A Guide to Wedding Reception Meal Styles

Planning a wedding requires a lot of work, and the bride and groom put countless hours into selecting everything from their outfits to the décor. Guests are sure to love all of these little details, but most of them won’t remember these things years down the line. Wedding guests likely won’t remember what the accent color was or what songs were played. However, one thing guests (and our wedding photographers) always remember is the food!


Food plays such an important role at most weddings. The great news is that Toronto has tons of wonderful options. Deciding on which style of reception meal is right for your wedding can be tricky. Here is a guide to all of the different meal options for a wedding reception!



A seated, plated dinner is the most traditional wedding reception meal option. This is when guests are seated and served dinner, which is usually three courses: an appetizer, an entrée, and dessert. Caterers usually provide two to three entrée choices, which guests select beforehand on the RSVP card. If you opt for a seated meal just remember to order a few extras for your vendors, like your wedding photographer!


The great thing about a seated meal is that there is limited food waste, everyone eats at the same time, and wedding activities such as toasts and dances can easily be spread out between courses. The downside is that this style requires servers, which ups the cost, and food options are limited, which can be an issue if people have food allergies or dietary restrictions.



A buffet-style wedding meal is a little more casual than a formal sit down. However, this style gives your guests tons of yummy options to choose from. A buffet features long tables full of all of the different options presented in a line. There can be serves behind to help serve and describe each dish, or guests can serve themselves. For larger weddings, it’s not uncommon to have two buffet lines to keep things moving.


The pros of a buffet are that they are usually cheaper due to needing less staff, guests have more choices, which can be great for those with allergies or restrictions, and it allows guests to mingle and interact more easily. The cons of buffets are that people have to wait in line, it can read as less elegant, and it will require more food since people tend to eat more when they serve themselves.



If you’re a foodie couple, consider opting for food stations. This style of meal has become more popular in recent years, as it combines the best parts of plated and buffet meals. The concept is that each food type is broken up by category at an individual station. For example, having a carving station for meat, a salad station, a dessert station, etc. Some people use stations to incorporate a food theme such as around the world.


The good thing about station-style meals is the creativity and presentation it allows. Guests will also get the chance to appreciate a wide variety of foods, and everyone will love the interactive element. It also spreads the guests out so they’re not waiting in line for long like with a buffet. The downside is that stations require more space, the costs are greater, and it can take up more time as people wander about mingling and finding what they want to eat.



Our wedding photographers have noticed more weddings opting for family-style meals lately. Similar to a plated-meal, a family-style reception meal is when large portions of the food are placed on each table so that guests can serve themselves. This style is popular at Asian and Indian weddings, and it catching on at Western weddings.


Family-style meals have a homey feeling to them and are really great at getting guests to mingle. Guests can help themselves to whatever they like, and it tends to be more efficient. The downside is that this style of meal requires ample space on the dinner table and can require additional food to make sure everyone is getting what they want. It can also be a bit awkward for some guests, especially if they don’t know the other people well.



A cocktail style menu has been a rising trend in recent years. Instead of giving guests a full meal, they’re served hors d’oeuvres. These can be hot and/or cold. The hors d’oeuvres can either be passed around by servers or stationary so guests can serve themselves. This creates a casual atmosphere that really encourages guests to mingle and chat.


This is a good meal option for smaller venues. It also allows the bride and groom to more easily circulate with their guests. The costs tend to be much more affordable as well. There are a few negatives to a cocktail style reception though. Many guests expect a full meal at a wedding, so be sure to warn them ahead of time. It can also read a little cheap. While food costs might drop, guests will likely drink more alcohol. A cocktail reception also makes it harder to pace wedding events such as the first dance, cake cutting, etc.


Other Meal Options


Food Trucks: This is a fun and trendy option for outdoor wedding receptions. This is a fun, non-traditional meal option.


Breakfast or Luncheon: If you’re not getting married in the evening, consider a breakfast or lunchtime wedding reception.


Dessert: Weddings cakes are great, but if you want to give your guests more dessert options such as cupcakes, chocolate fountains, and cookies consider a dessert bar.


If you’re looking for a Toronto wedding photographer, contact AGI Studio today! Whatever style of meal you decide on, we’d love to capture your special day.



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