours. Also remember that an extremely large guest list may not be conducive to a buffet, as hungry guests may be forced to wait in line for a turn at the table.

Personal preference -
That said, it’s your wedding. There really are no rules these days, so if you have your heart set on a particular serving style - go for it!

Serving Styles - An Overview:

Seated Meal -
Overview: At a seated meal, guests are seated and served by a waitstaff at tables pre-assigned by you. This style is the most traditional and typically the most formal. The types of sit-down services include: 1. plated service - where the full meal is pre-arranged on individual plates before served to guests; 2. Russian service - where wait staff serve courses from platters onto plates already on the table; 3. French service - where two waiters serve guests from the platter, one holding the platter and the other serving.

Buffet -
Overview: At a buffet, guests select their food from either one long table or stations strategically placed throughout the room. (think pasta station, seafood station, Chinese wok station) An advantage is that you can serve a varied menu from which guests can choose what they like. Having a buffet-style meal does not mean that you have to sacrifice sophistication. A buffet can be formal when served by stylish wait-staff or more relaxed with self-serve stations.

Finger Food Reception -
Overview: At this style of reception, there is no full meal. Instead waiters circulate the room, offering trays of hors d’oeuvres to standing guests. This style of service is ideal for a cocktail reception, which is often a shorter duration than a full reception.

Get more advice on planning a wedding finger food reception at the guide to wedding catering.