Wedding Wednesday: 5 Alternatives to Plated Dinners

This post is part of a series of wedding-inspired posts, to be posted on Wednesdays. Because Wedding Wednesdays! Easy to remember, right? My goal is to post Wedding Wednesday topics every other week, but eventually you’ll get wedding ideas, tips, and stories every week!

If you’ve ever attended a wedding, you’re planning a wedding, or you’re even just a little clued into the whole wedding and catering industry, I’m sure you’re familiar with the classic plated dinner. As guests, we have come to expect three main things on those plates: a meat, a starch, and a vegetable. As brides, I’m sure the decision-making involved – although still stressful – is somewhat simplified with these standard selections. I’m not here to hate on plated dinners. I used to work as a banquet server, so I understand their convenience for the couple and their guests (not convenient if you’re a short, accident-prone server carrying ten plated meals on your shoulder squeezing through 200 people…not raising my hand…).

With plated dinners, your guests can relax in their seats while dinner is served to them, and the overall ambiance and service gives your wedding a formal, elegant style. Multiple courses can be served and cleared efficiently, as opposed to guests getting out of their seats several times. Another benefit to you as a couple is the ability to portion control. You can ensure there’s enough food for each guest because each person has an assigned plate, as opposed to ordering buffet selections and hoping you don’t run out of a certain item (I’m looking at you, people who fill your plates to the brim with mashed potatoes). The food selections for plated dinners can absolutely be delicious and are often dependable; your guests are sure to enjoy their meal, especially because they usually have an option to select their entree preference (steak, chicken, etc.)

However, I do want to offer a few alternatives to the plated dinner, because I think the food is an important part of weddings and often one of the most memorable aspects for your guests. Also because I love food and talking about food and I got to do some research about food for this post.


Heart shaped waffles. Like seriously, could they be any more perfect??

Contrary to nightly tradition, weddings can be also take place in the early morning hours (and can save you money in the process!). In fact, my best friend almost did this for her wedding. I envision a sunrise ceremony outdoors (or a little later for all intents and getting ready purposes), breezy sunshine throughout your entire event, and endless breakfast/brunch options. Think stacks of donuts, waffles stations, omelet fixings, MIMOSAS… I just see so many possibilities for this time frame! Head over to my Instagram for a picture perfect donut idea, and check out this article for more wedding breakfast suggestions!

Family Style


Family style dinner involves large dishes passed around big tables of family and friends, just like you’re right at home. I like the idea of a homestyle feel and bringing two families together over food. My ideal setting for this dinner involves rows and rows of those beautiful harvest tables that have been gaining popularity recently, like these offered by a local vendor. Family style dining could be made extra special by incorporating treasured family china. I recognize this option may not work for every couple and their families, and it will depend on your venue and the size of your guest list, but I think it’d be especially perfect for smaller, outdoor weddings. I haven’t personally been to a wedding where dinner was served this way, so if you have or you had this at your wedding, I’d love to hear your feedback!


Portions not realistic for bigger weddings, obviously.

Buffet style is pretty self-explanatory and fairly common next to the plated dinner. Contrary to plated dinners, guests can choose their preference of entrees, sides, salad dressing, etc. and add as much as they’d like to their plate. You can also choose several options for your guests instead of just one of each food group. However, like I mentioned before, buffet style could pose some issues with portion control and making sure there’s enough food for everyone. But like I also mentioned before, I used to work in a hotel, and they’re really good about ordering extra food to avoid run ins with mashed potato monsters (just kidding, kind of).

Build-Your-Own-___________ Stations

The topping possibilities are literally endless!
The topping possibilities are literally endless!

One way you could take it up a notch with your buffet game is by incorporating build-your-own-(insert food) stations. I’ve seen these at tasting events and other occasions, and I love them so. First of all, the set up is usually pretty stinkin’ cute with all the toppings, plates, and utensils, and the build-your-own options are endless with a little creativity! You could do a baked potato bar, taco bar, made-to-order sushi bar, or macaroni and cheese bar (personal favorite). Stations get your guests moving around the room, so this style is perfect if you’re going for more of a laid-back, cocktail reception. You could also make it easier on guests by setting up general appetizer stations, or go for “around the world” type samplers if you’re feeling adventurous!

Food Trucks


I adore this idea. Why? Because I love food trucks. I love the local authenticity and small business vibes, and the food is usually deliciously crafted with love! Food trucks have definitely become a phenomenon in the last few years, and I have started hearing of them being used at weddings. One consideration is making sure enough food is on hand, and that sufficient food is prepared so guests are able to eat at approximately the same time. I imagine food trucks prepare food like a catering company would – in big batches prior to the event, with equipment to make sure it stays hot or cold – but that they also bring their truck and offer certain selections to be ordered by guests. Not sure of all the logistics, but it’s something I would explore for my own wedding. And if a food truck dinner isn’t your style, you could always bring in an ice cream truck for dessert!

What’s the best wedding food you’ve ever had? I’d love to add more alternatives to this list!

With love and a hungry stomach,


3 thoughts on “Wedding Wednesday: 5 Alternatives to Plated Dinners”

  1. I love the idea of food trucks!! It would be so nice to go a wedding where I could eat something other then a piece of chicken in a white cream sauce! I also think the per person price would be pretty comparable.

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