Food, glorious food: the pros and cons of different serving styles

Receptions // by Emily Russ

Let’s get real, your guests are all there for one reason – the food. Okay, they’re there for you and then the food. Whatever your style of wedding, serving up something yummy is kind of mandatory, and the world’s your oyster when it comes to the options (pun intended). Need some inspiration? Here’s a little taste test for you (we couldn’t help ourselves).

Related article: 10 things you need to know before ordering your wedding cake and How to keep guests warm at a winter reception (with salted caramel s’mores recipe!)



Christopher Thomas Photography

Plated meal
It’s the traditional way to serve food at weddings, but there’s plenty to love about the sit-down plated meal or ‘plate drop’.

The Pros:
A favourite for more formal receptions, giving guests the choice between (usually) two dishes means everyone at the table will most likely be able to eat at the same time – so no awkward food-cooling-while- waiting-for-others-to-start situations. Plated meals are also commonly the choice for reception venues or caterers, eliminating extra wedding planning stress (as if you need more). Going with this choice also means you can plan the ‘run of the day’ smoothly, allowing speeches or dances to be held in between courses.

The Cons:
You might think that plated meals are the most cost-effective option, but this is not always the case. This option requires more wait staff as servers, which can make your catering or venue hire bill slightly higher. Also, having limited options is, well, limiting.


Tropix Photography

Share plates
A popular choice for modern weddings, share plates make your guests feel like one big family.

The Pros:
We’re loving the share plate trend because of its homey feel. Massive plates of food being passed around feels just like Christmas lunch, plus it gives guests the chance to taste everything on the table without sneakily swapping dishes (like they might with a plated meal). Guests can also control portion sizes and exactly what goes on their plate – no need to pick off those spicy jalapeños.

The Cons:
‘Sharing is caring’, so the saying goes, but sharing germs is something you might want to be wary of. Obviously, if someone’s feeling under the weather they shouldn’t be at your wedding anyway, but having someone with a cold breathing all over the food is something to be avoided if at all possible. Another thing to keep in mind: share plates make seating arrangements even more important. There needs to be ample space at the table for the various plates, and the whole ‘family feel’ won’t work if your guests don’t get along.


Milly Jane for Walkabout Creek Hotel

Food trucks
These beauties have well and truly taken over the wedding world recently, and for good reason!

The Pros:
Fun, cute, photogenic and versatile, food trucks are bang on-trend. With so many trucks out there, there’s an almost endless list of cuisines to choose from – ice-cream, tacos, sliders, churros, dumplings… yes, please! Having a food truck area is also a brilliant way to get guests roving and mingling. Hello, festival vibes!

The Cons:
Space is a big deal for food trucks, so you’ll have to be upfront with your reception venue and see if they’ll be accommodating. And like anything outdoors, the weather is a major factor. Waiting in line for food in the rain isn’t exactly a wonderful start to a reception.


From the wedding of Annika and Tony

Grazing tables or food stations
Whatever you want to call them, this OTT trend is foodie heaven for the eyes.

The Pros:
Not only are these visually ah-mazing, but they’re also sure to be popular with your guests. Much like food trucks, having styled tables of food spread around the reception venue gets people moving and chatting – but aim to provide something substantial as a ‘main’ dish, rather than just a few charcuterie boards or cheese platters.

The Cons:
If your grazing tables/food stations are going to involve an interactive element, such as a carving area or omelette bar, you’ll need to get this approved by your reception venue. Make sure there are proper facilities for everything (i.e. electricity outlets, gas bottles, etc.) and organise with your venue who’ll be in charge of manning each station.


Love Liz Photography

Cocktail parties
The cocktail reception creates a relaxed atmosphere, but can also be super-glam!

The Pros:
Cocktail receptions create a casual, conversational feel that work well for laid-back weddings. If your reception venue is small, a cocktail-style affair will require less furniture – winner! High tables are also perfect for eating and mingling, although it’s important to ensure there’s some regular seating if you’re expecting elderly guests.

The Cons:
There may be a few guests (like your steak-eating-champion uncle) who might be put off by a cocktail reception. Clearly inform everyone on your invite what to expect by including a simple line like, ‘please join us for a cocktail reception’. While food costs might be lower due to serving sizes, you will need more serving staff.



Honourable Mentions
Hungry for more? Here are a few more serving styles for the ultimate reception…

A 2017 trend, brunch receptions can be a more affordable option than evening celebrations. And who doesn’t love brunch food? Waffles, pastries, pancakes, fruit salad, eggs benedict, muffins – and don’t forget the Bloody Marys.

The buffet can be a controversial serving style. Some guests might prefer not to be called up for food, and a stampede doesn’t exactly scream ‘best day ever’ either. There are plenty of benefits though, like meal variety, cost effectiveness and interactivity.

Late-night snack
A little bonus after the reception, late-night snacks will really impress your guests. If you’re planning on enjoying plenty of dancing after the main meal, it’s a sweet idea to set up a novelty popcorn machine or pretzel bar. We even know of one bride who treated guests to mini wood-fired pizzas – needless to say, it was a hit.

Chosen your serving style? Sweet! Now it’s time to pick your venue – check out our go-to directory here!