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If a wedding catering company decided to moonlight as a band, it would reasonable to assume that they would title their first single “Chicken or Beef?” (Any TV networks out there looking for sitcom ideas?) While there’s nothing wrong with keeping things “chicken or beef”-traditional at your reception, there’s also nothing wrong with switching the dinner format up a bit. There are so many different types of wedding venues, flower arrangements, and dress codes, so don’t be afraid to consider alternative wedding dinner styles as well.

After the venue, the food is one of the biggest decisions and largest investments you’ll make when it comes to planning your wedding. Use the decision of your venue to your advantage when considering what type of dinner style will fit the vibe of your wedding. If you’re planning on a beachy, summer wedding, do you really want a formal, plated-dinner? But if you’ve chosen a very traditional hotel ballroom, you may be tied into a “chicken or beef?” in-house catering situation. As you decide what type of dinner you’d like to provide for your guests, here are five different styles for your to discuss with your partner. Bon appetit!

1. The Plated Dinner, Your Way

As discussed, the plated dinner is the most common style of meal offered at wedding receptions, and it’s pretty formal. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring, or that it has to consist of soggy food. Think of something to make the offerings at your sit-down dinner unique to you and your partner. You could offer some of your favorite dishes, or give guests more interesting options to choose from — an Italian dish, a Mexican dish, and a Szechuan dish? (As long as you’re catering from the right places!) A sit-down dinner means that your guests don’t have to get up to get food, but it is usually the priciest of dinner options because of the staff involvement.

2. The Buffet Dinner

Another common way to serve a reception meal, a buffet line is great for casual weddings and allows your guests to choose exactly what they want. The only bummer is that if the line gets long, or happens to coincide with speeches, things can feel a little tedious. Added bonus: buffets are usually very affordable.

3. The Family Style Dinner

Serving the reception meal family style at each table you seat your guests at has been a more recent trend, but an efficient one. It eliminates the possible frustration of having to wait in line for food, and maximizes the socialization amongst guests at the table. It can feel sloppy, but is perfect for a casual, outdoor wedding. (BBQ and Italian food work especially well for this type of meal.)

4. The Food Station Dinner

You’ve probably experienced food stations at a cocktail-style reception or cocktail hour more often than at more formal wedding dinners, but setting up food stations with substantial food all around the room is actually a great idea if executed well. Rather than having one buffet, offering different cuisines at different stations will keep lines from getting long. Plus, it’s fun for guests to choose what they really want. Pro tip: have stations catered from restaurants you and your partner love or had early dates at.

5. The Food Truck Dinner

Like the food station dinner, but outside. Having food trucks at weddings has become extremely trendy, and can actually make a lot of sense. If you’re hosting a casual reception, or just want to change things up for your guests, hire the best food trucks in town to line up. Keep them around all night, so guests can go back for more! Just make sure you have tables for everyone to eat at.

Written by: Kimmy Foskett

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