Which Style of Table Service Is Right for You?

Your guide to three different styles of table service for your reception.

Which Style of Table Service Is Right for You?

Photo: Elizabeth Messina

wedding reception sit-down dinner table service, american service, english service, french service

As many decisions as there are to make while wedding planning, organizing everything for your reception dinner may have the most variables to choose from. You have to find the right caterer, unless of course they come with your venue, and then you have to decide whether you want the meal to be a buffet or if you want to offer table service. Then comes finalizing your menu – sure, you had tastings when you interviewed the caterers before the hiring process, but you still have to narrow down which foods make the final cut!

Just when you think you can cross catering off your to-do list, the vendor asks what kind of service style you want to use. Or perhaps while shopping around, you noticed several different options under “table service.” If you’re not sure what this all means, don’t fret! We’re here with the answers, explaining the three most common types of table service. 

American service is the standard formal dinner, where servers bring plated meals out to each guest. Everything is already portioned out and arranged in the kitchen on one plate instead of being served each course separately. It's one of the more efficient styles, which leaves more time for dancing!

English service, known as silver service in the UK, is when servers bring large dishes to the table to dispense food to each attendee. Traditionally, the host would carve the meat and add sides to the plate of each guest, but as this is not practical at a wedding, the servers would do it. However, service by the host could work for very small, intimate receptions. Essentially, English service is family-style dining but with a waitstaff.

Russian service, or service à la russe, is when a multi-course meal is served one course at a time. This is the service type where chargers are most useful, as each new dish will be placed on the charger once the old dish is removed. If your wedding meal has many courses and you have a large guest list, this service style is both practical and sophisticated.

Find out if you should have a buffet or sit-down dinner at your wedding and how to plan a wedding menu that represents you.

Opening photo by Clane Gessel Photography