It’s the event every guest looks forward to when attending a wedding reception – the meal. Lisa Petersen, Freelance Wedding Coordinator, and Event Director at The Jasmine Room by Venue Catering and Events, is an expert when it comes to dining at a wedding reception. We reached out to her to get a little more insighton what kinds of styles of dining there are, and to help brides-to-be figure out exactly what they are looking for on their big day!
The wedding meal is as timeless as weddings themselves. Food has always been a strong focus of the entire celebration. Whether it is a light breakfast while bridesmaids and family are getting ready for the day, light snacks for the wedding party between photos and ceremony or the main event itself, it’s human nature to make food a part of the day.
Let’s define the wedding dining experience by starting with the expense of things. People can get intimidated over the cost of providing a meal for guests but if you are thoughtful, educated and informed in your approach, you’ll sail right through the process. When reception site, food and beverages account for typically 42% of the entire wedding budget, it’s important to be educated about things. On to things that will help you decide what type of meal you will have at your wedding.
- Cocktail reception – Heavy hors d’ oeuvres and cocktails. This approach is always exciting for guests because there are usually a nice variety of options. This type of meal is best for the wedding ceremony that is going to start after the normal dinner hour. If you go this route it is important that the invitation states hors d’ oeuvres reception so guests know they will not be served a full meal. Also good to know that an hors d’ oeuvres reception does not equal saving money.
- Breakfast or brunch – One of my favorites because it accompanies a morning wedding! For me, there’s nothing better than a beautiful 11am wedding ceremony followed by a lovely breakfast/brunch meal. Usually the food at breakfast will be less expensive than a dinner meal and you most likely will have a lower bar bill since it is early in the day. Think omelet station, waffle station, Bloody Mary’s, Bellini’s and mimosas. Yum!
- Afternoon tea or cake and mints reception – Does anyone remember the cake and punch reception in the church basement? There is a lot of merit in this concept. One of my most favorite weddings I’ve coordinated utilized a variation of this style and it was fabulous! Have the cake before dinner. If your church has a reception area, invite your guests to go directly from the ceremony in the sanctuary to cake and a lemonade bar right in the church. Then invite fewer guests to a beautiful dinner and dancing at a reception later. This is very intimate, warm and saves money!
- Dessert reception – A lovely option to follow a ceremony that say, started at seven o’clock. Usually set up with stations that portray a combination of sweet and savory offerings. Follow the same guidelines as the cocktail reception above, only this should be a money saver for you (depending of course on what sweets you choose!). Also, it produces a shorter evening, therefore potentially less bar expense. Maybe you will decide to have a lively after party with your wedding party!
- Dinner reception – Dinner is the most popular option in this country. There are several terms to know regarding dinners that will help you decide the style you want to have.
- Plated service is all about just that…service. This is one of the most expensive options because it is very labor intensive for the caterer. Typically requiring three waiters for every six tables. It is a good way to control portions as the meal is plated in the kitchen and then served to each guest at their table.
- Russian Service – This is a very elegant service used if the meal will be presented in courses, i.e. the salad, then the vegetable, then the entre’, etc. Waiters bring the items out to each table on platters.
- Table side service – This is very French and dramatic. Best used for a smaller wedding. Waiters use portable cook tops at each table to prepare portions of the meal and then serve immediately to each guest.
- Family-style service – Think a beautiful Italian meal! The food is brought out to each table on platters and each guest helps themselves. Bravo!
- Buffet service – Most popular in our area. People think a buffet is always less expensive than a plated meal, you do save a lot of labor expense, but it is wise to have one staff person at each chaffing dish for portion control, to move the line along and to keep the chaffing dishes full. No guest wants to scrape the bottom of the dish. To avoid having guests stand in line for a long time, consider having the
DJ dismiss tables just a few at a time.
- Stations – Another one of my favorites because it promotes movement through the room. This is a great option if you are not a fan of a formal time to sit down to eat. Many couples want their guests to begin eating when they arrive and not wait for the wedding party and couple to get there. If you like this idea for accommodating your guests, stations are wonderful. Think of it as splitting up the traditional buffet into individual tables or “stations” and setting them all around the space. For example, the carving station, the loaded baked potato bar, the salad station, etc.
This should get you started. Bon Appetit!