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Pros and Cons of Family Style Wedding Dinner vs. Plated

Ask a Savvy Bride: The Plated or Family-Style Dinner Debate

Are you planning or attending a wedding and need help with a finance or etiquette question? Ask for help from our Savvy Bride in our Ask Savvy group.

Dear Savvy,

My fiancé and I can't seem to agree on how we want to serve dinner at our wedding. I'm leaning toward a traditional plated sit down dinner, but he's pushing for family style. What are the pros and cons to each, cost- and experience-wise, that we should be considering?

To see the Savvy Bride's advice, read on.

Savvy Bride says:

The first things I'd consider are cost and the overall tone of your wedding. Once you find your caterer ask for the cost of each, then weigh them side by side. If you're going the fancy route, family style might look a little out of place just as a plated meal would feel awkward at a very casual affair.


One pro of having a plated dinner is that everyone at your table gets their food at the same time. It's elegant, the portions are controlled for you, and it's more traditional. The cons, however, are that guests can't easily get seconds and one table might be finished eating before a nearby table even gets served, which can be pretty irritating, especially if you're the table waiting!

As for family style, let's start with the cons. Having a large platter of food placed in the center of the table can get messy, the plates are difficult to pass, it can be hard to serve, and there could end up being a lot of wasted food. With that said, if you're looking for a relaxed, casual environment, where guests have more control over their meals and maybe even some leftovers, family style might just be perfect for you!

On a personal note, when I was trying to make this exact decision, my caterer told me it was going to be more expensive to serve family style because of the extra amount of food they needed to make and the labor of wait staff serving off the main platters on the table (they were opposed to self serve), so be sure to ask questions regarding the cost comparison.

This is a very personal decision that will set the tone of the meal, so weigh your options and hopefully you can agree on what's best for you and your guests. Good luck!

Ask anything budget-, etiquette-, or planning-related — well, almost anything — by posting your questions in the Ask Savvy group, and I'll find the right expert to help you out.

Source: Flickr User bensonkua

Blue-Sky-Productions Blue-Sky-Productions 6 years
Family-style and plated service should be really only be considered if the couple is deciding on more formal vs casual. Is this a more intimate affair where most people know one another, or a larger wedding with a lot of new faces? You may need to take the "awkward" factor into account as well. Additionally, most people don't realize that family-style does often take the same amount of staff as plated to serve and remove the platters/bowls, and they don't take into consideration the amount of table room needed in order to provide proper room for the serving dishes and not impinge on the centerpiece design. You may have to rent larger rounds, and therefore increase costs. If you are truly looking for cost comparisons, buffet needs to be one of those options.
amber512 amber512 6 years
We had family style dining, but then we also didn't have assigned seats at the tables. People just went up and got food and then sat wherever they wanted.
danakscully64 danakscully64 7 years
This is something I'm thinking about now too. Typically you will also have more catering employees there if the food is being served at the table. You also have more people to tip. It really depends on the type of wedding you're having and what the prices are like though. Some places might charge more for one, another place might charge more for the other. The type of food you're serving is also something to factor in.
snarkypants snarkypants 7 years
if price isn't an issue, i'd go with plated dinners. family style can sometimes be a bit awkward, especially for the guests who are seated with people they don't know.
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