At many weddings, the buffet is alive and well. With a lot of couples moving away from traditional seated dinners, and other couples going super casual with small plates, we decided to break it down and try to figure out which option works the best.
Food is a big deal in the Crescent City. We plan entire festivals and gatherings around what we are going to eat. So when it comes time to plan your reception feast, no stone should go unturned.
But how do you decide the right tactical approach to your wedding reception? First, you start with your caterer. See what options they offer and what they can accommodate. You also must remember that your location may hinder some set up options for a buffet or stations.
Even if a couple is faced with a location offering any option, finding the right fit can be taxing.
Let’s look at each one and divvy up the pros and cons:
Seated dinner: This is the traditional route. Think place cards and seating charts, all of the bells and whistles to make sure you have everyone accounted for and fed. The seated dinner is a more formal option when it comes to dining, and in turn can hold more etiquette rules and questions. The pros includes everyone sitting and eating at once, which helps couples stick to an itinerary. You have more control over when everyone is eating or dancing, for example. It can get tricky however, because you only have a few options for food and it’s never going to please everyone. Also, New Orleanians like to talk and eat, it limits our conversation if we can’t get up and use our hands while telling stories and asking about “your momma and them.”
This option must include a space big enough for each of your guests to sit comfortably, which rules out some of the smaller, more intimate venues in town.
Family-style dinner: In the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of New Orleans Bride Magazine this style of reception took center stage. Writer Amy Gabriel found it brought for a communal environment, was easier on the couple’s budget, and allowed the couple to add personal touches. “With the attention to detail in themes that is so prevalent in the bridal realm, another benefit of family-style serving is the opportunity to further the personal aesthetic in ways that you can’t with a buffet table and conventional chafing dishes,” writes Gabriel. This option poses most of the same pros and cons as a traditional seated dinner. You can pick the timing of when the food is served to move the evening along, but guests are also limited to sitting in their seat, whether assigned or allowed to choose, instead of mingling with the crowd. Like with the seated dinner, this option must also include a reception venue large enough for everyone to be seated comfortably.
Buffet: The buffet-styled reception is the most popular. It’s easy to set up, easy to staff and all of the food is located in one place. However, this too can pose some issues. The location of the buffet is key to its success, but it is often misplaced. With a seated dinner, the tables have already been laid out and you are not maneuvering around tables or dealing with people standing in a line. A pro is that all of your food is centrally located. You don’t have to go around the room finding it and, unlike a seated dinner, you have more options to choose from; don’t like the chicken? You don’t have to pick it. The con with a buffet is often the placement. When a buffet line encroaches on the first dance or curves in front of grandma taking pictures of the father-daughter dance, that’s when this option can become a problem. Positioning is key for a buffet-style reception.
Small plates/stations: This option isn’t exactly new to the reception scene, but it has definitely gained momentum in the past few years. Small plates can include stationed food around the room, passed hors d'oeuvres, or both. This is the least formal of the options, but addresses the cons of the other options with its pros. Seated dinners don’t allow for mixing and mingling like small plates or passed bites do. It also clears up the long buffet lines that can cause operational issues throughout the reception. This choice can also be the best of both worlds when combined. Stations of mashed potato bars or meat carving setups can be placed throughout the room, eliminating the large buffet line, while waiters pass around tiny bites as you sip and socialize. In the Summer 2017 issue of New Orleans Bride Aaron Shaffer of 12 Seasons Catering & Events told writer Amy Gabriel he thought this option added variety and packed a more visual punch during an event. He also noted that it’s a great option for our “food-centric town,” as couples can often customize and show their personalities, cultural backgrounds and love of certain foods.
This option can get messy if guests don’t have a place to stick their plates, trash and drinks while eating. There is also a setup issue if you have stations, the same as if couples opt for a buffet, so be attentive to placement.
No matter which option a couple choses, food is a necessity for any New Orleans wedding. It adds a conversation piece; it highlights the culinary rock stars of our city and ultimately brings us all together. Do you know which option you would choose?
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