Choosing your Reception’s Catering style in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware

Cindy Patrick Photography

One of the biggest expenses you will have for your wedding is the catering costs.  There are a few options that you can choose from when thinking about serving food to your guests. Each style comes with pros and cons and some choices depend on your budget. Here is some information on reception styles for you to consider:

A Sit Down Plated Dinner:

A plated, sit-down dinner is considered the most traditional and formal option for a reception. Each guest is individually served a plated meal that consists of three courses: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Caterers will usually give guests a choice of two (or three) entrées, which they select beforehand. The advantages of this style is that all guests get their food at the same time. Since the guest stay seated, you can spread out the reception activities, such as dances and toasts, between each course. It is nice for the guests not to have to juggle plates and stand in line for their food. The Sit down dinner requires more staffing so the cost may be higher. Since there are only two or three choices, you might have guests who don’t like any of the entrées you selected. You must include a meal selection card with your invitations and keep track of your guests’ selections to give to the caterer a few days prior to the wedding date. When choosing this type of meal, be sure to choose a chicken, beef and seafood entrée so that you are considering all your guests tastes.


A large buffet line is set up in the room with servers stationed behind the buffet table serving each dish. A buffet-style reception is usually considered the most casual style of reception. Fewer servers are needed with a buffet reception, which means you may save some money on your catering costs. Buffets provide guests with a wide variety of choices, which is helpful since many people have so many types of allergies and dietary restrictions. This service style also promotes mingling and interacting among guests. Disadvantages are that each table will have to wait their turn to head to the buffet, it may take a while for all guests to receive their food and guests might have to stand in line waiting for their food. Guests must carry and juggle their plates, which some people don’t like to do when they are dressed up. Many caterers offer a modified buffet plan where they will serve the salad.

Food Stations

A station-style reception is one of the newest trends in reception styles.  The food is spread out among different “stations” throughout the reception space. For example, there may be one area that is a carving station, a raw bar, a tapas station, a dessert station, and so forth. The portions served at each station are typically on the smaller side, usually requiring just two or three bites to finish. Food Stations allow for Creative presentations with a wide variety of dishes and an interactive element. Since the stations are spread out throughout the space, guests won’t have to wait in line. You can add cook-to-order stations where guests can request exactly how they would like their dish prepared. Your reception site will need ample room to accommodate the extra space food stations require. You will also need more chefs if you have interactive stations (i.e. pasta, carving stations, etc.), adding to your catering bill.  Some couples opt for food stations at the cocktail reception instead of the main meal.

Finding the right wedding venues in Philadelphia and New Jersey is an awesome task with so many to choose from.  One of the best ways to see a venue is to attend a Philadelphia or New Jersey Bridal Show.  Here you can see the room set up, meet their preferred vendors and taste the food.  You can also enjoy a day out with your groom and bridal party, win prizes and listen to dj’s before you hire them.    Check our bridal show calendar for upcoming shows.