Buffet-Style Wedding Meal Service: What you need to know

What is buffet-style meal service?

A buffet is a line of tables with large pans of your menu items arranged so that guests can file by on either side and serve themselves. Las Vegas Casinos, Resorts and cruise ships are known for their incredible buffets, which feed many guests with varying tastes quickly and efficiently.

Why choose buffet-style?

There are pros and cons to all wedding meal service styles. Here are the top reasons why we love the buffet-style of serving, and why you shouldn’t overlook it.

Palate Pleasing

A buffet is a wonderful way to offer multiple entrees and ensure that guests get to eat what they want. Since they’re serving themselves, guests have control of portion size. Picky eaters and those with dietary restrictions can easily be accommodated with self-service, too. Perhaps best of all, no one has to decide on their entree weeks in advance.

Casual Comfort

Generally, a buffet meal evokes a more laid-back feeling. The less formal atmosphere offers  comfort, class, and choice. Your menu selections and the buffet line presentation set the tone. If you have the caterer include pretty or unique serving options, you’ll lift the levels for visual interest. Conversations happen over food, including the buffet line. Give your guests something to talk about, in addition to freedom to choose their meal.

Service Benefits

Because the food is not plated and served individually, you need fewer catering staff to manage the service (a cost saver!). Plus, you can manage the flow of guest lines two ways. Employ a server to dismiss a table full of guests at time to the buffet line or set up additional double sided buffet lines for large parties as your space allows.

Additional Things to Consider

Now you know why we love buffet-style meal service and think it may work for your wedding reception. However, there are a few more things to consider before making a final selection.


A double sided buffet line can serve 100 guests in approximately 30 to 40 minutes. As the size of your guest list grows, additional buffet lines may be added to keep the program moving, depending upon available space. More buffet lines require more servers to monitor and replenish, though.

Serving Cost

Generally, since buffets require fewer catering staff and less fancy serving dishes, the cost will be less than a plated or family-style meal. However, that cost depends upon your menu choices. Offering more entrees or fancier selections can quickly inflate the cost per guest to that of plated dinners. Another factor is how much your guests actually eat. Since they are free to enjoy second helpings, costs can go up if they eat more than expected.


The laid-back feeling of a buffet-style meal can be a perception problem for some people. With few servers tending to guests’ needs, the requirement to serve yourself and carry your plate while dressed up can leave an impression of cafeteria-style cheapness. Know your your guests’ expectations when considering if a buffet-style meal works for your wedding reception. An aesthetically pleasing presentation combined with an attentive service staff make a pleasant experience. Add preset salads, a cooking station, or a carving board to embellish upon tradition.

Final Thoughts

If the idea of a buffet-style wedding dinner appeals to you, go for it and make it uniquely yours! The options are endless, as evidenced by the wild popularity of buffets across the restaurant and dining industry.  With so much flexibility, begin to clarify your ideas, possible menus, and buffet setups you’d like to have at your wedding reception. Then discuss the options and pricing with several caterers to come to a decision. If you still can’t choose, see our previous post on Family-Style Dinner and watch for our next post on plated dinner service.