Plated or buffet? The pros and cons for your wedding catering

A wedding means lots of decisions – venue, dress, cake, and of course, the food. Food is not only a significant wedding cost, it can help make a wedding memorable. And one of the main decisions to make around the food at your wedding is about the catering – how will you serve your menu to your guests?

These days, there are various ways that you can choose to serve food at your wedding, from formal sit-down to cocktail style. Two of the most popular menu styles include buffet and plated.

Which catering style to choose? To help you decide, we consider the pros and cons of each:

Plated – pros:

  1. A traditional option, perfect for a formal gathering, a plated meal usually includes at least three courses and options for each course. A plated meal adds a touch of class to your guests’ meal.
  2. Having waiters serve food to your guests will make them feel special and spoilt – a wedding is a very special occasion after all!
  3. You will have chosen the exact menu (and all the options) upfront so you will know what is being served to your guests. And, you’ll get the exact food you want to eat on your big day.
  4. Every guest is served at the same time, ensuring that proceedings flow smoothly. Also, all guests are served hot food and no one is kept waiting.
  5. You can space out each course and have different activities between each one e.g. the first dance before dessert. This will maintain a good vibe and keep your guests engaged in each of your special moments.

Plated – cons:

  1. A plated menu tends to cost more than other catering options so, if you’re on a tight budget, it might not be your most cost-effective choice.
  2. The same cost factor applies to the waiting staff – a plated meal requires a large number of waiting staff which can be expensive, especially if you’re having a big wedding.
  3. Your menu is limited to what you have chosen. This means that if any of the guests are fussy eaters or don’t like your choices, they might not enjoy their meal.

Buffet – pros:

  1. With food set out on long tables and a ‘serve yourself’ style, buffets are perfect for a more casual event. 
  2. Even if you have staff helping at the buffet tables, your staffing costs will be much lower than if you need a whole team of staff to serve each individual guest.
  3. A buffet will allow for a much greater variety of food so guests will have a good chance of finding something they enjoy eating or, for those with specific dietary requirements, are able to eat.
  4. Buffets allow guests to time when they will eat and to return for more as and when it suits them, making the food an integral part of the wedding experience.
  5. This style of dining promotes interaction between the guests, allowing them to leave their designated tables and chat to other wedding guests.

Buffet – cons:

  1. Your buffet menu might require larger amounts of food than other styles of catering as people tend to eat more when they serve themselves.
  2. Guests will have to wait for their food as not everyone can be served at the same time in a buffet situation. This means long lines might form and some guests might have finished eating before others have started to do so.
  3. If you want your wedding to have a formal feel, it will not do to have your guests serving themselves and carrying their own plates back and forth from their tables. This is especially true for guests with special needs e.g. elderly, disabled, and pregnant guests.

In summary, a plated menu is more formal than a buffet style meal. So the choice of how you serve your food is linked to the formality of your wedding. One is not necessarily better than the other.

Take time to think about what suits your wedding style best and chat to your caterer as they can help you choose the best option for your big day.