5 Valuable Food Serving Types to Save the Wedding Budget

By Jorge Lopez | Tips For Your Event

Aug 06
5 Food Serves Types to Save the Wedding Budget

Take a moment, close your eyes and think back to just a few months ago or maybe a few years ago and remember the last wedding you went to. Besides all the delishes dance endusing cocktails and yummy sweets what was most memorable about the meal service? Did you like the style of how the food was set out? Was it interactive enough in allowing you to mingle with some old friends and pass crushes? Did you get to eat enough of that whatchamacallit that was so good?

Maybe the best part of the dinner wasn’t even the dinner itself but the experience you had with great friends and family members.

Some good’ol reminiscing.

Hell, maybe it was the making of almost perfect strangers into new found lasting relationships. Or perhaps it was maybe, just maybe… all the free liquid courage your mind and body thought it could handle.

Whatever it was, I think we can agree that when dinner comes around, we all get this almost unexplainable comfort and joy. There’s just something about when the food arrives at such a joyish occastion that not even the darkest of emo family member can help but be happy about it.

It almost shouldn’t be a surprise then that 45 to 50 percent of your wedding budget will be accounted for by the catering bill. [Sigh.] So then what would be the best alternative when it comes to feeding everyone for your wedding that would fall right in line with your wedding budget?
The question is, “What serving styles can I choose from and what are the benefits and drawbacks of each one?”

There are many different options to choose from nowadays, which really wasn’t the case not too long ago. If you’re still at the crossroads and having some trouble deciding which serving style to have for your wedding dinner, then here is a list of 5 different serving styles that should help steer you in the right direction with some pros and cons to each.

1. Plated Dinner
Sit Down Service

This one is probably the most traditional and formal of them. Where each guest gets their own plate. A three course meal is the best here. Keep it simple but classy.

  • Appetizer
  • Entrée
  • Dessert

There is a less common fourth plate, an Amuse Bouche or Inermezzo that comes before the entrée. But soup or salad, followed by the main entree, then everyones favorite, dessert is perfect. The common protiens here are chicken, beef, or a choice of vegetarian. But every once in awhile a gorgeous and very different ‘homemade, just like mom makes it’ style main dish comes out and usually “ooooo’s and aaaahs” the guest. Don’t be afraid to ask the catering company if they’ll prepare your family favorite!


  • The great thing here is that everyones’ food will start to be served simultaneously. Your guest will be served like royalty and who doesn’t love that? Especially your older guest. Because for many, standing in long lines in heels, I hear, isn’t all that much fun.
  • The catering company will know exactly how much to purchase and this will help save on food cost.


  • Depending on your catering company this could just increase your budget as you’ll need to account for additional platters and serving pieces.
  • Also, you’re going to want to make sure there will be enough room at the tables. It can make for some uncomfortable eating, especially at a table where those sitting with each other are not that familiar with one another.
  •  A few of your guests are going that have checked the “fish” on the wedding invite, but once seated, they either have forgotten what they ordered or now all of the sudden want the tri-tip. So you’re going to need to make sure there will be extra of everything.
  •  And there will ALWAYS be one or two people that will walk up to the catering area and ask one of the servers, “Hey, is there anymore of that veggie plate?” None of your guest should have to hear, “No, sorry there was only enough for the three vegetarians that were on our list.”

2. Family Style
Sit Down Service

Here your guest is assigned to specific dinner tables where the catering staff will bring very large portions of different platters and side dishes that will be placed on each table. Here you’re going to most definitely need extra food. There is just no way of knowing how much each person will eat. Some good advice that can help save some on the wedding budget and keep from wasting too much food comes from Lauren Geissler of Downey Street Events, who advises to “Serve a plated entrée and share the side dishes for the guest to pass around.” This would better manage how much protein will be needed.

[Tweet “Saving Tip: #FamilyStyle Dinner at your #Event? Serve the Plated Entree, Pass the Side Dishes”] Pros:

  • Here your loved ones will be able to dive in as soon as the food arrives. And passing it around ones selves does seem to bringthen everyones mood.


  • Here you’re going to need a lot of space. All to often we’ve seen six, seven or eight guests at each table with barely enough elbow room to enjoy the space. With the bread basket, flowers and all those glasses to drink water, wine, champagne, and a few beers here and there, the platter real estate becomes an issue. Especially for your watiers look for a spot to place them.
  • You might have to pay a bit more to make sure catering will have extra food so that everyone gets enough of what they want.

3. Buffet

Here you have long table setups for your guest to walk up and serve themselves. Some that seem to work well are the “T” shaped table setups. This way there can be multiple lines from either side as they walk up and around. As Guest go through the buffet tables they will be very willing to mingle. This type of service will be less costly as a Plated service because you will need less staff. However, there will need to be enough to keep the area clean and fully stocked as guest go through. A nice option here is lots of flowers!


  • Less servers will be necessary here, but you’ll want to make sure there are still enough to pass around water and wine. This will save you money.
  • Buffet does allow for a larger variety of choices, which is great for your guest because some will have allergies and or dietary restrictions.
  • This will give your guest more opportunities to mingle with one another.


  • One of the main draw backs here is that every table will have to wait their turn, even when multiple tables go up at a time,
  • It seems the last tables don’t get the exact same experience. Unless, of course the carters stay on top of and do a great job of keeping the area clean and fully stocked.
  • Larger quantities of food will be needed here as well because people will be going back for seconds and sometimes even thirds!

4. Food Stations

This can be very fun, especially for a younger crowd as there are many food stations all spread about the space. The different stations can be very unique. Some awesome stations are a sushi bar, carving station, tapas station, & dessert stations. Usually not as much food is available as with buffet, but there can be more specialty items to choose from.


The great thing about having multiple food stations is that there will be many creative choices. This also will make people go from station to station and mingle will all sorts of other guest. Making it lots of fun. Also, guests are able to request how they want their, e.g. Steak prepared.


Lines will be considerably longer, especially at the stations where things will need to be prepared or rolled. Also the reception will need plenty of room for all the different stations and lines. And for the Sushi stations, carving stations, etc. more chefs will be needed.

5. Cocktail Style

This style is a bit newer and not as common, but really cool and trendy. No sitting here as your guest will be served hors d’oeuvres and other Bitesized goodness the night through. There can be stationary stations or you can have the waiters pass them around. Having the stationary stations gives the few people that like to hang out and hover over and around them post there drinks and mingle. Especially since most or all the love seats and benches will be taken. These are really great setups for the more casual atmosphere. A great way to really get to know each other and not be in just one area during the meal.


  • If your wedding venue will be in a smaller area this will be perfect and ideal due to the fact that large tables won’t be taking up much needed space to move about.
  • This allows your guest to move about more freely. And since most everyone will be standing that makes it easier for you
  • The bride and groom to move around and talk and hug everyone.
  • This style is also very wedding budget friendly as the food cost will be considerably less without a main entrée.


  • Typically, older guest won’t understand this style as much or maybe enjoy as much as a traditional sit down meal. Especially if they have never been to one before. They might spend some time wondering when the full service will happen only to find out that, “this is it.” Just make sure to be very clear by letting them know that it is going to be a cocktail reception.
  • Being that there will be less food than most Americans are used to eating per meal will mean that your bar cost will most likely be higher. But that also means more dancers on your dance floor!

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