Wedding Lingo: Order Up! Wedding Dinner Service Styles

Kashani_Park_Michelle_Lindsay_Photography_KashaniPark3302012MichelleLindsayPhotography_lowDon't know your French Service from your Family Style?  In honor of Valentine's Day, and all you lucky ducks heading out for a romantic meal, we're covering reception service styles today.  Planning your reception meal can be a challenge, especially if you're not familiar with all of the options available to you. Today we're going to go over some common terms you'll likely hear when chatting with caterers and reception halls. Formal wedding receptions (the kind most of us in New Jersey are used to) almost always involve some sort of sit-down style meal with assigned seating.  There are a variety of ways that a sit-down dinner can be presented.  Not all venues offer all options, but many have choices, so ask when you meet with your catering sales manager or venue coordinator.

Plated Service or American Service This is what you get at most restaurants- the staff plates the food in the kitchen and brings it to the table, usually a single course at a time.  This can be very efficient, and menu choices can be made ahead of time or table-side, depending on your venue.

Russian Service This is similar to Plated Service- except that each guest at a table gets their own waiter!  It's very elegant to watch, (it's like dinner and a show!) but can be more expensive due to higher staffing costs.

French Service aka Table Side Service This style involves chefs and servers literally preparing food table side.  Rolling carts with heating elements allow preparation of all sorts of tasty treats, and then guests are served individually. You need a lot of space in your reception room for this and a LOT of staff. (Read: this is expensive). But if you are having a smaller wedding, this could be one way to spice up the reception.

Family Style This is one of my favorite styles (a great Italian restaurant here in Central NJ does this SO WELL! If you haven't been to Maggiano's Little Italy yet, you should go!) All the food is brought out on large platters and guests serve themselves from the center of the table.  It's great for mingling, and provides opportunity for more food choices!  Also, it's something different that most people haven't seen at weddings before.  One con: it can be messy, and usually requires that you work closely with your decorator to be sure there is adequate space on the tables for the food and decorations simultaneously.

Buffet There are two kinds of buffet styles- standard with chafing dishes, and stations, which add a whole different atmosphere to an event.  Bear in mind- buffets are NOT always cheaper- it's hard to predict how much of each item people will eat, so oftentimes, more food is needed overall. Also chafing dish style buffets usually limit your food choices to those whose quality isn't affected by that heating style.

And there you have it- wedding meals demystified. Which are you leaning towards?  Let us know in the comments!

As always, Keep Celebrating!

Jasmine