Food is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of your wedding reception. This event could be considered the most memorable dinner party you’ll ever throw!
Your menu should reflect your overall wedding style and who the two of you are as a couple. So, how do you choose the right catering options for your wedding?
We’re sharing expert tips from two of the best wedding caterers in Jacksonville, FL, Chef’s Garden and EFS Catering. Keep reading for wedding food ideas to help you host the dinner of a lifetime! We’re comparing the pros and cons of different styles of meal service to help you select the options that best fit your wedding vibe and budget.
Wedding Catering Guide: Which Dinner Service Style Is Right For Your Wedding?
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Plated Sit-Down Dinner
When you typically think of a catered wedding reception dinner, the traditional plated sit-down dinner likely comes to mind.
For this timeless option, all of your guests are seated and served a formal dinner. Wedding guests are served a minimum of two courses (often a salad and an entrée) and if served tableside, a dessert.
Pricing for plated sit-down dinners ranges widely depending on what you are serving, but the service costs tend to be a bit higher.
For this type of wedding menu, opt for classic entrée options, such as steak, chicken, or lobster.
- Considered the most formal and traditional catering style
- Food is served quickly and efficiently
- Can be one of the best options if sticking to a strict wedding timeline
- Meal choices can be more limited
- There can be extra legwork required to make sure guests RSVP with their entrée selection prior to the event
- Additional catering staff is required to provide high-quality service
Pro Tip: Olivia Gonzalez, EFS Catering
“A plated dinner requires a little extra legwork from the client and the planners,” says Olivia Gonzalez, Vice President and Marketing Director of EFS Catering. “In this scenario, the client would design the menu with our team, and then send out RSVPs with an entrée selection card for each guest. Escort or Entrée Cards will need to be ordered for each guest with their name, table number, and entrée icon and placed at the tables for expedient and smooth dinner service.”
Pro Tip: Brandy Boulette, The Treasury Venue Collection
Brandy Boulette, Director of Operations for The Treasury Venue Collection, shared that a duet plate can be a great option for couples interested in serving a plated meal. “Duet plates are really popular and a great option for couples who don’t want to worry about collecting meal selections from their guests via RSVPs.” With a duet plate, the couple chooses two protein options to serve on one plate, such as steak and lobster or chicken and salmon.
During family-style dinner service, dishes are served on large platters for guests to pass around the table, just like you might do at a family dinner.
Of the different styles of catering, this is a great option if you are looking for an efficient way to serve food and want to keep guests at their tables, but don’t want something as “formal” as a plated meal.
The first course is typically served with one or two options. The main course includes a few protein options with multiple side items.
If you love the idea of a more casual dinner for your wedding, food ideas include pasta, salads, and other “shareable” options. Make sure to include a few gluten-free and vegetarian options to appeal to a wide palate.
- Offers a variety of menu choices
- An efficient way to feed guests, as everything is served at the same time
- Encourages guest socialization
- It can be more expensive, based on the amount of food and service needed
- Dishes and platters can take up room on the tables and interfere with tablescapes
- Guests have to serve themselves
Pro Tip: Olivia Gonzalez, EFS Catering
“The social aspect of family-style catering is really wonderful, as it encourages guests to speak to each other as they pass the platters around,” Olivia Gonzalez, Vice President and Marketing Director of EFS Catering told us. “A family-style service can be intimate, formal, AND fun and we find guests are surprised and delighted by it. Family Style service requires slightly more staff than a buffet, but slightly less staff than a plated and is the FASTEST style of service.”
If you’re looking to give your guests a variety of cuisines, a buffet-style dinner might be a perfect choice!
Instead of bringing the food to them, staff will serve your guests from several long tables. Buffets often have the option to be double-sided or single-sided, depending on how many guests you want to get through the line at one time.
Guests will love being able to choose exactly what they want (and even come back for more).
Servers are often positioned in certain areas around the buffet to assist with serving food and to keep lines moving quickly and efficiently. They also can assist with “releasing” tables in an organized manner to make sure the line doesn’t get too crowded.
- Guests can personalize their plates with different options
- Buffet designs can be aesthetically pleasing
- More room on reception tables for elaborate décor and centerpieces
- It can take more time for dinner service to be completed
- Guests must wait in line for food
Pro Tip: Elizabeth Van Nuys, Chef’s Garden
“We have always encouraged our weddings and events to have the salad and bread course served first at the tables, and the mains and sides served buffet-style with attendants serving. This allows tables to be released a few at a time, while guests enjoy the first course,” says Elizabeth Van Nuys, Catering and Sales Director at Chef’s Garden. “The attendants serving offers a nice touch of service but also helps move the guests along the line, our biggest anxiety is seeing buffet lines.”
Interactive Food Stations
Interactive food stations are very similar to a dinner buffet. However, the stations feature a different menu item or theme, and food is cooked right in front of you!
This is a great opportunity to get creative and inject your personality, heritage, or traditions into your dinner menu. Guests can also customize their food choices to suit their dietary needs and tastes.
Food stations are the easiest way to offer fun wedding food ideas, such as bite-sized appetizers, comfort food, like French fries and grilled cheese, or entrée style options, such as pasta, tacos, mashed potatoes, martinis, sushi, and dessert! Who could say no to an ice cream sundae bar at a summer wedding?
- Opportunity to create stunning visual food displays
- Can encourage guest interaction
- A great way for guests to personalize their own dishes
- Can require a lot of space, depending on the number of stations
- Can start at a higher price point
- Can take up more time in the wedding timeline. Guests are visiting the different stations and either serving themselves or cooking is done live on the spot.
Pro Tip: Elizabeth Van Nuys, Chef’s Garden
“The best-executed food stations are when there is space in the venue to scatter the stations around. We like to call them “strolling stations” and set them up as mini buffets with their own plates, silverware, and attendant,” Elizabeth Van Nuys, Catering and Sales Director at Chef’s Garden tells us. “The idea allows less congestion and mobility and encourages guests to go back and forth between eating and dancing…and gives you a chance to get up and interact.”
We hope this catering guide has been helpful in narrowing down which options you are interested in for dinner service at your wedding reception.
Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred meal options, the next step is to start reaching out to caterers to discuss them in more detail, research pricing, and select your menu.
Our sister venue, the Lightner Museum has a great blog with questions to ask wedding caterers!
At The Treasury on the Plaza, we have a list of preferred vendors, which includes many of the best wedding caterers in the St. Augustine and Jacksonville, FL area. To ensure that you receive the highest quality service, we do request that our couples select their wedding caterer from this list.
If you need assistance, our team is happy to help direct you toward the caterers that best suit your needs and budget! Give us a call at 904-217-0077.