Food Fight: Buffet Reception or Sit-Down Dinner?

2014 Mar 21 - by dulhan
A wedding reception is arguably the best part of the ceremony - everybody loves food and cake! With the delicious varieties of Indian foods available, the fun part of planning a reception dinner is choosing between the palak paneer or the paneer makhani (I know, it's a toughie!)

{via Victoria & Mandeep's Buccolic Swedish Wedding}

Deciding whether you want to do a convenient buffet-style dinner, where guests get up and serve themselves, or a sit-down multi-course meal is the first step before any major food commitments. And since I love food debates and pro-con lists, here is an evaluation of buffet vs. sit-down dinners to help you plan your wedding reception!





More choices

{via Modern Luxury Weddings Show at The Ritz Carlton}

If you're offering your guests a buffet-style dinner, you can offer more dishes since you don't have to stage them into courses. People can go grab whatever they want - from an array of curries and rice or even Western foods! The extra-pro on this list is the dessert aspect: instead of serving just one dessert course, you can have a dessert bar for sundaes, waffles, chocolate, or anything your sweet tooth desires.

You can always go for the best of both worlds by offering a sit-down dinner and then a dessert buffet while the dance floor is open - it's a great way to loosen up the formality of a reception!


A buffet would be the cheaper option, if only because you wouldn't have to hire waiting staff to serve the meal. Also, it would be a lot less utensils because people would simple heap up their servings into a few plates instead of needing new ones for each course of the meal.


{via Abby's Wedding Hindsights}

Because people can finish food at their own leisure (or eat as quickly as they like!), you won't have to monitor or control your dinner time. You can get up and chat with all your guests, and let them mingle amongst each other in a less formal setting. 




Let's face it - a buffet is just messier by nature! Guest will be piling their plates high with all the yummy food options, and there's bound to be spillage. Also, serving yourself can be kind of a disaster when the food is soupy (like dal). Throw in some children in the mix, and prepare yourself for some necessary cleanup at/around the buffet table.

Less Formal

Some people prefer a formal dinner because it gives an elegant air about the whole wedding. A buffet is pretty casual - something you would expect when you have a SuperBowl party, not a fancy dinner party. If you want your wedding to give off a debonair vibe, opt for a formal sit-down dinner instead.

Difficult to plan

{via Victoria & Mandeep's Buccolic Swedish Wedding}

It can be difficult to organize speeches, toasts, and events during dinner if you're offering a buffet. Because people are consuming each course at their own leisure, there isn't really a "perfect" time to call everyone to quiet down and listen to the speaker. If you want a speech/toast period built-in to your reception, maybe make sure everyone has finished eating their main course first or choose a sit-down dinner.


Sit-Down Dinner




{via Pakistani American Clearwater Wedding}

The biggest pro to a sit-down dinner is the formal presentation of it - it just looks so fabulous and put-together! If you want to impress your guests with your coordination skills, go for a well-planned sit-down reception dinner complete with fancy centerpieces and place cards for your guests.

This way, you can organize each table by guests who know each other/would get along well together. It's more work, but it sure is worth the beautiful results!

(Of course, you can always dress up a buffet setting with pretty name cards to label the foods and eye-catching table decorations!)


{via Tanya and Saurabh's Summer Sikh Wedding}

A sit-down dinner is more interactive because everyone is eating at once, so they can talk to each other at the table without being concerned about being rude to get up for more food. There'd be less moving about and more ease of conversation when the food is being served by waiters.

Better for large parties

{via Victoria & Mandeep's Buccolic Swedish Wedding}

The control aspect of a sit-down dinner is pretty powerful, especially if you have a lot of wedding guests (as Indian weddings tend to). It's a great tool to organize around speeches and toasts (and dances, at an Indian wedding!) You can stage each course to take up a certain period of time so you'll know exactly when the reception would begin/end. This can also come in handy if you've rented the space for only a certain period of time, or if you want to dedicate more time to an open-space dance floor.

Larger parties are difficult to serve via a buffet since it might get super messy and the lines for food would get too long. Sit-down dinners include extra help in the form of a waiting staff to make sure all your guests are served in a timely manner!



Fewer food options

{via The Chaat Challenge: How To Serve Street Foods at Your Wedding}

You'll definitely have to compromise on the diversity of the food served if you're choosing a sit-down dinner. Because you can only have a certain amount of courses, you can't offer the wide range of dals and subzis that you otherwise might want your guests to have. If you wanted a fusion meal, you would have to pick and choose carefully instead of just offering a spread.


{via Nadia and Adil's Flower-filled Wedding}

Sit-down dinners can be quite inflexible since guests are forced to wait for each course to come to them, and they might get bored in between (especially children). The atmosphere can be a bit stuffy, and the bride and groom can't mingle with their guests as easily.

Costs more

A sit-down dinner definitely costs more, as it requires a waiting staff and a larger clean-up crew for all those extra plates and utensils. It's something to consider if you want to cut costs somewhere!

Overall, there are many pros and cons to both buffets and sit-down dinners. Personally, I would say the decision comes down to food. If you're serving an elaborate selection of daals and subzis, it might be easier to let your guests get up and fill their plates to their hearts' content. However, if you value the perfectly coordinated and smaller menu of non-Indian foods (think, to eat with a fork and knife), then maybe a sit-down setting is best.

No matter what you choose, the reception will be your own exciting experience - as long as the food is good, of course.