There are three mainstream dinner styles that you can choose from when picking your menu with your caterer: plated, family style, or buffet. Each of these styles are great meal options, and choosing one really depends on your personal preference for the wedding day. Here is a guide to help you learn the difference between each of these choices, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each.


A plated meal means that each guest is served individually, like in a restaurant. The service staff will serve an entire table at a time.

+ Everyone is served quickly

+ Guests will not have to get up to get food

+ Guests pick their entree ahead of time and can order a special meal if needed for allergies/dietary restrictions/kids meals

+/- Place setting will not have plate at it as the caterers will need the guest plates to serve the food on. If you prefer the look of plates to be set on the table for photos you can rent chargers as a replacement, otherwise plated may not be a good option for you

+/- Each setting has to have meal indicator either on the escort card or place card with that guests meal choice. A meal indicator can be a sticker, color, animal figurine, etc. to indicate the meal choice (see photo below)

- Each guest must pick his/her meal ahead of time, as well as any allergies he/she may have, which can be time consuming to gather that information

- More expensive than buffet

Family Style

Family style service is when large family platters are placed on each table with various food choices and left there for the duration of dinner (essentially, the caterer brings a buffet to each table).

+ Guests can pick the dishes they want to eat, so you don't have to worry about meal choice and allergies for guests

+ Everyone is served quickly

+ Platters remain on the table so guests can serve themselves without getting up throughout the meal

- More expensive than a buffet, can be more expensive than plated since the portions are bigger and you may have to rent large serving dishes

- Limits table decor. Since the platters usually stay on the tables throughout the meal it limits the amount of table decor you can have. For example a lush garland with many candles wouldn't work for a family style setting because there would be nowhere to put the food platters down. However some caterers offer family style where they allow the platters to be passed through the table, come pick them up and then will bring them around again for seconds.


A buffet is self explanatory - the caterer sets up a buffet near the dining area for guests to line up to get their food. The caterer will dismiss each table individually to get food so guests aren't creating a large line at the buffet. Some caterers may offer a live grill buffet, where they bring in a grill to include at the end of the buffet table for guests to get freshly grilled meat and veggies.

+ Lower cost

+ Guests can pick the dishes they want to eat, so you don't have to worry about meal choice and allergies for guests

- May take guests a long time to go through the buffet, so everyone is not eating at the same time

- Guests have to get up to get their food

- Some do not like the look of the buffet