How to Plan Your Wedding Buffet Menu

Photo: Philip Anema


If there’s one thing your guests will remember most about your wedding — aside from your dress, of course  — it’s the FOOD!

Wondering whether to do a sit-down dinner, have a cocktail reception, or put out a buffet? 

Today we’re talking all about wedding buffet menus. 

Buffets sometimes get a bad rap, as some people regard a sit-down dinner with plated meals a more elegant option. But the truth is that a great buffet-style dinner is something to behold! 

When we see those long serving tables with endless options we feel like Veruca Salt walking into Willy Wonka’s chocolate room — we want it ALL!

Whether you stick to a traditional menu or create a fun themed menu for a casual summer wedding, there are endless ways to turn a wedding buffet into an incredible dining experience! 

But, there are so many types of buffet menus to choose from! 

No problem — choices are good. Let’s dig into to a few of our favorites.

Grab a snack and put on your comfy pants — by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be ready to eat!

From salad to dessert, here’s everything you need to know about creating wedding buffet menus for your big day! 

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The Classic Buffet Menu

You’ve probably been to dozens of buffets at weddings through the years. 

Lots of couples choose them, and one of the reasons why is that buffets are an easy way to serve a lot of guests quickly. 

Bride and wedding guests enjoying a buffet

Photo: Real Bella Weddings

Typically, you see certain foods on a classic buffet menu:

• A chicken option
• Beef
• A pasta dish
• Side dishes (usually one type of veggie and one type of potato)
• Salad
• Dinner rolls

    The good news is that just because these foods are traditional doesn’t mean they have to be boring. You can keep it classic and still get creative with your wedding day reception menu!

    Here’s how you pull off a fabulous classic buffet: 

    Give your guests lots and lots of options while tailoring the menu to suit your style. Remember to include options for vegans and guests with dietary restrictions. 

    So if you’re a salad lover, maybe include two or three salad options. If you love seafood, serve an assortment of sea bass, scallops, crab cakes, and lobster tails. If your favorite meal is fried chicken, serve succulent, crispy, crunchy fried chicken (minus the bucket, of course).  

    The point is this:

    It’s okay to adhere to traditions to make sure everyone leaves with a full belly, but feel free to customize your menu however you want. Remember, it’s YOUR special day! 

    The Themed Buffet Menu

    We love a good theme party — and a themed menu even more

    Whether you’re into a certain type of cuisine or want to highlight the flavors of your heritage and culture, a themed buffet is a fun option.

    Some popular cuisines for themed buffets include:

    • Italian
    • Mexican
    • Mediterranean
    • Southern/BBQ

      Just think of what your Italian buffet could look like:

      A fresh Caprese salad with mozzarella, bruschetta, two or three pastas, filet medallions, chicken piccata, meatballs … hungry yet?

      We also love the idea of an upscale Mexican buffet filled with lime-cilantro rice, carne asada, and citrus-marinated chicken tacos. YUM!

      You can also go with a much more specific theme, like classic New Orleans dishes. A buffet full of crawfish etouffee, spicy shrimp, and grits, with fried oysters as an appetizer. 

      Who wouldn’t love that?

      Whichever cuisine you go with, remember to include options for the vegetarians, pescetarians, and vegans in your life. 

      The more entrees your guests have to choose from, the better your buffet (and your entire wedding!) will be.

      The Food Station Menu

      Wedding guests at night enjoying a food station menu

      Photo: Real Bella Weddings

      More and more couples are choosing to have food bars at their wedding receptions

      Some include one or two during the cocktail hour when hors d’oeuvres are being passed, while others use them in lieu of traditional buffet tables.

      Food stations are FUN. They encourage people to mingle, and they tend to speed up the serving process. Food stations usually lead to even shorter lines than buffet tables! 

      Stations are also great for serving a wide variety of dishes.

      They can be self-serve stations, such as raw bars, salad stations, charcuterie tables, and mashed potato bars. They can be serving stations where chefs cook fresh penne pasta dishes or grill sliders. They can be carving stations where the wait staff slices beef tenderloin or ham. 

      The options are endless!

      If you’re debating between having food stations or a themed menu, guess what? 

      You can have BOTH. 

      It’s easy to turn individual stations into themed stations that all revolve around one type of cuisine. 

      Related: 13 Wedding Tablescapes to Inspire You

      The Dessert Buffet Menu

      Wedding buffet desertsPhoto: Real Bella Weddings

      Whatever type of buffet you choose, no wedding menu is complete without dessert and coffee.

      In addition to a wedding cake, many couples choose to put out a table full of sweet, decadent treats to enjoy after the main course.

      If you do a themed buffet, keep the theme throughout your dessert course. 

      For Italian themed dinners, think mini tiramisus and profiteroles. For Mexican buffets, serve squares of tres leches cakes and dishes of fried ice cream. 

      If you’re doing a Southern theme, think key lime pie, red velvet cupcakes, donuts, and peach cobbler tarts. (Mmm!).

      And even if you don’t have a self-serve wedding dinner, you can still put out dessert stations at the end of the reception. An ice cream sundae bar or a table piled high with cheesecake, cookies, and mini pastries sounds delicious!

      A decadent dessert table will absolutely wow your guests and make your wedding truly memorable. 

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      Okay, our stomachs are officially growling!

      Now that you know what an amazing dinner buffet can look and taste like, keep an open mind when exploring different catering services or taste-testing the menu options provided by your venue. 

      And remember this: 

      Wedding caterers work for you. Instead of focusing on the “buffet options” listed on their website, think of them as mere suggestions! 

      Tell your caterer what you’re looking for and let them know what your wedding theme will be. Most will be more than happy to accommodate and create the wedding buffet of your dreams.

      The more weddings you go to, the more they tend to blend together. 

      But when there’s an amazing array of food? 

      Well, THOSE are the weddings you never forget!

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