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What's Up Weddings

Serve it Up

Apr 08, 2014 11:08PM ● By Anonymous

Décor and dancing will no doubt be major ingredients of your wedding reception, but don’t overlook dining options on your big day! From seated dinners to stations, buffets, family style, and more—which table service will you choose? We’ll introduce you to each, and then you can decide which one is best for you!

Seated Dinner

A true white glove service, seated dinners are the most formal and traditional table service option. Guests are elegantly served simultaneously and can enjoy their meal while it’s fresh out of the kitchen with friends and family, including the bride and groom, with fewer interruptions. While this option allows for guests to be a captive audience during toasts, it also holds them captive waiting for the next course. Seated dinners require more work to coordinate, tracking each guest’s entrée preference and accounting for those loved ones who forgot to RSVP. While the menu could save you a few dollars—caterers often say that because they don’t have to account for the variable portions they would with a buffet, they can cut food waste and thus cost—seated dinners require a bigger staff to serve all guests at the same time, and the additional labor can quickly add up.


Trendy and completely customizable, stations are a creative option to serve your guests and get them mingling. They are usually paired with passed hor ‘d'oeuvres and can be especially suited for late afternoon/early evening receptions, featuring a menu not as hearty as seated dinners. This is a fun option for foodies! Choose a carving station with delicious beef tenderloin, a DIY pasta station complete with all the fixings, a raw bar featuring Maryland crabs and oysters, or a go for brunch vibe with an omelet station. Keep in mind that some stations require attendants—meat carving, sushi, omelet, crepes—and thus increase the price, but the sky is the limit for creativity, and your guests will definitely remember their unique experience.



Allowing guests to serve themselves and offering a broad menu are great aspects to having a buffet. It also gets guests out of their seats and is typically the most cost efficient option in wedding table service—even if you decide on having two buffet set-ups, which is always a good idea if you have more than 50 guests. Working closely with your caterer in advance is essential to eliminating crowd control catastrophes. Long lines and empty platters may turn off guests, so make sure the catering team is on its toes.


Family Style

The most intimate option to table service for your dinner is family style, as it’s channeling an environment that bespeaks celebrating with good conversation and a sense of community. With family style service, table-sized portions of each dish are served by course, and guests serve themselves from the table. Picture long, beautifully adorned tables or several round tables bunched together so guests can easily intermix. Comparable to the cost of a buffet, this option has the most flexibility when it comes to negotiating with a caterer, but beware you will want a staff that has experience. Family style requires good timing and attention to detail so all guests are presented with courses, served a second helping if desired, and have dishes cleared efficiently.



Customary in many other countries and cultures, a potluck dinner for your wedding is a casual option that is often overlooked. This seemingly laid-back table service can be requested upon guests in lieu of a wedding gift—and is only really encouraged from local attendees, not out-of-towners. Newlyweds must pre-plan this type of table service in advance so guests that provide a dish also know to graciously include a recipe card of their dish for the newlyweds to build up their repertoire. A major factor in this option is the amount of guests attending; it needs to be a manageable number and a potluck point person should help organize the service. Dinner should include an appetizer or salad, a main course, one to two side dishes, and several desserts. The funds saved on catering costs can make it possible to hire a few people to help clean and organize the dishes post dinner service.


Consider all the pros and cons of each type of dinner service for your special day, make sure you’re mindful of the budget, and, most importantly, feel comfortable with the decision. Saying bon appetite is almost as important as saying ‘I do’… almost.

Consider for Dinner

Does it coordinate with the tone of my wedding?

Will children and the elderly require help serving themselves?

Is it appropriate for the time of day/night?

How long will it take to serve my wedding of 50? What about 500?

Are there any dietary restrictions?