Event Design: Design Odyssey Event Designs
True, weddings are about love, but let’s be real, they’re also very much about food! From the hor devours, appetizers and dinner to the cake and other desserts, so much of your wedding planning revolves around what people are eating and how. So, let’s get right to the big question, buffet or plated? It’s probably the first thing that your caterer will ask you and your answer will dictate the direction of your wedding from that point on. Will you need buffet tables? How many? You want a plated dinner? How many courses? The list goes on and on. So what’s the right answer? The real question is, what is the right answer for you? Let’s figure it out together. Here’s what you need to consider…
Photo: Colin Ross
As with everything for your wedding, you’ll need to set a budget for catering. Generally speaking the cost per plate for a buffet dinner is less than a plated meal, but pricing varies from company to company. Most caterers also have different tiers for their services that include different cuts of meat, specialty ingredients like truffle, and dishes with varying levels of complexity. While you are ostensibly paying for more food with a buffet (because the caterer needs to allow for multiple servings for each guest) the real cost difference comes with the amount of staff that is needed to serve a plated dinner.
Photo: Stephanie Shenton
While both buffets and plated dinners work for weddings, a plated dinner definitely leans more formal than a buffet. So, when you’re making your decision consider the level of formality that you’re going for. A plated dinner is perfect for a ballroom wedding at a grand estate and a buffet gives off a chill laid-back vibe for an outdoor wedding at a beachy venue.
Photo: Shalae Byrd Photography
The more guests you have the more difficult it is to successfully execute a plated meal. You want all of your guests to receive their meals around the same time (and while they’re still hot). So, if you’ve got your heart set on a plated meal at your wedding, consider a smaller guest list. Buffets are great for large weddings, especially if you have multiple stations. Avoid big lines by having your MC announce when each table should go to the buffet.
Photo: Between Sleep And Awake
Buffets and plated meals both require a lot of space but in different ways. Buffets require a lot of floor space in your reception area while plated meals potentially require an entire kitchen set up for prepping and plating. Be sure to talk with your venue about what they can accommodate before you meet with your caterer. They may even be able to show you examples of how couples have set up their catering in the past so you can see for yourself which option you’d prefer.
Photo: Shalae Byrd Photography
Some people love wedding planning and some can’t wait for that part to be over. So, it’s worth mentioning that buffets are much less complicated as far as planning is concerned. For a buffet you’ll select the options with your caterer, provide a final head count, and you’re done. For a plated dinner, you’ll need to select multiple meal options for your guests to choose from (like creating a menu), and that will need to happen before you send your wedding invitations. On your RSVP cards, your guests will select the option that they would like to eat on the big day, and make sure to leave a line for them to write in any dietary restrictions or allergies so that you can share that with the chef ahead of time!
If you still can’t decide between the two, there’s a happy medium–family style. Family-style meals are becoming more and more popular at weddings. Your caterer will create a series of dishes, with multiple proteins and side options, and each table will receive its own platters to share–like one big family.
The good news is, you can’t go wrong. Good food is good food, it doesn’t matter how it gets on the plate. So go ahead, schedule your tastings and lean on your vendors to help you decide which option is right for your wedding.