The Difference Between Seated, Buffet and Food Stations
A seated dinner creates a more formal experience. Guests stay seated while waiting staff bring everything to the tables. It can be less expensive than other options, as the wedding caterers know in advance how much of each course they will need to prepare per person. The caterers will ask you to finalize a list of the dinner order in advance, so they can plan the event a head of time. However they require more staff to prepare and usually two servers per table. The less staff you need the less it will cost.
It is highly recommended the use of place cards instead of open seating, as this will ensure the waiting staff know which person is getting what food at the table.
A buffet is a more relaxed setting, and will have long tables with all of the dinner options presented for the guests. There are usually some servers behind the buffet to describe the dishes to the guests, and this is useful if anyone has allergies. They will also serve appropriate portions to each guest’s plates. The buffet will usually stay open for all the guests to make one trip, and hungry guests to make a quick return before the buffet is closed. Buffets require linins and serving pieces and of course larger quantities of food, as people eat more when they serve themselves.
It is a good idea to have soup or salads served at the table before or immediately after the guests are seated so that people have something to eat while they wait for their turn to go up to the buffet line.
Food stations are becoming more popular for wedding receptions, and they stay open much longer that a buffet. The food at the stations are grouped by type and are spread out around the room. The benefits of having food stations over a single buffet table is that it allows for less congestion. Some of the food stations may have a chief standing behind them for example a carving station. The great thing about food stations is that you can customize them to your tastes and offer a wider variety of food than a traditional seated dinner service. They are also a great way to incorporate a theme into your food. For example you could have each station representing a different country. Traditionally you would have entrees at one station, sides at another, salads at another etc. Stations are usually kept open up to three times as long as a regular buffet.
If you choose to have food stations at your wedding, you will not need as many servers as a seated dinner, but you will need people to remove plates from tables as guest move on to their next food.