5 Different Wedding Dinner Styles & Which One Is Best For You

Jul 5, 2023

When it comes to serving food at your wedding, there are so many choices…so why not hear ALL your options? Before making a decision on your caterer, be aware of what you are inquiring for. Frequent questions our couples ask regarding wedding reception dinner styles are: “What dinner styles are offered?” “Which is less expensive?” “What are the pros and cons?” “What do guests seem to like better?”

Today, we are going to answer all of these questions as we talk about each dinner service styles. Even uncommon ones you may have never considered. Let’s start with the more, uncommon dinner styles we’ve encountered at P3 Events…

#1: No Dinner, Cake & Champagne

This option is pretty self-explanatory. In place of dinner, the couple opts for a lighter option, which is sweets & drinks. Generally, there is still an open bar or mixed drinks available, but no heavy foods (nothing hot). A dessert table is pretty easy to create, in accompaniment with the champagne toast and cake cutting.

pretty two tier cake that is cream and light blue.

This option makes the most since for elopements, because if you are eloping in the middle of nowhere it is nearly impossible to sustain HOT food. Since our organization, P3 Events, specializes in elopements, we see this often as it is a dinner style. It is easy for entertaining the minimal to no guests who attend.

#2: Heavy Appetizers Instead of Dinner

Picture multi-colored appetizers served on platters and available on chaffing dishes. An appetizer-only reception consists of various, fun bites for guests to consume. For example: sushi, chips & salsa, mini burgers, bruschetta, etc. Depending on your venue, you can get multiple appetizers from anywhere.

This option ALSO works great for elopements because it’s a cost-effective way to feed less guests.

A sushi boat for dinner
passed appetizer serving tray of bruschetta
mini plastic spoon stacked appetizers

And you don’t have to hire multiple companies to do this either! A few examples of caterers who provide this service in Las Vegas are Carson’s Kitchen and Nora’s Italian Cuisine. TIP: Serve your appetizers all night on rotation. Changing them up every hour or so, makes it cost effective.

#3: Buffet Style

Buffet receptions have all of the food out on a long table display and are usually the cheaper option. During dinner, guests are dismissed by table to grab a plate and the staff behind the buffet table serves them. Or can self-serve, depending on what is most affordable for you. It is a more casual form of dining and allow guests to mingle with others at the buffet that they might not otherwise engage with.

Portions of each option are also slightly smaller, but variety is bigger. Couples may choose this option, not only for the price difference to plated dinner, but because they like the idea of guests (and themselves) getting to try a little of everything. Ever go to a wedding with a plated dinner, then feel envious of the person next to you who got something different and it looks and smells more amazing? A buffet is a good way to avoid that.

A carving station at wedding for dinner option

One of the main reasons we see couples choose a more expensive dinner style is because they don’t like the idea of guests having to wait in line. Its true, buffets can sometimes take a little longer for this reason and there are sometimes concerns about accessibility for elderly or disabled guests. However, if what is holding you back is the “unclassy” vibe of buffets, have no fear. We can greatly enhance the buffet presentation by making sure there are pretty table chaffers, dishes, utensil holders, etc.

TIP: When you add a Carving Station to your Buffet, this is the best of both worlds. You save with buffet catering, but get a little more with the amazing cut of meat and service! Add some delicious sides in the chafing dishes and you have a pretty impressive setup for your guests.


#4: Plated Dinner

This style is how people are used to seeing dinner service at wedding receptions. It’s a sit-down type of style; as your guests stay seated at their tables and servers bring the plated meals to them. Dinner that is formally plated is seen as the more proper and traditional option, especially to older guests. We agree, it looks more elegant in the room when there are no lines, and the dish looks more elegant with the proper sides like you would get at a restaurant.

A photo of plated dinner with four guests at intimate las vegas elopement in december. Everything is christmas themed in gold, red, black.

The type of wedding that plated dinner is perfect for is a traditional or modern style. You will see plated dinners at formal events or black tie weddings. Although, plated dinner is more expensive because it requires more staff. A disadvantage is the limited options (example: only 3 entrée options) and that guests have to choose in advance. As the engaged couple, you now have to include meal choice in your RSVP cards so that your venue/caterer knows how much of each entrée to order. (+ asking guests to let you know of any dietary restrictions).

However, there are major perks, such as better control of the timeline. Your coordinator/planner and your vendors will be able to plan EXACT times for toasts, special dances, etc. because all of the guests will remain seated and are served at the same time. Additionally, if you have more than a handful of elderly or handicapped guests, plated dinner will be especially easier for them.

#5: Food Stations

Think TACO BAR. Food stations at weddings are generally fast-paced, places of action where food is pre-plated and ready to go for guests. This dinner option is similar, but different from a buffet because instead of guests serving themselves portions, the catering team pre-plates everything.

pizza station dinner pictured
Taco bar toppings for wedding reception dinner

For example, at P3 Events we see; taco bars, pizza stations, and even a “classed-up” grilled cheese & soup station. Some couples mistake the informality of food stations as a cheesy, low-budget option. So —if you’re afraid that a food station isn’t classy enough for your wedding, try a caterer like Cut & Taste! This company is one of our favorite Las Vegas vendors. They prepare pre-plated, full meals at a station for easy grab-and-go service without the long lines.

green beans and potatoes dinner pictured in serving trays

And that’s all! We hope you enjoyed this advice-based wedding blog for a change. If you like more planning tips like this, check out, ” How to Keep All Your Wedding Shit Together…Besides Making a List.” And if you love real weddings to find design inspiration for your own wedding, check out, “Natasha & Kristian’s Modern Garden Wedding at Midcentury Manor.”

Lastly, tune in to our Instagram @p3events if you want to be notified when we post new BLOGS!



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