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Weddings: Buffet vs. Sit-Down Dinner: Best Value?

Updated on December 14, 2015
Is this the best value for your wedding dollars?
Is this the best value for your wedding dollars?

Are Buffets the Best Wedding Value?

Erroneously, many brides- and grooms-to-be think that buffets are the best value when it comes to spending their wedding dollars. It's understandable. After all, you select a certain number of foods and they're served... so it has to be a better deal, right? The same for "station" receptions...

Let's analyze the buffet from the caterer's perspective: Does the property know how much food to serve when they prepare for a buffet? How many staff are required to serve the food in the buffet line and do the carving? How many staff do they need to clean up the buffet and keep it tidy? And do they need additional servers once guests are seated to bring them water, or whatever else they need? (These questions also apply to station receptions.)

The answer to the first question is "no"... There is no portion control when it comes to station or buffet receptions, meaning the caterer must prepare more food than for a sit-down dinner. The answer to the rest of the questions is "yes". Buffet and station receptions require more staff.


Portion control is key when it comes to giving brides and grooms the best value!
Portion control is key when it comes to giving brides and grooms the best value!

The Pre-Packaged Sit-Down Dinner, or Lunch, Brunch, etc.

There are advantages when it comes to the sit-down dinner, lunch or brunch. First, the property has portion control and the staff that's necessary to manage buffet lines and stations is not necessary. These are big advantages and they can save you, the bride- and groom-to-be and/or the hosts of the wedding, lots of money.

In fact, the pre-packaged, sit-down dinner, lunch or brunch, where everything is included from the cocktail hour, to dinner (lunch, or brunch), to champagne toast, to cake... is the best value for the dollar.

You need to know where to get the best value for your money, or you'll flush it down the you-know-where!
You need to know where to get the best value for your money, or you'll flush it down the you-know-where!

Buffet vs. Sit-Down Dinner: Other Considerations

* Many think that buffets and stations are set up over the course of the event so that guests can munch at will. Not so. Once everyone is fed, the stations and buffet lines are taken down.

* Buffets can also cause timing issues. If there's not enough lines to accommodate guests quickly, you'll find that the people at table one will have finished eating while the people at table 15 are just getting to the buffet line. Guests at table one want to dance, but they can't... and the guests at table 15 don't want loud music playing when they're trying to eat.

* And take note, when you host a buffet or station reception, you will pay separately for the cocktail hour.

Whatever kind of reception you'd like to host is up to you, but I think that the pre-packaged sit-down dinner, lunch or brunch is the best value for your wedding dollars.

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    • Deborah McCoy profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah McCoy 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Hi Teresa:

      You can find me at: www.aa-wp.com (American Academy of Wedding Professionals) and you can find my books at Amazon.

      Thanks for your kind words...

      Best, Deb

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 

      8 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      You are right,if someone is spending thousands of dollars for a wedding cake, the guests should be able to view it as long as possible. We have stationed a dummy wedding cake, with a small cake on top for the bride and groom to cut, in a prominent location at a reception. The chef will pre-slice sheet cakes and place them on plates for waitstaff to serve to guests at the appropriate time.

      Please let me know where I can find your books. I would love to read them. You seem to be really good at wedding planning and I like your writing style. Thanks for your feed back. I am sure you work hard too.

      Teresa

    • Deborah McCoy profile imageAUTHOR

      Deborah McCoy 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Hi Teresa:

      I respectfully and politely disagree with you :-)...

      First, I would never advise a client to cut the cake before dinner is served. The cake is "the focal point of the reception" to quote Sylvia Weinstock, and I would never advise clients, who have spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on a cake, to cut it any sooner than necessary. The idea of a fabulous cake is for it to be seen and admired as much, and for as long, as possible.

      As far as buffets are concerned, I stick by my guns. I say that the "all inclusive package", which features everything from the cocktail hour, to sit-down dinner, to the toast, to the wedding cake--is the best value for the dollar.

      Thanks so much for your comments! I really appreciate the work you and your colleagues do when it comes to food service. I wish that brides- and grooms-to-be could appreciate how tough your job is, and how hard you work for them!

      Best, Deb

    • eventsyoudesign profile image

      eventsyoudesign 

      8 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      Thanks for sharing. I like this article, but I am on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to buffets. Buffets are a very efficient way of serving guests. At a wedding reception I suggest that the wedding cake be cut before dinner is served. As guests finish their meals they can be served cake by the wait staff and this way no one has to wait for anyone else to finish eating before the cake cutting takes place.

      As far as staffing a buffet goes, you need people to man a buffet as well as clear guests tables. We generally schedule two servers per buffet and one server per five tables to efficiently clear and beverage guests. On a typical sit-down dinner we generally schedule two servers per every four tables unless the client asks for more staff. Its really not that big of a difference. Many times buffets cost less per person than a plated dinner. It all depends on food choices. A good chef knows how much food he will need to prepare for a buffet for a certain number of people without putting too much on the line.

      I come from the old school of banquets at Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Worked in food service all of my life. I currently work for the Nashville Symphony. We can caterer parties of up to five hundred or more depending on how we use our space. The music is fabulous too!

      I will read more. I would love to read some of your books too. Your article is easy to read and follow. Thanks for sharing. Teresa

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