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Each option has its pros and cons.

After the “I dos” have been exchanged, it’s time to celebrate the new couple with a reception. You’ve booked the venue, the band, and the getaway car. But how will you decide to serve the food: buffet style or sit-down dinner? Pros and cons come along with either option, and different variables must be considered when deciding between the two. Budget, size of the reception venue, and the tone you want to set for the event should be taken into account.

Sit-down dinner

A sit-down dinner is probably the most cost-efficient options for serving food at your reception. Because you have a confirmed head count, you can work with the caterer to determine exactly how much food to buy. Most wedding dinners offer an appetizer, main course, and dessert; guests usually have the option of choosing a protein for the entrée like chicken, beef, or fish. A sit-down dinner is the most formal, traditional practice. This choice gives family and friends a chance to make wedding toasts and speeches to congratulate the new couple. It also gives the night a specific schedule—from cocktail hour to dinner to dancing to the send-off.

Table settings must be taken into more consideration with hosting a seated dinner. If your caterer does not offer amenities like table linens or silverware, you will have to rent them, which can add up quickly.  It’s also important to have enough servers at the dinner so guests will not be kept waiting too long for plates to be delivered and cleared between courses. Centerpieces and other table décor can be pricey add-ons as well. Sit-down dinners limit guests to conversing only with the others sitting at the table during this portion of the reception. It also separates the bride and groom from the majority of their guests. After a lively cocktail hour, a sit-down dinner can bring down the momentum and cause a lull in the reception.

Buffet

A buffet is probably the more expensive option for serving food at a wedding reception. Because you can’t determine exactly how much food guests will eat, you could end up over estimating and buying more food than actually needed. Lines are another factor to consider when choosing a buffet-style reception; you want to avoid long lines forming around the food. It’s important to strategize where buffet stations will be set up because a smaller venue space can get cramped quickly.

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However, buffets allow you to provide a plethora of options for guests and accommodate different food allergies. You can get more creative with what you choose to serve with fun stations that offer foods like sushi, oysters, etc. Buffet-style receptions give guests more time to mingle with each other and more opportunities to talk to the bride and groom. This style of reception gives the night a more laidback schedule, allowing guests to eat whenever they want and enjoy the band all night long before waving goodbye to the bride and groom.