Some people love buffet style wedding receptions. There can be plenty of variety, they can have seconds on their favorite foods, and if the buffet is arranged well, there can be less waiting than for a seated dinner. On the other hand, some people really dislike buffet dinners, citing long lines, cold meals, too little food, and a lack of elegance. What it really boils down to is that some buffet dinners are planned very well and others are not. Make your reception a success by learning the dos and don’ts of buffet wedding dinners.
Do: Set up the buffet to keep the line moving quickly. Guests detest standing forever in their high heels and fancy crystal earrings waiting to get to the buffet table. A buffet table which is two sided is a great way to keep guests moving through the line quickly. If a double sided table does not fit in your space, another option is to set up two smaller buffet tables instead of one large one. It might require more staff to man, but it is well worth it to avoid a traffic jam at the table.
Don’t: Leave buffet tables unstaffed. Even if you do not plan on having a carving station, guests will appreciate having a few servers available to answer their questions about the dishes. This will also ensure that trays are being replaced quickly when they get low on food.
Do: Keep the hot food piping hot and the cold food icy cold. There is nothing less appealing than a plate of warm temperature chicken in a concealed sauce, unless it is shrimp displayed without enough ice. Warmed plates are a nice touch, as they will keep food warm as guests move through the line and back to their tables.
Don’t: Underestimate how much food you need. This is a cardinal buffet reception sin. What could be worse than standing in a long line, only to get to the table and find that half the dishes are empty? Many brides and grooms opt for a buffet dinner because they think it will be less expensive, but if the buffet is stocked adequately, this is not always the case. People eat more food at a buffet and they take more than they can eat, so there is a lot of waste. Have enough food so the last person in line gets as many choices as the first person in line.
Do: Have someone else go through the buffet for the bride. One of the chief complaints about buffets is a lack of elegance; it is very inelegant to see the bride in her fabulous gown and crystal earrings waiting in line and carrying a plate of food. If the bride is supposed to be a princess for the day, surely someone else can bring her some dinner. Furthermore, the bride and groom should be circulating at their reception, not standing in line.
Don’t: Think that a buffet dinner means casual place settings are fine. Unless you are having a super informal wedding (think backyard barbeque with the bride in a knee length dress), your place settings should still be elegant. Paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, and paper napkins just have no place at a wedding reception. Since guests will be carrying their plates, choose durable buffet plates over delicate bone china. Beyond that, your stemware, utensils, and table linens can be just as special as they would be for a seated dinner.