Tips For Picking a Dinner Service Style


September 17, 2021
Words by Treasury on the Plaza
Photos courtesy of The Treasury On The Plaza


Food is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of your wedding reception. This event could be considered the most memorable dinner party you’ll ever throw! Your menu should reflect your overall wedding style and who the two of you are as a couple. So, how do you choose the right catering options for your wedding? 

To help with your nerves and uncertainty, The Treasury on The Plaza is sharing expert tips from two of the best wedding caterers in Jacksonville, FL, Chef’s Garden and EFS Catering while also comparing the pros and cons of different meal service styles so you can choose the best fit your wedding vibe and budget.

Above photo courtesy of: The Treasury On The Plaza



When you typically think of a catered wedding reception dinner, the traditional plated sit-down dinner likely comes to mind. For this timeless option, all of your guests are seated and served a formal dinner. Wedding guests are served a minimum of two courses (often a salad and an entree) and if served tableside, a dessert. Pricing for plated sit-down dinners ranges widely depending on what you are serving, but the service costs tend to be a bit higher.


  • Considered the most formal and traditional catering style.
  • Food is served quickly and efficiently.
  • Can be one of the best options if sticking to a strict wedding timeline is important.


  • Meal choices can be more limited.
  • There can be extra legwork required to make sure guests RSVP with their entree selection prior to the event.
  • Additional catering staff is required to provide high-quality service.


  • “A plated dinner requires a little extra legwork from the client and the planners,” says Olivia Gonzalez, Vice President and Marketing Director of EFS Catering. “In this scenario, the client would design the menu with our team, and then send out RSVPs with an entrée icon and placed at the tables for expedient and smooth dinner service.” 
  • Brandy Boulette, Director of Operations for The Treasury Venue Collection, shared that a duet plate can be a great option for couples interested in serving a plated meal. “Duet plates are really popular and a great option for couples who don’t want to worry about collecting meal selections from their guests via RSVPs.” With a duet plate, the couple chooses two protein options to serve on one plate, such as steak and lobster or chicken and salmon. 


During family-style dinner service, dishes are served on large platters for guests to pass around the table, just like you might do at a family dinner. Of the different styles of catering, this is a great option if you are looking for an efficient way to serve food and want to keep guests at their tables, but don’t want something as ‘formal’ as a plated meal. The first course is typically served with about one of two options. The main course includes a few protein options with multiple side items. 


  • Offers a variety of menu choices. 
  • An efficient way to feed guests as it is all served at the same time. 
  • Encourages guest socialization. 


  • Can be more expensive, based on the amount of food and service needed. 
  • Dishes and platters can take up room on the tables and interfere with tablescapes. 
  • Guests have to serve themselves. 

TIP FROM A PRO: “The social aspect of family-style catering is really wonderful, as it encourages guests to speak to each other as they pass the platters around,” Olivia Gonzalez, Vice President and Marketing Director of EFS Catering, told us. “A family-style service can be intimate, formal, and fun and we find guests are often surprised and delighted by it. Family-style service requires slightly more staff than a buffet, but slightly less staff than a plated and is the fastest style of service.” 


If you’re looking to give your guests a variety of cuisines, a buffet-style dinner might be a perfect choice! With this meal service, several long tables are set up so guests can line up to be served. Buffets often have the option to be double-sided or single-sided, depending on how many guests you want to get through the line at one time. Servers are often positioned in certain areas around the buffet to assist with serving food and to keep lines moving quickly and efficiently. They also can assist with “releasing” tables in an organized manner to ensure the line for food doesn’t get too crowded. 


  • Guests can personalize their plates with a variety of options.  
  • Buffet designs can be aesthetically pleasing.  
  • More room on reception tables for elaborate décor and centerpieces.  


  • Can take more time for dinner service to be completed.  
  • Guests must wait in line for their food. 

TIP FROM A PRO: “[Even before COVID] we have always encouraged our weddings and events to have the salad and bread course served first at the tables, and the mains and sides served buffet-style with attendants serving. This allows tables to be released a few at a time, while guests enjoy the first course,” says Elizabeth Van Nuys, Catering and Sales Director at Chef’s Garden. “The attendants serving offers a nice touch of service, but also helps move the guests along the line, our biggest anxiety is seeing buffet lines.” 


Interactive food stations are very similar to a dinner buffet. Often, the stations feature a different menu item or theme, and food is cooked right in front of you! This is a great opportunity to get creative and inject your personality, heritage, or traditions into your dinner menu. Guests can also customize their food choices to suit their dietary needs and tastes. We’ve seen many different unique catering stations like pasta bars, taco bars, mashed potato martini bars, sushi and raw bars, and dessert bars. 


  • Opportunity to create a stunning visual food display.
  • Encourages guest interaction.   
  • Allows guests to personalize their own dish.   


  • Requires extra space.   
  • Can start at a higher price point. 
  • Can take up more time in the wedding timeline as guests visit multiple stations and cooking is done live.    

TIP FROM A PRO: “The best-executed food stations are when there is space in the venue to scatter the stations around. We like to call them ‘strolling stations’ and set them up as mini buffets with their own plates, silverware, and attendant,” Elizabeth Van Nuys, Catering and Sales Director at Chef’s Garden, tells us. “The idea allows less congestion and mobility and encourages guests to go back and forth between eating and dancing while also granting the chance to move around and interact.” 

We hope this catering guide has been helpful in narrowing down which options best fit your wedding reception. At the end of the day, it’s important to choose the meal service that will ensure your day is as streamlined and stress-free as possible. We hope these tips help you find the perfect fit! 

Photo courtesy of: LOS ÉBANO

ABOUT THE TREASURY VENUE COLLECTION: The Treasury Venue Collection represents the most sought-after special event and wedding venues in St. Augustine, Florida – The Treasury on The Plaza, Lightner Museum, and Ximenez-Fatio House. Located in the heart of St. Augustine’s charming downtown historic district, these venues boast the elegance of a historic past while providing the sophistication and luxury of modern conveniences. The Treasury Venue Collection venues are available for weddings, rehearsal dinners, private events, and tours. Learn more at treasuryvenuecollection.com or call 904-217-0077. Follow along on social media @treasuryontheplaza @lightnermuseumevents 

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