Is It More Traditional to Have a Plated Dinner or a Buffet for the Wedding Reception?

Etiquette, Food & Drink
pink rose flower centerpiece for wedding reception

Photo: Amy Majors Photography

Should you serve a plated dinner or a buffet at your wedding reception? What catering options should you provide for vegetarian wedding guests? Our etiquette experts are here to help you sort out your food-and-drink dilemmas.

Is it more traditional to have a plated dinner than a buffet?

In any wedding reception, food plays a major part—in fact, the cost of food at a reception usually consumes 45-50% of the total wedding budget. The first big choice you'll make as you plan your dinner is how to serve your guests: a plated dinner or a buffet meal, which usually includes several entrée options. A plated dinner is considered the most formal option, as each guest is individually served. (In fact, when Emily Post first wrote Etiquette in 1922, she spent considerable time writing about a sit-down, or plated, wedding breakfast.) It is nice to offer guests an option with a plated dinner, either two completely separate choices, or two choices, such as meat and fish, on one plate.

Regardless of tradition, it's entirely possible to have a formal wedding with buffet service these days. Mostly, the choice between the two comes down to questions of convenience and cost. Plated service requires more servers, both to do the plating in the kitchen and to serve the meal to guests. Also, buffets make it easier and more cost effective to provide guests with a variety of choices (especially in this day and age of so many types of allergies and dietary restrictions).

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