There are a lot of reasons planning your nuptials can make you want to elope: budgets, in-laws, unrealistic expectations foisted on you by an increasingly commercialized wedding industry (I’m throwing the side-eye at you, Martha Stewart). One of the hardest to wrap your head around, though, is that most of the time there is no right or wrong answer. That bears repeating: there is no right or wrong answer.
Weddings are about choices, some of them truly hard, most of them, let’s be honest, not (#weddingplanningproblems). Unless you have truly horrible friends, there is no one at the end of the reception line waiting to grade you on your event. Of course, that truth may not keep you from treating the decision between a sit-down reception and a buffet like Sophie’s choice. Before you erupt in another bout of stress-induced acne, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both options.
Many couples are drawn to sit-down dinners because they feel more formal, and unless you get a lot of invitations to state dinners, your wedding might be the most formal event you ever attend. On the other hand, sit-down dinners can feel stuffy and long, especially when your wine glass is empty and you can’t find a waiter. Observes Tennessee-based event and wedding planner Dori Thornton, at “sit-down dinners, people often leave after dinner and don’t make it to the dance floor because they’ve been sitting for a long time.”
Seating charts, flat out, are the worst, both for the bride and groom making them and for guests who don’t exactly hit it off with their tablemates. If there are no-shows or unexpected guests, your chart goes out the window. Plus, there will always be some distant relative who views his or her distance from the head table as grounds for a family feud.
That said, sit-down menus are often less expensive than buffets, with less food waste. And there is a certain glamour to not eating on your feet. If the event is smaller and you want face-time with everyone, consider leaving a chair or two open at each table so you and your legally wedded spouse can visit for a spell.
Buffets have traditionally been seen as less formal, but they offer more flexibility for guests with special dietary needs and facilitate mingling and dancing more than sit-down dinners. While buffets can be more expensive (jumbo shrimp doesn’t peel itself), you’ll also find yourself paying less on wait staff, table and linen rentals, and, if you’re serving finger foods, silverware. The big deterrent for buffets is the line. Consider having stations instead of one long buffet, advises Thornton; it will cut down significantly on guests’ wait time. People should gravitate toward the buffet as they come in, but if everyone’s being too polite for their own good, have a plan for announcing that the buffet is open.
Little bit of this, little bit of that
Of course, some brides opt for the best of both worlds. You can have a sit-down dinner without assigned seating. Or you can assign seats for a buffet and let servers call guests up by table. Serving tables family-style is kind of like a mini-buffet. Have an hors d’oeuvres buffet at cocktail hour and then a sit-down dinner, or a sit-down dinner and then a dessert buffet. Why not? It’s your world, everyone else is just living in it. But no matter what style of food service you choose, for the love of all that is borrowed and blue, make sure you get a plate (and eat it).
Photo source: usdalton (cc)