Everyone knows one of the best parts of a wedding is the food. As you start to plan the dining portion of your reception, you will need to decide on the type of meal service you would like to offer to your guests: plated, buffet, or other (e.g. food stations, cocktail style, etc.) A plated wedding meal is typically a three-course meal, which includes an appetizer or salad course, a choice of entrée, and a dessert course. Each dish is served to your guests by waitstaff, and the entire experience is pretty formal. This option is usually for couples who prefer a more elegant feel to their big day, although it’s definitely not essential.

If you’re debating whether you should have a plated wedding meal or not, here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

PRO: It elevates the experience while also providing efficiency

If you’re looking to create a more formal mood for your big day, having a plated wedding meal is the way to go. Not to mention it’s efficient. Trained waiting staff will guarantee that your wedding guests are served at the same time, which means there are no long lines at a buffet table, leaving people more time to mingle and enjoy the rest of the night.

The Pros and Cons of Serving a Plated Meal at Your Wedding

CON: There are fewer opportunities to mix with people outside your table

We know — you painstakingly created your table seatings to the best of your ability. But even still, your guests will want to mingle with others. When everyone is stationed at their tables for the entire meal (which can be quite a long time depending on how many courses) this might limit your guests interacting with each other. Basically, if you’re looking for a more casual vibe where everyone gets to chat with everyone whenever they want to, a plated meal likely isn’t the way to go.

PRO: It can be less expensive

If you’re looking to stick to your budget (and who isn’t?) then a plated meal is a good option. This is mostly due to the fact that the caterer (or venue) can provide an exact headcount for guests and therefore can successfully estimate how much food they will need for the evening. On the other hand, when a caterer is estimating the cost for a buffet, they are more likely to overshoot and prepare extra food since they’re assuming (and rightfully so) that guests will serve themselves bigger portions.

The Pros and Cons of Serving a Plated Wedding Meal

CON: The food options can be limited

Typically there is a shorter amount of options (usually two for each course) when it comes to a plated wedding meal. Usually, there is a meat or fish option for the entree, and sometimes a vegetarian option too. When you consider dietary restrictions and people’s picky palettes, your guests might not be super thrilled about your food options. More could wind up in the trash than you (and your wallet) would like.

PRO: Your reception will have more of a schedule

If you’re planning to have multiple events throughout the night that require sufficient time and flow, then a plated meal is the way to go. This way, you know exactly when and how much time is allotted for the meal. There will be no lingering at the buffet, delaying the dance portion of the evening. It’s also a great opportunity to keep people’s attention as the toasts and speeches are performed. Plus, if you like organization, like knowing and planning for when everyone is going to start and finish dinner, this is your ideal option.

The Pros and Cons of Serving a Plated Wedding Meal

CON: Your reception might feel a little too organized

On the flip side, if you’re someone who wants a more relaxed vibe to your night and doesn’t want to feel like you’re on a pressed timeline, then maybe having a buffet or a stand-up cocktail and hors d’oeuvres is the best choice for you.