Buffet or Sit-down?

There are many choices when planning your wedding reception and the style of dinner is no exception.  Deciding whether to have a buffet or sit-down dinner is an important decision and there are a few things to consider.

Sit-down dinner receptions are when your guests are seated by assigned tables and the meal is served to them at the table.  They are more formal by nature and under certain circumstances can be more costly than other alternatives.  There are three different styles of sit down dinner receptions. 

The more traditional form of a seated dinner reception is where the full meal is pre-arranged on individual plates before being served to each guest.  The French service is where the food is prepared tableside with two waiters serving each guest.  This type of service can also be where one server holds the platter (with the food already prepared) and the other serves the food to the guests.  The Russian service is where a server brings the platter of food to the table and the guests serve themselves.

The more traditional plated service deminshes the choices the guests have for dinner while the French and Russian service do not.  However, the French and Russian styles of service are more costly because of the amount of service involved.  

The advantages to having a seated dinner wedding reception are that the costs are often comparable to the buffet or food station styles, there isn’t any juggling of plates and glasses, there are no lines for your guests to wait in and there is more control over the timing of the rest of the reception. 

Buffet dinner receptions are where the food is prepared and set out on tables for the guests to serve themselves.  A new spin on the old buffet is to have food stations.  Food stations are just that, different stations of food placed around the wedding reception venue.  Buffets are not always less expensive as more food has to be prepared to accommodate multiple trips.  In addition, buffet lines can be long unless two identical tables are set up.  This could increase the cost due to additional staff and decorations needed for both tables.

Family-Style dinner receptions have the best of both worlds.  Guests don’t have to wait in lines or manipulate their plates as they return to thier table.  Your guests will also have more choices of entrees and side items.  This service is technically a sit-down dinner where the guests are seated and the servers bring platters of prepared food to the table.  The platters are then passed and each guest can select the amount and item they like.  They have the same choices as with a buffet and you won’t have to worry about running out of food.  When they are done the serving dishes can remain on the table for seconds and/or a server will remove the dish for either a “refill” or to clear the table.  The amount of servers needed may be increased when compared to a buffet as you will need approximately one server per two tables. 

Family style dinners don’t have to be casual.  For example, using silver serving dishes and utensils, serving more elegant foods (such as filet mignon – which is pre -sliced therefore saving on costs) and the attire of the servers can add to the formality of the dinner.

When planning your wedding reception consider that both the seated and buffet dinner services have their advantages and disadvantages. Along with the costs involved in wedding planning it is important to consider the enjoyment of your guests. 

2 Responses to “Buffet or Sit-down?”

  1. Dave October 2, 2007 9:45 am #

    Lisa, planned our wedding and we used a family style sit down. It was absolutely fabulous. I see many of the guests that attended our wedding on a regular basis and they still mention to me that our wedding was one of the best they have ever attented.

  2. Jasmine January 23, 2009 3:32 pm #

    Me and my husband were already married and we were having the reception a couple of months later. We decided to have the buffet because our wedding had a different theme to it. The wedding went beautiful and the buffet came out to be formal and elegant with decorations. People were happy because they had different variety of food and they got to choose what they wanted to eat.


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