Image: Victoria Selman
When I was planning my own wedding, Andy & I both thought we wanted a buffet – something more casual to fit our vibe, and I thought a cheaper option, because it meant less servers. Well, our caterer schooled us on a few things related to a buffet that I thought was worth sharing with anyone out there considering a buffet for their wedding catering.
Four Things to Know About Buffets at Wedding
It turns out, as we learned at our wedding, that buffets aren’t necessarily cheaper than a plated meal. Yes, you can probably drop a few servers, but you need to account for extra rentals (guests might go up for seconds … thirds?!), and the bigger issue: you need to account for way more food. You cannot control / assume what your guests are going to serve for themselves. They might (and will likely) take more than they will eat and might try ALL the things, they won’t even end up eating. It’s always good to get pricing on all different options from your caterer, but don’t be surprised if the buffet isn’t the cheaper option.
The second reason we ended up with a plated meal was when our caterer told us it could take well over an hour for 135 guests to get through a buffet (vs 45 minutes for a plated meal). With only 4 hours of reception time, we didn’t want to waste ANY time that could be spent dancing to the BEST DC wedding band. It makes sense that it could take a lot longer for guests to serve themselves (reading options, thinking about what they want, and serving it onto their plates), so keep that in mind with your own reception timeline. I also didn’t like the idea of hungry wedding guests, sitting and waiting for food.
Related to #2, if you are going to go the buffet route, one thing that can help to speed things up, is to have a double-sided buffet (meaning guests can go on either sides of the tables), however, this does mean you need a space in your venue that can accommodate this. You need space for at least two 8ft tables (again, catering will tell you what they need based on your food choices) AND enough space for guests to go down both sides and flow back to their seats. Not all DC venues have this sort of space, especially when you might be packing the space with tables & seats for your guests already.
The final thing you should know about doing buffet-style catering for your wedding, is that it really works best when you have full seated receptions (ie not a cocktail style reception). We’ve seen couples try the buffet-style with the not-seating-for-all guests, and it really just doesn’t work. Guests end up loading up their plates (even when the plates are small!) and then hunting for a seat to park themselves in. What results is easier unhappy guests, trying to stand and eat their overflowing plate of food, or your wedding guests sitting on window sills, stairs, and yes, even the ground – I’ve seen it guys! So take it from me, if you’ve decided that a buffet is for your wedding, please ensure you have enough seating for EVERY guest in attendance at your wedding. Unhappy guests do not make for a fun wedding vibe.
Alright, did I miss anything!? Let me know if you did a buffet for your wedding and any other advice you’d like to offer to readers about it.