Welcome to the sixth post in The Casual Gourmet’s series of tips for newly engaged brides. You can view all the tips (once published) here or learn more about the author, Olive Chase (THE Cape Cod wedding expert) here. Check back often for more tips!

The dinner portion of your wedding is the heart of your event. Choosing the right style of dinner service to fit your personality and budget not only helps you bring a cohesive look to your wedding but it also might help keep your budget on track.

Many couples need to visualize what the table setups will look like before hand to help determine the kind of dinner service they would like to pick. If you want to see charger plates and formal settings on the guest tables then maybe a station reception is not your best choice. If you are looking to have a more free flowing event without everyone sitting down, maybe your best choice would not be a plated meal option.

There are three typical choices for your dinner service and if you’re on Cape Cod, a fourth.

Plated Meal – The plated meal option provides a more formal setting for your guests to enjoy their dinner. It also allows for a more structured event since everyone will eat at the same allowing for a timeline. Each table is setup with a full table setting including water goblets, wine glasses and even a champagne glass for the toast if you choose. The meal is brought out by servers and put down in front of your guests table by table guided by a Captain. This format of serving is on the more expensive side of the pricing spectrum since it requires many more servers in order to help serve your guests in a timely fashion. This options also lends itself to be most appropriate if you wish to offer your guests a choice between entrees.
(Steve Haines pic)

Buffet Option – You might not like the formal setting of a plated dinner but you might like a simple abundant buffet option. A buffet dinner is sometimes classified as the “cost effective” option since there is a savings associated with cutting the amount of servers needed to help serve the meal. Tables can be formally set with flatware and glassware and can also include the champagne glass if you choose to. Once dinner is ready, guests would be asked to come up to the buffet line table by table. Many buffet lines are double sided which provides a more efficient and time reducing manner for your guests to get their meal.

Action Stations – Are you looking for a more unstructured feel to the evening? If so then your guests might enjoy an station event where various stations are scattered throughout the event to include menu items such as Sliders and Fries, Baja Tacos or even Short Pates. Many of these stations would have someone making the sliders and fries to order or even a pasta plate with ingredients of your choice. This option provides your guests the option to mix and mingle throughout the night without having to feel like they are required to sit in a designated seat and follow a designated timeline. A significant detail to remember when choosing a station party is that many of the formal introductions, cutting of the cake and other wedding staples are usually thrown out when choosing an action station option. Guests do not have assigned seating and many of the times the couple can get away with not providing seating for everyone. This is done on purpose to encourage guests to keep moving and mingling through out the night.

Cape Cod Clambake – Being from Cape Cod, we get many couples looking to treat their out of town guests to an authentic Cape Cod Clambake. Seafood for a clambake is usually cooked in a rig along with some seaweed and steamed before being served. Clambakes can be served on a buffet or even with a plated meal option. When choosing a clambake option note that the plates are a little bigger to help accommodate a lobster as well as other large food items.

When looking a caterer it is very important to keep in mind the associated costs of the meal and style you have chosen. For many couples it is important to know that they will be provided with locally grown ingredients although it might have a premium cost attached to it. You also want to make sure that the caterer or venue space can execute an adequate plan for the meal and dinner service you have in mind along with providing you a detailed cost list associated with the dinner option you have chosen. You don’t want to be hit with unexpected costs a few weeks before the wedding because the caterer or venue you have chosen does not have the necessary serving trays or serving utensils needed for your event.