You might have the perfect menu planned, the most beautiful table display sorted and allergies relayed to the caterers long in advance, but have you considered how you'll be serving the reception dinner? It might not be something you've thought about but it can make a big difference in the overall vibe and cost of your reception.


D'arcy Benincosa Photography

This is the most standard way to serve a reception dinner. The guests take their seats and either order off of a set menu or a waiter will bring them a preselected meal and drinks. This leaves the guests at their tables for most of the night until the meal and speeches end and the dancing begins.


  • There's less of an issue with dietary restrictions/allergies as the waiters will know which table has which restriction and can, therefore, plan around them accordingly.
  • It's a less stressful situation overall because you know there will be enough food for everybody that has RSVP'd.
  • Everybody at the table will get to eat at the same time, this avoids guests sitting awkwardly while everybody around them enjoys their meals.


  • Until the after-meal mingling starts your guests are expected to mingle with those at their table, this can make it difficult to break the ice successfully.
  • Guests may feel limited in their meal choices/might not like what's to offer and therefore waste food.
  • Plated meals are normally the most expensive dining option because of the amount of labour required to serve the food and set the tables prior to the event.


Savour & Graze

If you've never been to a buffet before then it's a pretty simple affair. One or more large tables are set up in a room and are covered in plates of food. The guests line up to serve themselves their own helpings of food depending on their preference.


  • The guests can pick and choose the food they want and can portion out what they know they're going to be able to eat. This reduces the amount of food has to be thrown away at the end of the night.
  • Since buffets encourage guests to be mobile and walk around, they will have ample opportunities to mingle with each other.
  • If you do not have assigned seating or are tight on space, buffets are a perfect option since not all of your guests will be seated at the same time.


  • Some guests might take vastly more food than others leaving not enough food for all the guests.
  • Hygiene can be an issue if guests "forget" that they're using the same serving utensils as other guests e.g. put something in their mouth or cross-contaminate with serving utensils from different dishes.
  • It may take a substantially long time for every guest to return to their table with a meal. Buffets can encompass a substantial amount of time to traverse (especially if there are 80 people in front of you).

Family Style

Charity Burggraaf

Family-style dining is a nice blend between the two above. Guests are seated their tables and servers bring platters of food to the tables and either serve the guests portions or leave the plates on the tables for the guests to help themselves.


  • Family style can be as formal or as casual as you want depending on how you go about it.
  • This reduces the amount of wasted food as guests are only plating as much as they know they'll eat.
  • Family style is a great way to encourage guests to mingle, asking for somebody to pass you the potatoes is a good way to break the ice!


  • It can potentially cost more depending on the size of the guest-list, if you're having a huge wedding then the caterer is going to have to make a substantial amount of extra food to make sure every guest gets a full meal.
  • You might end up stuck with a hefty amount of leftover food. While certain elements of the meal may go down a treat, you might find that by the end of the reception you're ladened down with far too much of the less popular dishes for two people to realistically eat.
  • You will be passing large platters of food around a table, so family-style meals definitely have the potential to get very messy. There's a high chance that a dish will be dropped or a spoon will fall as the plate is being hoisted around the table, plan your menu with this in mind and maybe avoid dishes like curry.


- Grainne