How to Pick the Right Wedding Meal Service Style


There is more to planning your wedding meal than just deciding on the caterer and the menu. You also need to decide how the food will actually be served! Meal service styles will vary in cost, and may also affect the overall style and formality of your wedding. Here are a few tips and things you should know when deciding what wedding meal service style is right for you.


The Most Common Wedding Meal Service Styles

Let’s take a look into some of the most popular wedding meal service styles you can choose from:


  • Plated: A plated meal service tends to be one of the more costly options for a wedding reception, since it requires additional waitstaff. However, this type of service has a lot of benefits that can be attractive to couples. Servers come around and bring out the meals to guests, so there are no chaotic food lines (or risk of a guest dropping their plate!). This type of service also has the most formal feel compared to other styles, especially if there are multiple courses.
  • Family Style: The family-style meal service allows for a bit more interaction between guests, as it involves passing around larger dishes of food for guests to serve themselves. While it has a more casual feel than a plated dinner, it can still feel formal with the right type of food. This is another option that can be on the more costly side since caterers will have to make enough food for all of the guests without having an exact serving size.
  • Buffet: A buffet is typically one of the less expensive wedding meal service options. That being said, if you have staff members dedicated to serving at the buffet (rather than guests serving themselves), the price can start to creep up. Buffets are a great way for guests to try lots of mains and sides, and to choose exactly how much food they want to eat. Since guests have to wait in line, it can get a bit chaotic, especially when dealing with a large wedding guest count or a smaller space.
  • Stations: This style is similar to buffets, but helps to spread the foodservice around the space so that guests don’t have to wait in one long line. Different food stations will be dedicated to certain foods, such as a carving block station, a pasta station, and a salad station. This style allows for a lot of variety, as well as fun culinary experiences if attendants are preparing the food right there.


Choosing Your Wedding Meal Service

Perhaps you’ve narrowed it down to a few service options. If you are trying to make the final decision on your wedding meal service, here are a few tips to consider.


Take a Cue from Your Wedding Style

Some meal service styles are better suited for certain wedding aesthetics. For example, if you are hosting a black-tie event, a plated dinner will perfectly complement the formality of the evening. On the other hand, if you are throwing a more casual backyard bash, a buffet will fit with the laid-back tone. Take a look at the style of your wedding, and see how it can sway you towards one serving method.


Look at Your Budget

Of course, you’ll need to take a look at your food budget to determine what is feasible for your wedding meal service. It is also important to consider your guest count when looking at these costs. A plated dinner for an intimate wedding might not be too much more than a buffet, whereas the difference can be a deal-breaker for a larger wedding.


Consider the Available Space

If you are thinking about doing a buffet or stations, you’ll need to make sure your venue actually has the space to make these options work. Consider the fact that you won’t only need tables and space for the staff, but also space for a line. There are also some considerations with a family-style meal service. Your tables will need enough empty space to put down the larger platters – which might mean limiting your centerpiece display. If you are working with a wedding venue that is on the smaller side, you’ll need to consider what serving style will actually work with the space.


Talk to Potential Caterers

Once you have a few caterer options, talk to them about what styles they offer and how you can pick the best meal service, and possibly cut costs, if necessary. A caterer will know the ins and outs and might be able to give you some useful tips. If you are interested in a certain meal service style but are worried that it might not fit within your budget, they may have some ideas to make it work.


If you are in the process of planning your wedding, come to the next Georgia Bridal Show near you. You will have the chance to meet with professional wedding vendors from Georgia and the Southeast who can help bring your vision to life!


Georgia wedding vendors, as well as other wedding professionals across the Southeast, can contact us about opportunities for exhibition and online marketing with Georgia Bridal Show.