The choice between buffet and table service can impact your wedding reception more than just about any other decision. While buffet service is sometimes perceived as less desirable than table service, there are many reasons why that perception is wrong, and why you should consider a buffet.
Let’s start with price. Oftentimes caterers will charge less for a buffet event simply because they need less staff to run them, and this savings gets passed on to you. However, the decrease in labor cost opens an opportunity for you to have a greater selection in your buffet, should your budget allow. Perhaps in lieu of the standard chicken, fish, beef selection, you can add a vegetarian option, and perhaps something altogether different like a tossed pasta dish, or something cultural or in step with your theme.
A buffet also offers a great deal of flexibility for the caterer. Instead of separate proteins, vegetables, and starches, the chef can incorporate more sautéed or baked options. In place of the wet, cold steamed vegetables hanging off the side of your guest’s plate, you could offer rosemary-roasted root vegetables, or twice baked potatoes. With this flexibility, your guests can enjoy more choices, and better portions, based on their own preference. And again, incorporating vegetarian or even gluten free options is easier with a buffet.
There is also the matter of time and the flow of your event. Well yes, buffet service isn’t quite as formal, unless table service is executed perfectly (rarely happens) and the catering hall is properly staffed and trained (almost never happens) table service will be a lengthy and awkward process that leaves many of your guests waiting a very long time to be served. Also, as this type of service is more complicated than buffet service, the likelihood of mistakes is much higher, and the execution takes much longer. Of course, one can argue that a long buffet line is equally frustrating. If you have this concern, tell your wedding planner or the catering hall that you want an extra buffet station for your reception. This might cost a little more, but it is well worth it when your dinner service goes off smoothly, quickly, and without a hitch.
Why is that speed important? So your guests can get back to partying, of course! Dinner service takes a long time, and really slows down your affair. This can really be a buzzkill if the party was going great, when the DJ suddenly announces that guests should return to their seats to place their dinner order. Nothing could take more fun out of The Chicken Dance and Hokey Pokey.
Ultimately the type of dinner service you choose will be dictated by the style of your reception, and the right wedding planner will ensure it is memorable either way. There is no right or wrong, only what is right for you. But if you are undecided, and planning from the beginning, consider buffet service. It’s a terrific, exciting option.