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Everything You Need To Know About Wedding Reception Meal Styles And Menu Ideas

Everything You Need To Know About Wedding Reception Meal Styles And Menu Ideas

The wedding day is one of the most important days for a lot of young couples. Months of planning go into perfecting every detail so as to be satisfactory not just to the wedding bride and groom but also to their guests. Among all the different aspects involved in a wedding, fixing and preparing the style of reception and the menu has got to be one of the most important parts.

Menu And Reception Ideas for Your Big Day
Menu And Reception Ideas for Your Big Day

Food, which is undoubtedly the most vital element part of your event, should reflect the bride and groom as a couple. Therefore, the style in which the meal is served should go with the planned theme of the overall wedding. Here are 6 different ways to conduct your wedding reception in style:


As the name suggests, this is a very informal way of conducting a wedding reception. And very obviously, this does not involve a typical sit-down affair. Reception of this kind does not involve communal tables. Thus, this means that food either needs to come to them with the help of wait staff roaming around with canapés or the food needs to be easily accessible. A typical cocktail menu includes a selection of different foods without any disturbance to the events taking place simultaneously. One of the biggest advantages of a cocktail-style reception is that guests do not have to wait for their food and they get to choose and eat whatever they like. Also, such parties can be totally personalized and can reflect the personality of the bride and the groom. The menu in a cocktail-style party may include prawns, lamb chops, fajitas, lobster rolls, dumplings, dim sum etc. For a more elegant affair, even hors d’oeuvres can be served by the waiters. However, before completely deciding on such a reception, it is also important to remember that serving sizes are generally small when it comes to a cocktail reception. So, there is a possibility that guests do not get enough to eat. Also, there is no guarantee that the food will reach every guest due to the constant roaming of waiters. For guests with dietary requirements, this kind of food may not be the best idea. Most importantly it is very difficult to work out a budget for such receptions because portion sizes may vary. Staff will definitely have to be paid higher as compared to the other style receptions.


A barbecue-style reception is another kind of informal party with a tinge of fun in it. Combine it with self-serve buffets and guests can have the time of their lives by picking their favourite piece of chicken, beef, pork and sausages. The menu can also include sides like barbecue beans. Coleslaw, potato salad, garlic bread and cornbread. Also, bear in mind that barbecues can turn the venue smoky if not airy enough. In addition, the seating area should be kept away from the direction of the smoke. Barbecues do run the risk of getting burnt so it is important to hire experienced staff for the same.

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buffet style reception


The buffet-style reception involves guests helping themselves to a variety of foods and includes the setting up of a long table near the seating area to serve its purpose. Buffets in addition to providing a lot of variety are also perfect for picky eaters or people with diet restrictions. Self-service in the buffet system is a way more guest-friendly method as compared to fine dining and the like. Also, buffets can be visually appealing if planned properly with a design team. However, buffets do inadvertently mean that there may be long queues. So, if the couple doesn’t like the idea of making their guests wait, this is probably not a good option. Again there is the risk of likely accidents like food being spilt and plates being dropped. Thus, it is not really the perfect option for tightly packed venues. Also, in terms of the budget, the couple would have to pay a lot more than a family-style wedding due to the wide variety of food made available. The upside is that they would not have to spend a lot of money on the waiting staff. A typical buffet menu may include stuffed endive with Roquefort cheese, roasted new potatoes, tartlets, mousse puffs, sandwiches, crab cakes, pasta station and so much more.

Self-serve stations

This kind of reception style is quite similar to the buffet-style in that stations also provide a wide variety of food for the guests. Usually, stations have tables set apart specifically for certain dishes and types of food. They are definitely more interactive and this makes it a great option for guests to get personalized food items. They help in creating stunning visual displays and encourage guests to interact with one another. Food can be made as and when desired. From Pizzas to omelettes everything is just one command away! However, rental costs and staff ratios can be quite costly. Stations may also require a lot of space so it is important to keep the size of the venue in mind before deciding on this reception style.

family style reception tables and platters of food

Family Style

As the name suggests, a family-style reception is a kind of reception that gives home vibes! Everyone is seated at tables and platters of food are passed around the table just as if guests were at home. The first course usually consists of one or two options while the main course may include multiple dishes. Of course, such kinds of receptions offer a great deal of variety which is a boon to people with diet issues. Also, the home setting gives the reception a very casual, laid-back look. It is also a very good way to build relationships as people seated around the table engage with one another. One of the most important benefits of such a reception is that it is a very efficient way for the meals to be served as guests do not have to wait in long queues or bother with going to get their meals themselves. The menu in family-style receptions may include salads, biscuits, chicken, steak and everyone’s favourite wine or champagne. While choosing a steak, go ahead and check out prime steaks from Allen Brothers and everything about them to choose the most preferred option. No sumptuous meal is fulfilling without good wine and it is always good to have choices of traditional and organic wine if you plan to go for the latter, here’s more to help you zero in on the best pick. The level of comfort and relaxation in a family-style reception does obviously mean that it is the most expensive option as compared to the others. It also involves a large amount of food due to which there is the risk of wastage.


This is the most traditional reception style that the majority of couples go for. This kind of reception is the type where all the guests are seated and served a formal dinner. Most plated receptions consist of a two-course meal and dessert. It is generally advised that the couple decides on the main course beforehand between a wide range of proteins like chicken, beef, pork, steak etc.  Everyone is usually served the same amount of appetizer. Entrée can be either selected from the menu or chosen beforehand when guests submit their RSVP.

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Plated receptions set the tone for a more formal gathering giving it a very elegant tone. Couples have the most control over this kind of reception as both the budget and the kind of food are in their hands and their decision to make. It is also an efficient way to serve meals and helps both the couple and the guests in sticking to the set schedule. Despite its benefits, a plated reception can be challenging to guests as it offers less variety. Also, this kind of reception involves hiring a large number of staff so staffing fees tend to be a little higher. Most importantly, owing to how formal it is, plated receptions are not viable for those looking for a relaxed casual ambience in their reception.

Summary: Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Reception Meal Styles and Menu Ideas

  • Understand different wedding reception meal styles, such as plated dinners, buffet, family-style, and stations, to choose the one that suits your preferences and budget.
  • Plated dinners offer a formal and elegant dining experience with pre-selected menu options served directly to guests at their tables.
  • Buffet-style meals provide a wide variety of dishes for guests to choose from, allowing them to serve themselves.
  • Family-style dining involves sharing large platters of food among guests seated at each table, fostering a sense of community.
  • Station-style receptions feature various food stations where guests can explore different cuisines or themed menus.
  • Consider dietary restrictions and preferences of your guests when planning the menu, offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options.
  • Incorporate seasonal and locally sourced ingredients to create a fresh and flavorful menu.
  • Offer a range of appetizers, entrees, and desserts to cater to diverse tastes and ensure guests have plenty of choices.
  • Don’t forget to coordinate with your caterer or venue to ensure smooth execution of the meal service and timely replenishment of food.

FAQ – Wedding Reception Meals

What is the most popular wedding menu item?

Among wedding guests, beef reigns supreme. A fillet and crab cake with pommes puree, french beans, and Béarnaise sauce is the most popular wedding dish at Kimpton Lorien. Beef tenderloin and red wine braised meat short rib are two more popular beef options.

What do you offer at a wedding reception at 2:00 p.m.?

Finger appetizers and/or passed hors d’oeuvres, coupled with drinks or cocktails, are a terrific alternative for early afternoon weddings. Kabobs, bruschetta, specialty cheeses, and deviled eggs are some cuisine suggestions. If you like seafood, try tiny platters of crab cakes, oysters, and shrimp.

Is a wedding buffet tacky?

There is no right or wrong in this situation. Some people wonder if a buffet supper for a wedding reception is tacky. It’s not a matter of whether something is tacky or not. It all relies on your event’s general design and concept.

What is the ideal number of things for a wedding buffet?

Two to three dinner plates for each person, plus one dessert dish per person, are a good bet for a buffet. Use one 10 1/4′′ dish for the main course, a 9′′ plate for salads or appetizers, and one 6-7′′ plate for bread and dessert for a full-service meal.

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Is it cheaper to have a buffet or a plated dinner?

A plated dinner will typically cost around 20% more than a buffet with a similar menu, but there are three important factors to consider, especially when comparing catering price choices.

1 thought on “Everything You Need To Know About Wedding Reception Meal Styles And Menu Ideas

  1. Thanks for explaining what family style is. I’m thinking about having my wedding reception in a restaurant. If I could get a banquet room, that would be the best.

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