Post # 1
I would love some help deciding between doing food stations or a plated meal for my reception. Here are the vitals:
It’s a day wedding, so we’re talking lunch. We’re inviting 200 people and it looks like most will be coming (!!). We don’t care about the cost difference. And the food, either way, is going to be amazing. We can select either 3 types of stations (ie, salad; pasta; meat carving) or give our guests 2 entree options, and we would select 2 starter courses (soup/salad/appetizer).
My initial feeling was that I wanted to go with stations – because I thought that would allow more time to be focused on the dancing and general merry-making. People could eat when they wanted, and not feel like they had to sit through this long meal – I mean, it’s not dinner after all.
But then I read that for more than 100 people, plated meals are more time-effective, because you don’t have people waiting in line for food. And if almost all of our guests come, we don’t want there to be crowding at the stations…
So I guess now I’m leaning toward the plated 3-course lunch. Anyone have any insight they can share to help me pull the trigger on this decision?
Post # 3
Let your caterer know how many guests you have, and they should be able to handle it. We are having a buffet for 150. The set-up will have four lines, which should be just fine for that number of guests. It is true that funnelling 150 people through one buffet line would be a nightmare, but why would any caterer in their right mind try to do that? If you have three stations and 200 guests that might be pushing it – but can’t your caterer set up two of each station for a total of 6? The logistics of the plated meal aren’t any different than the buffet – if you try to serve a plated lunch for 200 with enough wait and kitchen staff for a guest list of 100, people will also be waiting too long for their food.
Post # 4
If it is a more formal affair, the plated lunch would be best. For a more casual and relaxed event do the stations. I’m doing a plated meal mainly because I have a "fear" of buffets — I can’t eat food that other people have walked by, breathed on, touched, etc…
Post # 5
I think if people don’t want to sit through a long meal, they won’t. =) If you have the buffet, people have to wait to get their food (however long it takes) and then sit and eat it. A plated meal, they can just sit and eat it. So if you’re worried about time, I agree with what you’ve read about a plated meal being more time-effective. I agree with suzanno though, in talking to your caterer and see what they think about the logistics of it and how many lines there will be and different sets of food they can provide. I’ve even heard of places saying it’s the same price for a buffet as it is for a plated meal because there is a lot of wasted food with a buffet. Personally, I’m having a served meal, but we’ll have about 225 (actually my venue didn’t even offer a buffet as an option). Ours is an evening dinner thing though, so I suppose it’s more appropriate. Good luck!
Post # 6
We’re doing 3 stations for 150-160 guests, also a lunch time wedding. We went back and forth a lot about this as well. It will take longer to do stations, but the caterer will have people get up by table to decrease the lines (I was told around 40 minutes for everyone to get food at stations versus 25 if it was plated). Also, I feel like there will be less wasted food per plate and it gives people more selection. In the end, I decided that stations are just more fun and relaxed, which is the atmosphere we’d like to create.
Post # 7
You can do a combo. Try a pre-plated salad with stations. When your guests sit down they have something to eat so they won’t bum rush the stations.
Post # 8
we’re doing food stations for our 250 guests.
Considering our evening wedding, formal attire, country club reception, many people have recommended a plated meal. However, I think food stations are so fun! You can make a food station incredibly formal and ultra chic!
If time is an issue, what if you split up your food stations?? Two stations for salad, two for meat, two for salad? You can spread out the space even more (so not all 200 people are packed into one area) by having a drink station in another part of the space…possibly a dessert station…etc. Hope this helps!
Post # 9
Soooo – if it takes 40 minutes to get ~150 guests through 3 stations, then it ought to take around 20 to get the same number of guests through six stations – have them set up on either side of the room, and let people know the two sides of the room are the same, so they can go to the stations nearest their table. We were told it would take around 20 minutes to get 150 people through 4 buffet lines – about the same as for plated dinner service, plus it gives people another chance to mingle a bit and talk. We also did it that way because we wanted to offer a choice of entrees without making people preselect, and because we didn’t want to assign seating.
Post # 10
Also, if you’re worried about food being wasted, you can arrange to have the leftover buffet food taken to a local soup kitchen or mission – which you can’t do with the stuff people don’t eat from a plated dinner.
Post # 11
Totally honest opinion here… I don’t really like stations or buffets. It does not feel formal or special to squeeze in between tables and chairs to stand on line (or to sit at your table waiting to be called). It does feel nice to be waited on and served your meal.
Our caterer left it to us to decide between plated, buffet, or family style all for the same price. He did warn that with buffet style the food invariably gets overcooked, because of the warming trays.
I just didn’t want my guests to have to stand in line, and carry their own food back to their seats- it’s so hard to balance a soup/salad, dinner roll, etc.
Post # 12
We are doing stations because it seems like a fun thing to do. It is a little fancier than a buffet for a few little reasons. First of all, there will be a stir-fry station were you pick either chicken, shrimp, (and something else I can’t remember) and it is done fresh for you. There will be an ethnic station with local ethnic foods: Periogies, baked ziti, Pigs in blanket, etc. A salad station, a filet mignon roast station cut for you, dessert station, and there is at least one more that I am forgetting!
Another nice thing is that it will all be open for 2 hours, so people have plenty of time to eat, then go back for more. Also alcohol will be served the entire time.
I hope people like it. When we first started thinking about our wedding, we went to a christmass party that had stations and we loved it. The owner of this venue also says that people always rave about it. Lets hope!
By The Way, our wedding more formal than casual.
Post # 13
Stations! It is a preference thing in the end, but there is so much more variety with stations and it adds to a fun atmosphere. We are having a pretty formal, elegant affair, but stations captured the free-flowing and easy tone we wanted to set for the night. If your caterer does it right, and set up is correct, there should be no waiting (or waiting for numbers to be called??) and plenty of space around each station. Plus, the aim is not to get people through each line with the same plate in a specific amount of time (a buffet is a different idea than food stations). The idea is that people have a little bit of this and a little bit of that spaced through the hours of the whole reception.
For us stations gave us more of a chance to celebrate our heritage (Russia and Kentucky)–with plated you get fewer choices. We’re having around 200 people and we’re doing four stations:
-Antipasti station (marinated mozz., proscuitto wrapped figs, marinated tortelini and roasted red pepper skewers, fenel marinated olives, etc.), which mimics Russian cold zakuski somewhat
– Carving station (KY lamb chomps with mint sauce; carved ham with sauces and homemade chive biscuits)
-Shrimp and Grits station (garlic cheese grits and shrimp prepared in huge woks; Grilled asparagus)
-Salad Station (Moldovan potato salad with feta and olives, Beet and Goat Cheese Salad; Roasted Vegetable salad with Lemon Vinaigrette)
Post # 14
I personally prefer plated because then the meal takes less time and there is more time for dancing/other things. Also, if you do plated, it is easy to do speeches before/during/after the meal as everyone is more or less eating at the same time. Personally, I think that if your affair is formal, it is nice for dressed up guests to not have to wait in line and instead be served.
However, I think if your wedding is casual a buffet might make sense. As a guest, plated would usually be my preference!
Post # 15
I disagree about the comment on buffet food inevitably being overcooked. If your caterer doesn’t know what they are doing, sure. I have been to several weddings with really magnificent food on the buffet – much better than the plated dinners I have been served at other weddings. So it really depends on your caterer. If the buffet trays are sized correctly and replaced at reasonable intervals, the food shouldn’t be overcooked.
FYI, all the really great buffets I have had were at places where the kitchen and chef were on the premises – so I believe that makes a big difference. Although that just makes sense, as it makes a big difference in the quality of the food for a plated dinner as well. In general, food that is prepared in advance and trucked to your venue is just not going to be as good, no matter how it is served.
Also, if your venue is really big enough for your guests, they shouldn’t have to be "squeezing" between tables and chairs with their plates. We are at about 2/3 capacity for our rooms, so there should be plenty of space. I have had a couple of female guests tell me that they prefer a plated dinner because of the trouble associated with carrying their own food in 4-inch heels – to which my response is that if you’re going to wear shoes you can’t walk in, that’s not my problem!
Post # 16
We’ll be going with buffet stations. We’ll be having a lunch time affair and we really wanted a not-so formal ambience for our 150 guests. The stations will be divided into two main course tables, then there’s a separate table for desserts, another for the soups and another for the drinks.
It really depends on the venue, how many guests you’ll be having and how formal your wedding will be.
As for me, my folks and friends won’t matter how long the line is, as long as they get their share of the meal, they’re happy. 🙂