Banquet Styles of Service For Your Wedding

I get really excited when a bride and groom want to talk food with me. It’s a crucial part of the wedding yet so many couples don’t pay nearly enough attention to this aspect of their wedding! Remember, it’s about 40% of your entire wedding budget! You pay so much attention to the exact shade of pink or ivory/cream for your linens and flowers, why not give your wedding menu a little of that attention?

There are so many options for your wedding reception. It’s more than just “plated” or “buffet” and “chicken” or “beef” these days. Have a little fun with your wedding menu. I promise your guests will notice!  Here are some terms and styles of service I put together:

Action Stations – From a live sushi chef hand rolling sushi to a carving station of meats to a flambé or bananas foster dessert station, the possibilities are endless for couples who do not want to be restricted to a traditional sit down meal. Usually action stations are different tables set out in various areas of the room. It’s great for keeping the party moving along and for guests to mingle.

Afternoon or High Tea – I’ve been getting requests for this style of service lately and will be planning a classy mad hatter themed wedding in May with an afternoon tea menu. Tea sandwiches and scones and desserts are served and can either be served course by course or placed on a tiered serving platter in the center of the table – family style. And of course, hot tea is served.

Cocktail Reception – Hors d’oeuvres either butler (tray) passed and/or set out as stationed hors d’oeuvres are served during a cocktail reception. It’s extremely important that your guests do not leave your party hungry. When ordering hors d’oeuvres, I’ve had to talk people out of the mindset of only ordering 80 seared diver scallops for their 130 guests thinking that not everyone will have a scallop. It’s definitely better to be over prepared.

Family Style – Family style is most common in Chinese and Italian cuisines. I personally love this style of service. Large platters are placed in the middle of the guest tables and guests help themselves to the food. In Chinese restaurants, the wedding “banquet” is usually multiple courses (the more courses served, the better) and platters can be placed on a lazy Susan for ease of serving.

Plated Meal – This is the traditional sit down meal with at least the basics of an appetizer, main course, and dessert. Of course you can add additional courses such as soup and/or salad, a sorbet intermezzo, a pasta course preceding the main course, and even a cheese course!

Small Plates – These are small plates of food and a great way for guests to try a bigger variety of foods. I think this style works as a sit down plated meal or displayed in stations. Presentation is key and small plates are usually beautiful little works of art!

Traditional Buffet – I have to preface this by saying that buffets can be elegant. I don’t believe a plated dinner is superior to a buffet when done right. Sometimes the salad and soup courses can be plated and served to the guests. After those courses, the buffet line is then opened up for the main course and side dishes. I recommended having a double sided buffet for a large guest count so guests will have the option of going on either side of the buffet.


Tray Passed Hors d’oeuvres
Photo: Adam Trujillo Photography
Venue/Catering: Red Square


Tray Passed Hors d’oeuvres – sliders and french fries
Photo: Sheer Elegance Photography
Venue/Catering: Cili at Bali Hai Golf Club


Traditional Buffet Set up
Photo: Sheer Elegance Photography
Catering/Venue: Luxor Hotel


Stationed Hors d’oeuvres – shrimp cocktail
Photo: John Morris Photography
Venue/Catering: Red Rock Casino


Family Style
Photo: Images by Ingrid
Venue/Catering: Maggiano’s Little Italy


Mashed Potato Martini Station (Action Station)
Photo: Elegant Images
Venue/Catering: Anthem Country Club



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