Your reception is about 50% of your wedding budget! Holy cow! Speaking of cows, how do you plan to have your prime rib served?! Here will you find the pros and cons of having a buffet, as well as some additional tips!
PRO: Buffets tend to cost less (most of the time!)
Buffets are typically the cheaper option when your looking at plated, family-style, and station meal options for your reception. On very few occasions will buffets cost more than plated, but it is worth asking your venue or caterer to be sure!
PRO: Buffets allow guests to have seconds
Once everyone is served, guests typically have the option for round two if they want! The one benefit of a buffets is caterers need to almost plan to have more food in case guests do come back for seconds! (The only negative is those seconds, may not be as warm the second time around)!
PRO:Guests get to pick and choose what they want
Uncle Jim hates greens, but loves mashed potatoes, and Aunt Betty only wants to eat the greens! Well guess what, Uncle Jim and Aunt Betty are both going to be happy because buffets allow guests to pick and choose the food they want!
With buffets you always have left overs. Typically your caterers will ask you ahead of time, what do you plan to do. They will box any remaining food and give it to the designated person who is taking it home for the night. So what do you do with all that food? A homeless shelter would appreciate it, a church, hotel staff, and so on. Just remember, proper food storage is important upon leaving the venue and most of the time, once the food leaves the venue the liability is removed from the caterers.
CON: Staff typically help serve the food in the buffet, slowing the process down
Because staff will serve the food, the wait staff can't assist with the clean up process until everyone has been served. I don't know about you, but once dinner is finished, I like a clean table to sit and enjoy my coffee or cocktail, especially at a wedding! Guests will sit and converse with their fellow table members and a clean tables is always better looking in pictures!
CON: They slow dinner down
Buffets slow the entire dinner process down because guests have to wait for their tables to be dismissed compared to plated meals where everyone is served under 10 minutes or less (typically). We have seen numerous buffets where we try and dismiss tables (typically 2 at a time, depending on the speed of the buffet) and guests just help themselves to the line, prior to their table being dismissed. This slows everything down! In addition, we hate when we are dismissing the table where your Grandmother is sitting and your college roommate, decided to help themselves into the line. Guests don't wait for their table, they dismiss themselves!
CON: Risk food being cold No matter how quick a buffet goes, when you are dealing with 150 wedding guests, you can't tell me the first person in lines dinner is as hot as the last person who goes through the line. It just doesn't work like that. The best case scenario you can hope for at that point is that even though the food is cold, that it taste delicious still.
So maybe a buffet meal is all that works for your budget, maybe you have already decided on the buffet but having second thoughts, or maybe you are still confident in wanting the buffet so your guests can have seconds and you have leftovers! Score! Below we have listed some tips when dealing with buffets!
Tip #1. Don't have staff serve the food, only the proteins
Have your caterers utilize their staff better! Have 1-2 people serve the proteins only at the buffet line, rather then each element. Have additional staff get plates for handicapped or elderly guests, so they don't have to wait in line and have the remaining catering team walking around cleaning up dishes, or grabbing that extra knife when Cousin Max drops his on the floor.
Tip #2 Have a two sided buffet
You can get twice as many guests served than only having one line. It helps decrease the chance of the food going cold too!
Tip #3 Have the plates on the buffet table
If there is room, having the plates on the buffet table (or a staff member constantly restocking so you don't have a huge pile) helps everyone. For one, guests don't have to remember to carry their plate to the line and two it decreases the chances of someone dropping their plate on the way to the buffet or holding it once they are in line.
Tip #4 Have a place in mind to deliver the food after the wedding, because you will have extras!
You paid for all the food, so the caterers are going to give you the left overs. With that being said, unless you have a football team to feed, you could end up with a lot of extras. Make arrangements for the food or else it will go to waste. Consider a nursing home, homeless shelter, the hotel staff members, a church, or other family members. Just remember the safety precautions when doing this and remember proper food storage!
Tip #5 Have the salad served
This just makes everyone's lives easier! Have the wait staff serve the salads. Have them start with the family and friends who will be served last so they have something to eat while they are waiting for their table to be called. In addition, salads on the dinner plate is never a good idea. The dressing runs, it is not as easy to eat, and it takes up a lot of space! What if you think, I'll just have a separate plate! In theory its a great thought, but now your guests are moving even slower in line because they are carrying two plates, having to put one of their plates down to pour the salad dressing, and then manage to carry it all back to their table (which shouldn't be too hard, but it always is for those 1-2 guests)!
Tip #6 Always do a sample tasting
These are included for free most of the time! Take advantage of this! It is your wedding day, people and guests remember key elements and one of them being the food at weddings!
Tip #7 Match your food to the season
Getting married in fall or winter and serving salmon with a pineapple salsa glaze? That sounds delicious for a summer wedding, but it is not very autumn like. Instead make sure your caterers are serving food to match the season such as grilled salmon with apricot chutney, pattypan squash, and red peppers served with fresh asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes. (That goes along with the cake. Rather than lemon or raspberry flavors, maybe consider a spice cake, carrot cake, or a red velvet topped with a rich cream cheese frosting!)
Tip #8 Tip and gratuity
Lastly, be sure to understand the cost of what you are getting. This is very important for your budgeting purposes! Buffet #3 for $34.99++ is not the same as Buffet #3 for #34.99+. Those pluses stand for something! Typically one plus (+) means plus tax and two means tax and gratuity. This means they automatically include that in the price. So $34.99+ really means $37.99 (34.99+ 6% tax) and $34.99++ really means $44.08/per person (34.99+ 6% tax and 20% gratuity). There is over a $900 difference in those prices when you are serving 150 guests! Be careful and make sure you understand!