Family style dinners are gaining in popularity for events of all kinds, weddings included. This type of dinner service is a real crowd pleaser – with people being able to eat communally and interact with their own tables without getting up and going to a buffet, but still being able to serve themselves. But since this type of service is still relatively new in some areas, here is our best advice for how to ensure it works for your event seamlessly.
Read the fine print.
Make sure you are working with your caterer on all the fine print involved with this type of service – the costs for staffing, that they have included the platters needed (or it will be a real pain + added cost to yourself, trust me), and any and all costs specific to this service. Don’t wait until it’s time to finalize your menu – these are things to look for before booking.
Yes, you should still do appetizers.
Some people have asked if you would still do appetizers with family style. The short answer: Yes. I think without a little food during cocktail hour people get antsy, drink a little too much and sometimes waste food during dinner by having eyes bigger than their stomachs.
Yes, you will likely still need a seating chart.
And keeping with this theme, I strongly advise assigned seating for all food service types. Even with a little something that seems a little more casual like Family Style, all the pros of assigned seating are still valid, may even more so.
Same goes for menus.
Menus are also strongly advised for Family Style dinners, for a few reasons: people did not choose entrees with their rsvp’s, everyone needs to know what is found in their food for possible allergies, etc., and it gets people talking about the food at their tables and builds excitement. Menus can be individual on each setting or for the table.
Provide your caterer (or work with your planner to do so) with a seating chart marked with any ‘special’ meals: vegans, major allergies, kids meals, etc. so these can be served directly to these guests if their meals will be different and it will drastically cut down on confusion.
Don’t forget the logistics of your tables!
Think about where all those platters of food will go. Family style meals involve many additional plates per table – there has to be room for them.
Usually, having bud or smaller vase centerpieces, and wider kings width for long tables will accomplish the task of leaving lots of blank space for platters on long tables. Garlands are not typically great for this style of service – but when we had a bride last year who really still wanted the garland look, we came up with the idea below of using clear acrylic stands for the platters over the garland.