The Wedding Food Guide: Choosing from Food Trucks, Buffets, or Plated Dinners

When I was planning my big day, I knew our wedding food had to be amazing. I was the executive chef of a farm-to-table restaurant, so my friends and family were eagerly awaiting the wedding menu (when a chef gets married, people expect the food to be spectacular). I knew I wanted the reception to be on a farm with a menu filled with freshly picked vegetables and amazing sauces. I scoured Pinterest boards, going through food bar ideas and trying to think of all the things that would be a crowd-pleasing. In the end, I hired a catering company that specialized in farm fresh wedding food.

For us, a plated dinner with a catering company was the best choice driven by our venue, but there is no one right answer. When considering your menu options, you can go as crazy as an attended raw bar, as simple as plated dinner of grilled cheese and tomato soup, or allow your wedding guests to sample from a buffet of charcuterie platters and cheese stations.

The point is, it’s entirely up to you. No matter what you choose, it will be a beautiful and memorable day. So don’t allow yourself to stress out too much when putting together your wedding menu. Consider the pros and cons of the three most popular wedding food options and choose the one that best fits your reception and your venue: food trucks, buffets, or plated dinners.

1. Food Trucks

At our wedding, we decided against a wedding cake. Neither my husband nor I had any desire to have a traditional cake cutting picture. We’re not really dessert people, either, so we considered skipping it altogether.

A friend suggested we hire the local ice cream food truck, and it was the biggest hit of our night (well, other than the “I do” moment and that whole first dance thing). Our guests loved how casual it was to stroll up to the truck and order a cone of hometown, from-scratch ice cream.

Pro: Great Food Options

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One major benefit of choosing a food truck is the sheer number of options available for your meal. Food trucks generally specialize in one type of cuisine, and they often have ethnic choices that aren’t available from other outlets. From gourmet tacos to vegan specialties, you can be certain that you can find a truck to meet your specific needs.

Pro: Flexibility

Similar to buffets, food trucks also offer a great amount of flexibility. You won’t be stuck sitting down for a plated dinner, allowing you and your guests to socialize and graze on food as you go.

And, if you’re planning to dance the night away, your food truck might be available to offer a late-night snack. It would be a fun surprise for your guests and you can soak up some of that champagne before you head to the honeymoon suite.

Con: Subject to the Weather

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Depending on your venue, you may be able to have the food truck drive right up to the reception. In our case, we were outside on a farm, so the ice cream truck set up underneath our tent (with our host’s approval, of course). In bigger cities, there may be laws or ordinances preventing the trucks from parking in certain areas, so make sure you do your research before signing that contract.

Also be aware that most food trucks can only set up outside, so your food will be subject to the weather even if your reception isn’t. Be prepared with a tent space if you can. If you’re planning a winter wedding, you may want to arrange to have space heaters around the outside of the truck, as well as in the waiting line area.

Pro: Economical Option

Food trucks tend to be an economical option, with prices as low as $10 per person. Unlike buffets, the food in the truck will most likely be made to order. Your guests will appreciate the fresh food but know that this could also mean that they will need to wait longer to receive their meal.

Con: Potential for a Long Wait

A good rule of thumb when it comes to food trucks is to have one truck for every 75 wedding guests. Any more than that, and your guests may be waiting in a very long line to get fed.

2. Buffets

We considered a buffet for our wedding, but we opted for the catering option. It was important to us that the food was as fresh as possible. We did, however, set up a buffet with all of our hors d’oeurves.

This allowed our guests to graze on snacks while we had our pictures taken and participated in a social hour. This also helped us keep costs down by not hiring servers to pass appetizers.

Pro: Less Expensive

Buffets are a great option for keeping costs down because you don’t have to hire as many servers as you do for a plated dinner. The serving platters used for a buffet are also much less expensive than the ones used for plated dinners.

For our appetizer buffet, we served paper plates to reduce the amount of plates we needed to wash. The costs can go up, however, if your guests eat more than expected — with a buffet, your wedding guests can go in for seconds, or even thirds, of anything.

Pro: An Option for Everyone

The best part about the buffet is that it offers an option for everyone. Food trucks have a limited menu, and plated dinners require your guests to decide in advance what they’re having.

With a buffet, you can have a larger variety of foods aimed at guests that may be indecisive or picky eaters. Your guests can go down the line and choose a little of this and a little of that. Buffets also allow you to create food stations, a popular trend in wedding food, like a raw bar, a sushi bar, or a carving station for meat.

Con: Long Lines

Like food trucks, a buffet often turns into a long line of guests waiting to get at your wedding food.

If you have a large number of guests, you may want to consider a T-shaped line that allows guests to serve themselves on both sides of the table. You should also consider having multiple buffet lines if you have more than 100 guests.

3. Plated Dinner

At our wedding, we opted for the plated dinner option. We really wanted a chef that knew farm-to-table food, and we wanted our guests to enjoy the fruits of the venue’s labor. We also wanted to have a long table where all of our guests could sit down as a community and share a meal. Because of these reasons, a plated dinner was our best option for wedding food.

Pro: No Line, No Waiting

The great thing about a plated dinner is that everyone receives their food at the same time. There are no lines for the food truck or the buffet line.

Everyone, including the bride and groom, gets to relax together in between the highly organized reception. You also know exactly how much food to order: since everyone receives one plate of food, there is no guesswork like there is with a buffet.

Pro: Guests Choose Entrees

Unlike a buffet or food truck, plated dinners often require RSVPs with menu options. To save on expenses, it is generally recommended to have two entree choices.

You need to know ahead of time how many guests choose each option, and you will also want to know if any guests need special preparations for dietary restrictions. At my wedding, we kept this as simple as a checkbox for “Yes, we love pork!” or “No, please, I prefer vegetarian.”

Con: Expensive

Of the three options, catering is the most expensive. Not only is all of the food prepared at once, which requires a number of cooks in the kitchen, but servers are needed to bring the food out to each individual. A good rule of thumb is to have one server per table, so you may need to hire additional staff if your wedding is larger than 30.

While there is no right or wrong answer, there is a best choice for your style of wedding. If you were getting married tomorrow, which option would you choose?