Your wedding meal is about so much more than just the food. It’s a token of appreciation for your guests, and it’s a symbol of love—for family and friends who are in attendance and of course, love between you and your partner. Author Alan D Wolfelt writes that “food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” This rings especially true on your wedding day—a day when words so often fall short—when a delicious meal shared with loved ones speaks volumes.
Perhaps this is why it can feel so overwhelming to make decisions about food for your wedding reception. You want to make sure that everyone enjoys it as much as your enjoy their presence, which is no small feat. But instead of stressing about the details right off the bat (chicken kiev or piccata?), let’s step back and think about the style of meal you want. This decision will impact the flow of the reception, the timeline, and possibly even the food you end up choosing, so it’s best you start here. This brings me to the age-old question that every bride asks herself about the wedding meal: buffet or plated?
The Great Wedding Dinner Debate
Many of the decisions you make about your wedding will be purely based on intuition and gut-instinct—but this isn’t one of them. Since food and drinks can ultimately make up approximately half of your total budget, deciding on the style of meal you are going to have is going to take some careful consideration. With that in mind, let’s walk through a few questions to ask when deciding between a buffet and plated meal.
How big is my guest list?
The number of people you’ll need to feed is important when it comes to conceptualizing your wedding day meal. Generally, for large groups, buffets are a better choice. Anyone who has been in a mile-long line for a buffet may disagree with me, but avoiding buffet traffic jams simply takes a little planning and a touch of creativity.
If you have more than 100 guests, I’d recommend setting up a few smaller buffet stations, as opposed to one big one. This way, twice as many people can work their way through the line in half the time. It’s also a good idea to place a few menu cards on each table so that guests will know what to expect and can make decisions about what they want before they get to the line. Calling tables to the buffet one at a time also helps the buffet run smoothly—especially if you make it fun! I recently attended a wedding where the bride and groom organized a trivia game with questions about their relationship and whichever table got the answer right got to go through the buffet. This is a great way to keep guests happy and entertained while they wait for their meals.
Who are my guests?
The demographic of your guests at your wedding is another important factor to consider when deciding between buffet and plated meals. Will there be a lot of children in attendance? If so, a buffet meal may make more sense, because parents can fill their kid’s plates with the foods they know their child will eat (like rice, potatoes, or pasta). Alternatively, you can often request kids meals for a plated dinner, though there will likely be an additional cost, and you will have to make sure that all the kids like the available option.
You’ll also want to find out it any of your guests have specific dietary restrictions or allergies. Buffets usually allow you to choose a few different entrees, a number of sides, and some salads, so you can make sure there is something for everyone. Be sure to notify your caterer of any allergies and request that each dish is clearly labeled according to your specifications (ie. dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free). Also keep in mind that you may be able to arrange for the chef to make special plates for people with specific needs or allergies, usually at an additional cost—just be sure to discuss this well before the wedding.
What is my budget?
For many brides, this is the biggest consideration. Generally speaking, plated dinners tend to be pricier. This is because of the extra time and effort that goes into plating, and the large number of serving staff needed to get the plates out quickly and efficiently. For example, if you have ten tables at your wedding, you will likely need at least ten servers to bring your plated meals. Think of this as ten wages you are paying! Buffet meals, on the other hand, require far fewer serving staff, especially if you opt for a self-serve buffet.
For small weddings (of less than 30), the price discrepancy between plated and buffet meals won’t be so stark. In these cases, it may actually be cheaper to opt for a plated meal. As a general rule, the more guests you have, the more economical a buffet will be. Just be sure to price both options out when deciding, as this will vary from venue to venue.
Choose a Meal Style That Will Match Your Overall Wedding Vision
If you are still struggling to figure out whether a buffet or a plated meal would be best for your wedding reception, go back to your vision for the big day. Do you want the day to be extremely lavish and formal? Or do you envision a more rustic, casual feel? Plated meals tend to compliment very fancy weddings, while buffets can offer guests a more down-to-earth experience.
Ultimately, what matters most at the end of the day is the mere fact that you get to share a meal with all the people in your life that matter most to you. At what other point in your life will you get to do that? This is why you’ll want to make it memorable—for you, and for everyone.
Planning the perfect wedding meal—buffet or plated—isn’t something you have to do alone. To bring your entire wedding vision to life, you can rely on the help of a passionate and dedicated team. Give us a call to see if Kennolyn might be right Bay Area venue for your first meal as a married couple.