One of the keys to planning a great reception meal is to know your audience. If you travel in
circles where peoples' tastes are more refined (or at least they like to act like they are refined) a more formal dinner will be anticipated. If your guests tend to be more middle class or blue collar, country style might be the ticket. Finally, if you want to go very casual, a buffet is not a bad choice. Let's talk a little about each, starting with my favorite:
A typical country style meal consists of platters of food at the table, with the guests serving themselves. Usually two or three meats are served with a variety of side dishes. This can vary from the ultra traditional baked/broasted chicken, beef tips in gravy and baked fish to a more upscale fare.
The upside to this style of dining is it fosters conversation, “please pass the potatoes," offer foods people know and are comfortable with. This style of dining tends to be more laid back. The downside is that not everyone is
comfortable sharing off the same platter or having people see what they grab to eat.
A country style dinner is perfect to give your guests variety at a good price.
- If there will be children attending, think about offering child friendly food like burgers or hot dogs....parents love it if they don't have to fight with their kids to get them to eat adult food.
- If you are having an open bar, a nice touch would be to have servers take drink orders
- When doing a sit down dinner there is nothing wrong with reminding your guest that tipping is not expected, but if they find a wait
Buffet style can range from inexpensive country style food to upscale and chic. A buffet style dinner can be great when you want to put more emphasis on the dance and music than on the dinner.
Persons who like buffets like them for the variety, people who do not it's usually because they don't want to stand in line or have their table called to go up while everyone is watching. In general I would recommend a buffet if you
are trying to keep costs down or if you are looking to put less emphasis on the meal and more on the rest of the reception.
Sit Down or Formal:
I prefer the term sit down too formal because this can range from a very informal setting too elegantly formal. Most of the time this consists of the guests being served by waiters and/or waitresses, usually with a choice of two different dishes. The food can range from very simple to very elegant dishes.
One thing to keep in mind, no matter who your typical group of friends are, you will find quite a few people who are not completely comfortable in a formal situation. From not knowing exactly which fork to use, too not quite understanding what fancy food is on the plate in front of them, some people will be out of place. Despite that, sometimes these are the people who look forward to a chance at formal dining the most...they like the new experiences.
No matter which style you choose...here are a few suggestions to make the dinner a hit:
1. If children will be attending, think about offering child friendly food like burgers or hot dogs....parents love it if they don't have to fight with their kids to get them to eat adult food.
2. If you are having an open bar, a nice touch might be to have servers take drink orders
3. When doing a sit down dinner there is nothing wrong with reminding your guests that tipping is not expected, but if they find a wait person who gives them exceptional service there is nothing wrong with leaving a tip. This could be written on a menu, a table tent or just mentioned...see our blog on TIPPING
4. Serving even an inexpensive wine can add nice ambiance to the evening
5. If you are using a seating chart, talk to the venue and find out which tables typically get served first. Our recommendation is that you put families with children or elderly people by these tables...typically your younger crowd can be more patient in waiting on service.