March 7, 2024

Buffet vs. Plated Dinner… which costs more and what’s easier?


When it comes to planning your wedding, one of the crucial decisions you'll face is selecting the type of menu that best suits your budget and preferences. The choice between a buffet and a plated dinner can sometimes impact your overall costs, and understanding the factors involved is key to making an informed decision. In this blog, we'll delve into the comparison of buffet and plated dinners, exploring their cost-effectiveness and offering insights into what to consider when crafting your wedding menu.

Buffet vs. Plated Dinner: The Cost Dilemma:

It’s an age-old debate (and our most popular FAQ!) between buffet-style and plated dinners to determine what is most cost effective and also what makes sense when serving large crowds like you’d expect at a wedding reception.

Buffets are generally considered more cost-effective, as they require fewer staff members to serve and allow for a variety of options without the need for individual plate preparation. Plated dinners, on the other hand, may involve higher labor costs and more intricate presentation, potentially leading to a higher overall expense. 

However, this apparent cost disparity isn't the only factor to consider.  

When it comes to crafting a wedding menu, there’s a number of factors worth considering:

Guest Count:

Venue Space:

Culinary Preferences:

Service Style:

Time Constraints:

Aesthetic Appeal:


Then, there’s something to be said for the trend that is resurfacing for family style meal service. “Family Style” service seems to meet in the middle of the buffet and plated dinner debate. Platters of entrees and side dishes come out to each guest table and those seated together will help themselves and pass dishes to each other to share amongst their table. It allows for controlled portions and is also quick to serve. It feels intimate but allows a buffet style variety in the menu offerings. While this could be the ultimate way to go, you’ll also find that there is a mix of expenses for this style service as well. More staff are needed to serve the multiple platters to each table and the caterer will have to plan for the extra platters, utensils etc. for each table. Determining your budget early on is crucial to avoid overspending and unnecessary stress. What is your overall budget for catering services? Don't forget to consider additional costs such as service fees, gratuities, vendor meals and any special dietary requirements. Having a clear budget in mind will help you filter out options that are not financially viable, saving you time and effort during the selection process.

One of the things that is often overlooked is the style of menu you want to serve.  Some entrees are better served in a buffet while others are presented best plated.  You’ll also see fluctuation in budget when you start deciding if you want to serve filet mignon vs. roasted chicken.  Not all proteins, starches and vegetables are created equal when it comes to what fits best with the menu style you like and how it is best prepared and presented.

🌟🌟Pro tip: Roasted Chicken entrees are delightful on a buffet when they can sit and steam in their juices.  On the other hand, a cut of steak is often best served plated for presentation and also more control on the cook and temperature you want.

Making Your Decision:

While the cost is undoubtedly a significant factor, it's crucial to balance your budget considerations with the overall vision you have for your wedding day. Consider your priorities and weigh the pros and cons of each option based on your unique circumstances. Keep in mind that there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer, and what may be cost-effective for one couple might not be for another.
Check out this quick grid we put together to help browse the pros and cons of each!



In the grand scheme of wedding planning, the choice between a buffet and a plated dinner is just one decision. As you navigate the intricate details of your special day, take the time to consider your priorities, preferences, and budget constraints. Whether you opt for the cost-effective and interactive nature of a buffet or the formal elegance of a plated dinner, the most important thing is that your wedding menu reflects the love and joy you share with your partner, creating lasting memories for both you and your guests.

Photography by: 

Ashleigh Grzybowski Photography

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