A plated wedding meal typically consists of three courses: an appetizer or salad course, a choice of entrée, and a desert course, and each dish is served to all of your guests by trained waitstaff. The degree of formality can vary; for example, couples looking for the most elegant experience might choose white glove service. Those looking for something slightly less formal might opt to have servers bring out plated dishes table by table. Regardless of how, exactly, you choose to have your plated meals served to your guests, there are pros and cons to this style of wedding meal to consider, which experts break down here.
Pro: It will increase the formality and efficiency of your reception.
Tommy Waters, event coordinator at The Renaissance, says that plated meal services are perfect for formal receptions since it's a more elevated, elegant experience. What's more, having trained waitstaff deliver plated meals straight to your guests guarantees that everyone is served quickly. While you might be treating everyone to multiple courses, odds are they'll still finish the meal faster than if everyone had to wait in line at the buffet. This means that there's more time for dancing and mingling.
Con: Guests have fewer opportunities for interaction.
Margot Jones, owner of Purple Onion Catering Co., says that efficiency is all well and good, but there are other things to consider when having everyone stationed at their tables throughout the entire meal. "Socially, a sit-down dinner may limit your guests from freely interacting with others," she explains, and this is especially true of friends or relatives who are seated at different tables. If you are hoping to achieve a more informal vibe, this type of meal service may feel to stuffy for your group.
Pro: It's the best way to ensure everyone eats at the same time.
There are additional perks to the plated meal, Jones explains. "For one, it guarantees that your guests will all be served at the same time. It's also a great strategy to have plated courses when you have a variety of wedding reception events occurring, such as speeches and dances, as you can schedule your courses around those events."
Con: Guest may need to choose their meal when they RSVP.
Depending on your caterer, you may need to let them know who will be eating what ahead of the wedding. In order to get this information, you'll need your guests to send in their meal choices with their RSVP—and the card where they'll write that information is an added cost you'll need to keep in mind, Waters says. "You will need the proper RSVP card in your invitation for your guests to fill out. You will also need to add escort cards or place cards," Waters says, as these identify to the waitstaff which meal every guest has selected.
Pro: Plated meals could save you money.
Jones goes on to add that, in many cases, a plated meal can come with a lower price tag. "It may shock some to learn that a plated dinner can actually be the most cost-effective option between plated, buffet, and family-style meals." This is due in part to the fact that your caterer will have exact numbers, and will not need to rely on estimating portions. "Similarly, your rentals and place settings may not need to be as complex as other meal styles, reducing your rental costs."