Should You Have a Buffet or Sit-Down Dinner at Your Wedding?

Which food service style would be best for your nuptials?

One of the biggest decisions you might face when devising the culinary style of your dinner menu is the type of service you’d like to have: buffet or sit-down. Find out which is best!

Photo: Images by Berit, Inc.

Decisions concerning the cuisine of your event are arguably some of the most important choices you'll make in the planning process. The cost of food can account for approximately 40% of the total spending limit, so it’s vital that you consider each option carefully.

One of the biggest conundrums you might face when devising the culinary style of your dinner menu is the type of service you’d like to have. There are nuanced categories, but the two main choices you’ll be selecting between will likely be “buffet style” or “sit-down.”

While some brides and grooms have their preferred option in their head long before the engagement, others find it difficult to choose. In order to help those couples, we’ve broken down the perks and drawbacks of each dining style:



-  You save money. A buffet is typically less expensive than a sit-down dinner, which means you may have extra cash available to put toward other dream elements of your big day.

-  There can be a larger variety of food. If you’re an indecisive planner or want to incorporate many different kinds of cuisine – perhaps from different cultural backgrounds – into your reception, buffets are the way to go.

-  You can integrate a “food station” motif. Much like the opulent buffets of Las Vegas, this option give you the opportunity to create “food stations” with different servers and styles – a raw bar, a carving station for meats, a sushi bar, and beyond – while keeping the atmosphere elegant and refined. 


-  Staggered service. Chances are, your guests will have to wait in a line to receive their food. Of course, the more stations you have, the smaller this problem will be, but it’s something many guests end up griping about.

-  It’s not as readily accessible. For attendees with special circumstances – a physical handicap, very young children, etc. – a buffet can prove to be a hassle. Before selecting this option, it’s a smart idea to sit down with your beloved – and your wedding planner – to determine how many guests might fit into this category to help in your decision-making process.

-  It can be seen as less than proper. No matter how palatial you may make your buffet, there will always be a friend or relative that frowns upon the practice. Unfortunately, some people may not feel your event is formal enough with the absence of a plated meal brought to you by a waiter with white gloves. Choose what works best for you.



-  It embodies the height of decorum. As far as formality goes, this style is preferred for a posh celebration. It will please the older, more traditional attendees and maintain the level of ceremony from your nuptials.

-  All are served at the same time. Unlike an experience with a buffet, all guests are served at – relatively – the same instance. This will prevent a particular group of revelers from going hungry for longer than another, and will minimize any hostility surrounding dinner.

-  It’ll work with the reception itinerary. Selecting a sit-down service means that you’ll be able to plan certain reception events – such as toasts and dances – in between courses. This will keep the evening moving along without a question as to the timing of any one activity. 


-  It’s traditionally more expensive. Dependent on your food choice and the number of servers you hire, this style is typically the more expensive choice. However, if food is incredibly important to you, spending more money on cuisine over décor may be a top priority.

-  A limited menu. In today’s world of increasing dietary restrictions, this can cause a real problem. Much like with physical limitations, we recommend going over the “pros” and “cons” of this style once reviewing your guest list and food preferences. Additionally, if you plan on having children or a large amount of picky eaters at your celebration, you may be left with a bulk of uneaten entrées.

-  More traffic in your event space. With the waiters and staff, there will be more foot traffic to clog up the reception area. This may make it difficult for people to get up and walk around, lest they be run over by a server with tunnel vision and a tray filled with main courses. 

For tips on designing your wedding menu, check out expert advice on planning a menu that represents you.