Many people believe that catering is one of the most important aspects of a wedding reception. If your guests aren’t satisfied with the food they are offered, it will put a damper on the evening. On the other hand, if it is spectacular, the cuisine will be what they tell their friends and family about for months, or even years. Before you decide what you would like to serve, you should think about how to have it served. Here are some options to consider:
Hand Service–This is one of the most (if not the most) formal types of service. The waiters serve all guests simultaneously, and sometimes they will even lift the warming covers off the plates at the same time for a grand affect.
French Service-The dish is prepared at the table. For instance, carving beef to order. Not practical for a large guest list.
Russian Service or Silver Service-Waiters hold platters of food from which the guests serve themselves.
Plated Service or American Style-Plates are prepared in the kitchen and then served to guests.
Buffet Service-Food is displayed on tables and guests line up to serve themselves.
Family Style or English Style-Food is on the table in serving bowls and guests help themselves and pass the food around.
Food Stations or grazing-Similar to a buffet line, this style has several stations of food displayed on tables spread around the space. I once went to a reception where each station had a different ethnic theme (Mexican, Oriental and American). This is also a good way to do dessert if you are not having a traditional cake (Sundae bar, chocolate fountain and cupcakes).
Reception Service or Cocktail Hour–Waiters pass light food and appetizers.
If your main concern is the budget, don’t be surprised by the not-so-obvious fees charged for chefs, wait staff, cutting and serving the cake, liability for alcohol, etc. Also remember that the caterers will make an extra amount of food to be safe, so if you choose a service style with little portion control, like Family style, much more food will need to be purchased. Keep in mind that any vendors who will be present for the entire span of the wedding and reception will expect a meal (photographers, wedding coordinator, assistants). Don’t include these numbers in the guest count. Ask your caterer if they offer a slightly less expensive vendor meal.