Deciding on Your Wedding Dinner Style!

beverages being served by a waiter

So… When you think of your wedding dinner reception, what comes to mind? A family-style meal with everyone together at a table breaking bread, or maybe white-jacketed waiters bringing each guest their meal, or do you see it more as a cocktail hour, with chicken wings, pigs in a blanket, and sliders, all being served on a silver platter as your guests chat and mingle…

Well, here’s the good news– you can do anything you want– isn’t that what I always tell you? Because hey it’s your wedding! But if you’re still having some difficulty deciding on what style is right for you, I’ve outlined below the four standard wedding dinner styles most people have at their wedding. Check each one out, and based on your own wishes, style, and of course budget, you should be able to find one that’s a great fit.

Bon Appetit!

Cocktail Reception


photo credit: | Karen Wise Photography |

A cocktail reception is probably the easiest and most economical dinner style option for your reception. Guests will nosh at hi-boys as a medley of butler-passed hors d’oeuvres are served. Just make sure to have a wide variety of appetizers so guests have a nice assortment to choose from, especially since they’re not being served a full meal. Set-up salad, bread, cheese, crudite and fruit stations as well so they can munch even if the food is not out yet. Also, be mindful they’ll be drinking on a not so full stomach, so the chances of inebriation may go up considerably…

Price: $


Chafing Dish

Buffets are really super popular right now because they’re so damn cost effective! I know I don’t have to explain what one is, but I will nonetheless. A buffet reception allows a guest to come up to a central dinner station replete with chaffing dishes and several servers, to create their own meal from the food choices available. Now, one of the reasons we’re all so crazy about buffets in general is that it feels like an “all you can eat” experience. And who doesn’t want to have more food choices than they can possible consume? We do of course, that’s just human nature! So unlike a cocktail reception, your guests will have a “real” meal. And, they can usually get seconds! Yum….

Price: $$

Family Style


Family style is such a cool concept. Wait staff will bring out several delicious meal platters, plates, bowls and any other serving vessel for the entire table, and  guests will all help themselves, passing such plates, bowls, platters, in the spirit of sharing. So it creates an atmosphere of, well “family”, kinda like at Thanksgiving (but hopefully without the holiday family drama!)

Price: $$$



This is the most expensive option, but it certainly is a “white glove” treatment. Based on the reception menu choice that your guests either decided on in their RSVP, or right there at the table, a waiter, just like in a restaurant, will come directly to each table to “take their order”. Once everyone’s order is in, the waiters return with your guests’ own specific plate and serve it directly to them. However, unlike the previous three options, the dinner is set based on what is ordered, so if your guest orders the beef, beef it is, fish, they got it, but no substitutions, or additions!

Price: $$$$

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