How to Choose Which Wedding Catering Style is Right For You

wedding food
Photo: Adam & Becca

Start by thinking about your overall aesthetic. "Sometimes decisions that you've already made, like your venue, dress, and decor, can lend themselves to helping you make other wedding planning decisions. Hosting your wedding at an intimate garden setting with less than 50 people? A large buffet likely doesn't make sense here and would feel clunky. Want a coastal-casual beach wedding without any formal vibes? A multi-course plated meal may not make sense for your vision. Consider the choices you've already made for your wedding day, and see if there are any natural ways to cross some options off the list to help narrow down the decision making process." —Rob Pausmith, Founder, Pausmith Group

Discuss the pros and cons with your caterer. "Every catering style comes with pros and cons. Family-style is more communal but requires more space on dining tables and requires food selections that can be served at room temperature. You may feel that a plated dinner feels restrictive or stuffy, but it can also provide some cost savings. And a cocktail-style reception is super fun and creative but may not resonate with all of your guests. Work closely with your caterer to discuss all of the pros and cons to each style of meal before you commit.” —Mandy Connor, Owner, Hummingbird Events & Design

wedding food
Photo: Adam & Becca

Consider what your dream wedding meal would look like. "Another great way to help determine which catering style is best for you is to ask yourself and your partner what your ideal wedding meal would look like. Something classic, like a surf and turf combo of filet mignon and a lobster tail served up with roasted asparagus and herby mashed potatoes? A plated dinner may be the perfect fit for you! Or maybe you're having trouble deciding between a few of your favorite dishes, in which case you may want to offer a buffet of selections to choose from. Perhaps you're thinking something outside the box, like your favorite comfort foods of macaroni and cheese and smash burgers, would be the perfect thing to dine on after saying "I do." In that case, a few key food stations might work best for you and your guests! Figuring out a general idea of the types of dishes you'd be most interested in serving can help determine which catering style will mesh best with your menu." —Pausmith

Consider your budget. "Budget is always an essential factor when planning a wedding. Plated meals can often be more costly due to the need for more wait staff to serve guests individually, but they can also help control portion sizes and food waste as compared to buffets or family-style meal services." —Caleb Blackerby, CEO, Fitzgerald Hospitality Group

wedding food
Photo: Pharris Photos

Evaluate the menu. "Your chosen cuisine can — and should — influence the service style. Some dishes, like a filet, are best served plated. On the other hand, a more laid-back local BBQ menu is a great buffet option." —Blackerby

Think about venue constraints. "It's also important to consider your venue's size and layout. Plated dinners require more space for guests to sit and for wait staff to navigate, while buffets need ample room for tables and lines for guests." —Blackerby

wedding food
Photo: Pausmith Group

Consider guest preferences. "Think about your guests' preferences and comfort. If you have a lot of health-conscious guests or guests with dietary restrictions, a buffet might be a good choice as it can offer more variety and choices." —Blackerby

Add a personal touch. "Most importantly, your wedding should reflect you and your partner's style. Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to choosing your wedding catering style. The important thing is to ensure it aligns with your vision and provides an exceptional guest experience, which is exactly what we strive for at Fitzgerald Hospitality Group. When planning your Indianapolis wedding with us, we'll guide you through every step of the way, ensuring your day is memorable for all the right reasons. At FHG, we offer the complete package — local food options, signature cocktails, and a seamless experience. No matter your decision, we're here to make your day one-of-a-kind. Let's craft an unforgettable wedding together!" —Blackerby

wedding signature cocktail
Photo: Shannon Grant Photography via Hummingbird Events & Design