By Stephen Coffelt and Lauren Settle
We’re back with the second installment of Stephen & Lauren’s Reception Dining Guide! Last week covered three steps to take when planning and budgeting for the menu, so check back here if you need to refresh your memory!
While looking for the perfect venue, consider what format of food service you would like to see at your reception. The catering format can play largely into your budget and overall flow of the reception, so it is important to devote considerable thought to this planning step prior to signing a contract with a venue. The standard formats for you to consider are heavy hors d’oeuvres, buffet dinners, family style dinners and plated dinners.
Heavy Hors d’oeuvres
These typically begin with guests being offered butlered food items as they await the arrival of the bride and groom. Following the cocktail hour, a combination of multiple food displays open and your guests can enjoy a unique eating experience consisting of miniature food items that require no more than one utensil to enjoy. This format allows endless possibilities of what foods can be served. Some stations can be attended by chefs to create food items to order. No matter what foods you decide to offer, your guests are encouraged to mingle and socialize as no formal seating is planned. This format requires seating for 50% to 75% of your guests and should be considered if the venue you are looking at cannot accommodate seating for all of the attendees. Dependent upon how elaborate your food selections are, the heavy hors’ d oeuvres format can be a little more budget friendly as you will not require as many tables, linens, chairs and flatware. Heavy Hors d’oeuvre formats also allow the greatest flexibility if you do not have a coordinator onsite to keep a strict timeline.
Buffet Dinners begin with guests being offered either butlered hors d’oeuvre options or a display of stationary hors d’oeuvre options during the cocktail hour. With this format, each guest will require a place setting. You will be required to designate each guest by table or a more formally assigned seating. Guests are invited to the buffet by table number or a creative table designation, and long lines can be prevented as guests can stay seated until their table is announced. Planning a buffet dinner allows your guests the options of assorted proteins, salads and sides. You do not have to have just one long table in this format although that is the most standard display. You can creatively incorporate aspects of other food formats by planning a preset salad or appetizer at each place setting prior to the buffet opening. A day of coordinator is beneficial for this style food service so that guests know when to go to the buffet and your timeline of events is promptly kept. Rental requirements for this format will increase from a heavy
Hors d’oeuvre option, since you will require more tables, linens, chairs, china, flatware, napkins and all of the other items associated with seating all of your guests.
This format begins very similar to the other formats by offering your guests a cocktail hour. Plated Dinner formats are best executed by creating a seating chart. Typically wine service is offered by wait staff as your guests sit for dinner. The standard Plated Dinner Reception consists of a three course dinner with the third course being a traditional wedding cake. However, you may offer as many courses as your budget allows. A day of coordinator is suggested with this format to adhere to the timeline as a plated diner can take more time for your guests to enjoy.
Family style receptions are a creative combination of the previously mentioned formats. This format begins with a cocktail hour. Family Style Receptions also require seating for your entire guest count, but the formality of assigned seating is not necessary. Long rectangular tables and large outdoor tented spaces best suite this style of service. As guests find a place at the table, a sense of community and family is formed. Depending on the menu, guests can begin their meal with a salad or an assortment of appetizers to start. For the second course, buffet options are served tableside to your guests on platters. They are asked to take a portion and pass it down to the next person, breaking bread with strangers and ending the meal as friends. This style of service is very symbolic of celebrating the union of two people who have now become one family with their loved ones by their side.
Once you have selected your catering format, the last step is to review your prospective venues. What comes included in your selected venue? Inquire about tables and chairs for your estimated guest count and who is responsible for setting them up and breaking them down. Can the prospective venue accommodate seating for the ceremony and reception, or will you need additional rentals? Do they offer an onsite working kitchen to accommodate your desired menu or will you need to supply a temporary kitchen? By asking these standard questions in advance, you will be better prepared to understand were to allocate your wedding budget. More importantly, you will be able to plan the perfect menu based on your venue.
Stephen Coffelt and Lauren Settle are both full time event planners for A Sharper Palate Catering & Events. For more information, please visit www.asharperpalate.com.