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Ask a CLINKer : Types of Food Service

Our “Ask a CLINKer” series contains questions asked to us by our clients or by our readers. Please feel free to email your questions to

There are many different ways to serve a meal at an event.  Each one has its pros and cons, and depending on your event and preferences, there is a perfect type for you!

Buffet – The buffet is always a crowd pleaser as guests get to pick from a large variety of items.  Thus, it can be easier to please a larger group of guests, and they can take as much as they want of their choice of items.  Sometimes food costs are increased slightly due to the kitchen having to prepare a larger amount of food and assign enough staff to staff the buffet appropriately. Some guests like having all of the food in one place so they do not have to travel around the event looking for stations.

buffet 2

Photo from Pinterest

Stations, action stations and food bars –Stations are a fun, interactive way to incorporate different types of food into an event, and also to get your guests mixing and mingling.  For instance, food from different countries can be showcased, or the bride and groom’s favorite dishes from childhood. Action stations such as sushi being rolled creates interest and interactivity for guests. Food trucks are another entertaining option. They can often prepare some items ahead of time and some of the items on-site to ensure service speed.  Bars where guests can choose from a variety of toppings are also popular, such as mashed potato, macaroni and cheese or risotto bars. Other ideas in this same vein are smoothie bars (fun for a brunch event!), crepe bars or carving stations.


Hand-shucked oysters, Royal Fig Catering

french fries

French Fry Bar! Photo from Pinterest

trail mix

Trail Mix Bar, Word of Mouth Catering

Plated meal – A plated meal is a nice way for guests to feel pampered as they are waited on and do not have to get up from the table to get their food.  Depending on the caterer, this can either be a cost-effective option since the caterer can calculate almost the exact amount of food needed, or it could be more expensive because it requires more staffing.  There are four main ways you can offer this to your guests: 

1. One option offered – If you want the feel of a plated meal, but don’t want to track each guests’ choice, this option is for you. Try to pick a neutral protein such as chicken or beef and plan on a vegetarian/non-beef substitute for those who are either vegetarians or simply do enjoy the protein being served.

2. Choices offered – This allows guests the fine dining experience of a plated meal, while still giving them a choice.  The important thing to consider here is that you must get the information ahead of time to communicate to your caterer what guests have chosen. When designing your invitations, be sure to include wording in the RSVP that asks guests to choose their entrée. This option requires slightly more work on your end as you must track these choices, but often your event planner can help with this task. You will also need to communicate the choices to your caterer, so servers know who is eating what. One way to do this is by using the place cards. Often a small emblem of a chicken, beef, or fish, or a symbol that stands for each, is put on the cards.  You would also provide your caterer a list ahead of time that lists guest choices by name and table number.

3. Duo or trio – This approach is easy for you and not quite as cost-prohibitive as it used to be. Pick two or three proteins to be served together on the plate, in slightly smaller portions.  Most guests will enjoy and appreciate the variety.  A handful of guests may request a plate with two pieces of one protein and none of the other, and most caterers are happy to oblige and are ready for such requests. Definitely the best of both worlds!

4. Tableside waiter service – If you want to provide a truly special experience for your guests, this is an excellent option. In order to give the kitchen time to adequately prepare, you would need to serve a four-course meal or more. As the starter is brought out, waiters take each guest’s entrée order (much like at a restaurant).  Guests can choose their protein options, but also such details as what temperature they would like their beef cooked. This is most easily done at a hotel versus an off-site venue, as they are able to have extra food on-hand to accommodate guests’ choice and cook on-site.

plated meal

Beef Tenderloin Yumminess, Word of Mouth Catering

Whatever type of food service you decide to provide, remember that your wedding is a celebration and a reflection of you and your relationship. It is perfectly acceptable to create a menu with your caterer that reflects you and your fiancée’s tastes and favorite foods. In fact, many caterers love to create custom menus and enjoy collaborating with their clients. And, it’s fun for your guests to be able to share in some of your favorite dishes.

Bon Appétit!


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