Reception Menus: Everything you need to know

These days, there are 5 true options for your reception menu. There are pros and cons to each style of service. Food at your reception is one of the main focal points for your wedding & this is the biggest dinner party you will ever throw. Which means that the style of service and the menu you select, matters.


The most formal of all of the options, this service style usually consists of two courses (an appetizer that is usually the same for all guests and then an entree). This entree is usually customized to the guest’s preference. Unless all guests receive the same entree, there is usually a bit more legwork to finalize guest selections. Other things to consider for plated meals is the staffing is usually higher as it requires more hands and it poses some limitations for guests, especially those with dietary restrictions. This option, while formal, is actually not as expensive as you may think, since caterers are able to control the amount of food served, unlike with buffets. All in all, plated really sets the tone for a nice, formal reception & gives you the most flexibility with the overall look and feel of the catering experience.


One step below a plated meal, this style of service is a happy medium between plated and buffet for most clients. The concept is similar to a family dinner, where there are big bowls and platters of food that gets shared among guests at that table. While this option provides a lot of variety, it tends to be on the more costly side as you have to consider both rental and serving costs. This style of service makes a reception feel more laid-back and inclusive. One other thing to consider is that family style options tend to take up a good amount of space on the table, which limits the amount of floral and design you can accommodate on the table.


Perhaps the most common style of service, aside from plated, is the buffet. This option gives you tons of variety and allows guests to pick and choose exactly what they want. Because there is no true way to figure out exactly how much people will eat (or if they will go back for seconds), buffets tend to be a bit more expensive as they have to provide an overage of food to ensure you don’t run out. One other thing to consider with buffet is the length of time required to send all of your guests through the buffet line. Buffet lines also have to be factored into the layout.


One of the most unique and creative styles of service, stations allow you to bring the most personality and flair into your dinner. Guests have complete autonomy in choosing what they like, which is a plus! This is a very interactive experience and allows you to choose a wide variety of foods. Like Pizza? Or tacos? Or sliders? The options are endless! Be sure to consider your layout options as stations often take up a lot of room in your reception hall. Staffing costs tend to be a bit average, however, they vary on the number of stations and labor required to make the stations come to life.


Popular among guests who don’t want the hassle of worrying about seating charts, guest tables, centerpieces, etc. This style of service is very casual and allows guests to hit the dance floor. It is interactive in the sense that guests can nibble on small bites and mix and mingle all night. There are a few things to consider, however. Make sure to offer variety with guests so that there is something for everyone. It is highly recommended to be up front with guests about this service style so that they can manage their expectations. It is also a courtesy to offer some seating, especially for older guests who cannot stand the whole time. This is a more budget friendly option than catering a full-fledged dinner for guests, especially if you have a big guest count, however, you want to make sure that you are offering enough food so that guests feel like they got enough to munch on. Be sure to space out the offerings as well so that there are options for the good majority of your reception!

Regardless of which catering and menu option you choose, be sure to chat with your caterer about what will work best for you & your lover!