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The Most Popular Wedding Dinner Styles 

Planning Tips

August 29, 2022

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 Welcome to the Soiree 99 blog, a journal about all things hosting, design, wedding planning and anything else that makes my heart flutter.

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6 Trends for 2023

cocktail hour - wedding dinner styles
Photigrahy by Orange Photographie

From an experience perspective, did you know that how you serve your wedding dinner is just as important as what you serve? From my years of planning weddings, I can say with certainty that the dinner service can be a memorable and quality time when done right.

Gone are the days of tasteless wedding food that are the butt of many jokes. Wedding dinners today are upscale and just darn good.

While weddings historically tended to be mostly buffet style, it is more and more common to see an extreme variety of ways to present food at weddings. 

From most casual to the most formal, here are the six most common wedding dinner styles. 

Wedding Dinner Styles

Food Trucks

For a super-casual, down-home kinda vibe, food trucks are one option to consider. 

While I see this more often at rehearsal dinners, food trucks are making an appearance at more and more weddings. It is a great way to treat your guests to authentic, local fare in a very unique way. 

If you like the idea of a food truck but not for the entire meal, consider a coffee truck or an ice cream truck to add a whimsical flare to your culinary adventure. 

Note: If you do food trucks for your wedding meal, make sure you have multiple options or have a food truck that can quickly and easily serve however many people are coming to your wedding. You don’t want guests waiting in lines for too long. 

Cocktail Style

For a casual atmosphere, consider a cocktail-style reception. I highly recommend a cocktail-style reception if you want to focus on mingling and conversation. 

With this style of wedding dinner, hors d’oeuvres are generally passed or set out on stations and can be served hot or cold. 

This style isn’t usually a full meal so make sure you note this on the invitation that it is heavy appetizers so people are prepared. 

wedding dinner styles
Photography By Orange Photographie

Food Stations

Food stations are a fun hybrid between a buffet and food trucks. With food stations, different “themes” are set up at individual places situated around the reception. 

Besides offering a variety of food for your guests, food stations are a great way to get your guests up and moving about the venue. 

Some different food station ideas are a craving station, a macaroni and cheese station, an ice cream station, a taco station, and even a sushi station. 

With food stations, portions are generally smaller, allowing your guests to try all of the different options. 

wedding receptions
Photography By Orange Photographie

Family-Style Dinner

A family-style dinner is another hybrid between a buffet and a full-service dinner.  

With family-style dinners, the food is placed on the tables in larger portion sizes, allowing for everyone at the table to serve themselves. 

For time purposes, this is one of the quickest serving styles. It is also slightly more formal than a buffet setup. 

Buffet

Probably the most popular type of wedding dinner style, the buffet is exactly that – a buffet with several options.  Guests line up and go through, picking what they would like, either serving themselves or having a waiter behind the buffet serving guests. 

wedding dinner styles
Photography By Stella K

Plated, Sit-Down Dinner

A plated, sit-down dinner is usually the most formal and elegant option for a wedding dinner style. But this doesn’t mean it is the right choice for every wedding. 

Plated, sit-down dinners take a lot more planning and coordination. Plus, you must have a catering staff that is trained and prepared for service. If catering runs behind with a sit-down dinner, it can mean a serious shift in the wedding timeline. 

Generally, with a sit-down dinner, guests are given 2-3 choices in meals. This is usually communicated with the RSVP so that the caterers can be prepared.

Best Advice When Deciding Your Wedding Dinner Style

Always listen to your planner and your caterer. 

Your planner and caterer will take into consideration your venue setup, how many people you are expecting, and any other logistics so that you can host the most memorable dinner possible. 

I always recommend listening to the professionals because you don’t want food getting cold or people to have to wait a long time for food because what you want and what is realistic don’t add up.  

Match your wedding vibe. 

Basically, if you are going for an ultra-formal, black-tie affair, food trucks probably aren’t going to cut it. I mean, they can, but it most often won’t work if you mix too many styles. 

Say you really do love food trucks but it just won’t work at your venue or with your black tie affair. Consider having them at your rehearsal dinner or maybe just have an ice cream truck instead. 

There are a lot of options out there. 

Think about what types of food you want before deciding on a style. 

There are a lot of food choices out there. Deciding what types of food you want to be served at your wedding is a better start than deciding what type of wedding dinner style you want. Some types of food fare better at, say, food stations (say tacos) than they would at a sit-down dinner. Likewise, steak is almost always served better as a sit-down meal than it would be at a buffet. 

Consider your guest’s food allergies.

It isn’t possible to account for every allergy out there.

What type of wedding dinner style are you planning for your wedding?  Is it something I listed above or completely different? 

Want to read more? Check out my best tips for saving money on your ceremony.

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I'm Brittany and I'm so happy you're here. This blog is a journal about all things hosting, design, wedding planning and anything else that makes my heart flutter.

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