Buffet or Plated Meal — That is the Question

Our clients often ask us what’s the best meal option for an elegant, luxurious wedding reception. Traditionally, a high-end wedding would offer a plated meal and open bar service to all guests, while buffets were reminiscent of inexpensive weddings in banquet halls.

Not anymore.

Today, more and more “show” weddings are offering delicious buffets from award-winning chefs. Here are some of the pros and cons of each.

1. Buffets offer more variety to guests, as well as the opportunity for seconds.

Your guests will send in their RSVPs weeks, sometimes months, before the wedding. Even though they selected filet mignon as their meal choice, they may discover at your wedding that the baked haddock looks sooooo much more delicious. Or they may want a little of each. Also, buffets offer guests the ability to choose their serving size so that no one walks away from your wedding reception still hungry.

2. Plated meals allow guests to remain seated without having to stand in a buffet line.

With a buffet option, you’ll have to put your reception on hold for about a half hour while guests serve themselves. On the other hand, with a plated meal, the guests are served at their tables so the festivities never have to stop!

3. Plated meals are still the default for luxury wedding receptions.

With a buffet, your old Aunt Harriet might ask you why you couldn’t afford a plated meal. (You were hoping that Aunt Harriet wouldn’t be able to come.) If you or your parents are trying to impress people, a plated meal is still regarded as the classic option for luxury weddings.

4. Plated meals are significantly more expensive than buffets.

Serving 150 people a gourmet meal, all within a period of 15 minutes, is backbreaking work that requires a large staff. Here’s a photo of Blue Elephant Catering preparing salads for a 180 guests — and this is just the kitchen staff, let alone the servers! Their service was absolutely stupendous, which is what you’ll need for a well-executed plated meal. By choosing a buffet instead, the money you save can go toward other amenities that you consider more important, like your flowers, decorations, DJ, or even your honeymoon!

5. The quality of the food may be the same in both buffets and plated meals.

Many caterers will offer both plated meals and buffets, so the quality of the food is not variable. In other words, as long as you choose an outstanding caterer whose food you’ve already tried — and love! — then the only question is how you want the meal served. This picture shows a really fantastic meal served by Hurricane’s Catering — and it was a buffet!

6. There is always the option of a hybrid service.

At one wedding at the Agora Grand, a buffet was offered for the guests while the head table was served with plated meals. This option improves wedding photos and keeps the bride off her feet during dinner, while saving much of the expense of a plated meal.

Is the elegance of table service worth the added cost? Only you can answer that question. Some brides absolutely want their guests to be served, while others would prefer their guests have the flexibility of a buffet. There is no right or wrong answer, and a luxury wedding does not automatically mean plated meals. What matters most is that you love the food, your guests love the food, and you have the wedding of your dreams!

At the Agora Grand, we work with three fantastic caterers at a variety of price points, both buffets and plated meals. Since we work with clients all over the U.S. in planning their elegant Maine destination wedding, we’re happy to help you choose the best option for your wedding. Just let us know how we can help!