July 06, 2010

Wedding Food Choices: Sit Down, Buffet, or Stations?

I think I've made it clear during what's now more than a year of blog posts that I really like food. It might even be safer to say that I'm obsessed with it. I start thinking about what I'm going to eat for each meal first thing in the morning, and I am seriously thrown off if those plans change. I like going out to eat more than almost anything else in the world. In short, food is my favorite.

So it follows that I'm putting a lot of thought into what kind of food I'll serve at my wedding reception. I want to avoid the slabs of grey meat and the anemic-looking baby carrots that I helped serve at weddings when I worked at a certain golf club that will not be named, and I want the food I offer to my guests to reflect me.

I've broken down some thoughts on the three most common wedding food setups: Sit Down Dinner, Buffet Dinner, and Food Stations.

Sit Down Dinner: Having worked behind the scenes as a waitress for a summer full of weddings when I was in college, I know that plated food often sits in the kitchen getting cold while a limited number of servers are busting their tushies to get the bridal party and the important tables served first. I also know that people are picky eaters, and that plated dinners are only satisfying if every guest is eating everything on his or her plate.

On the other hand, I also think a plated dinner can be extremely elegant, if you have ample servers on hand to run the food out quickly. It lends a restaurant feel to the reception that fits a more formal affair.

Buffet Dinner: I tend to think of buffet dinners at weddings as a fat but lovable uncle; they're a little clunky and unattractive, but they make everyone happy. With a buffet, the anorexic psycho girls can just eat salad (Dressing on the SIDE, I said!), and the "big hungry boys," as Calvin Trillin calls them, can get their fill of steak or whatever.

Buffets do tend to foster a kind of cafeteria feeling when everyone's crowding into the line to get their food, however, and they can end up wasting a lot of food if a caterer overestimates the probable popularity of a certain dish. And, based (again) on my one summer of waitressing, I have an aversion to chafing dishes and Sterno cups that borders on pathological.

Stations: Kitt like. While there's always the risk that one station in particular will attract too many people or be left completely ignored, stations make the most sense to me because they allow guests to eat their fill, while spreading out the mass of people so that the bride (me, in this case) doesn't brake out into agoraphobic hives.

I'm also planning on including a travel theme in my wedding decor, and I like the idea of incorporating it into the stations by having each station reflect the cuisine of a certain region. My favorites so far are: Greece, Italy, Japan, France, Mexico, and India. I'm not sure where the steak for the "big hungry boys" fits within the scheme of those countries, but I'll figure it out. I guess I could have one station called MURKA and just have slabs of rib eye, cooked rare, bleeding onto a red, white, and blue tablecloth.

From the weddings I've attended and the absurd number of bridal magazines and websites I've been poring over recently, I know that the three things people remember from a wedding are: food (and drink...that's worth a whole separate post), decor, and entertainment. I'm absurdly, almost pathetically excited to DIY my wedding decor, and the guests I anticipate having at the wedding are liable to create their own entertainment wherever they go. So, really, the food is the last piece of the puzzle, and I plan on making it good.


  1. Stations are really nice. My cousin Amy had a wedding with stations and for a wedding of that size (200+ people) it kept the flow of people going steadily and no one left hungry. They were telling me it helped them personalize their menu more too because there were stations more representative of the bride and some of the groom. I agree with you on buffets--the food tends to be subpar and having your guests waiting in line with a huge plate doesn't quite make for an elegant meal where everyone can appreciate the food.

  2. We had served food, but I think that works best with a smaller wedding (if I recall, we were around 100 people). I also think it worked because we were able to really customize the food to reflect us and the feel of the wedding: we had glazed pork, kale, and mashed sweet potatoes (it was glorious). We also did have some appetizer stations, which worked really well.

    You seem to have it pretty well figured: I think so much depends on the personality of the couple, the feel of the wedding, and the personality of the guests, and you know that better than anybody. I am so excited about hearing about plans; if you want to bounce ideas off somebody who's been through it, you can always email/facebook me. (;

  3. In New Orleans, no one does sit down. It's stations and people walking around with trays of mini-Muffalettas. It's the best.

  4. The only downside of stations is that you don't have everyone seated at the same time-some people are sitting, some are standing. Sometimes it is nice to have the vibe of everyone sitting, talking etc--especially for toasts. But, the food can be better with stations, especially in terms of allowing for vareity. As long as you are okay with that, then go for it.