Is a Buffet Wedding Tacky?

Updated December 3, 2021
Is a Buffet Wedding Tacky?

Brides researching reception style options often come across comments on how tacky a buffet wedding is.

Tacky is a vague concept for sure. Its definition is closely tied to the cultural background and situation.

Your chosen reception style must be appropriate to the size and style of the event. Propriety is never seen as tasteless.

Plated wedding reception is a traditional and elegant option. Event guests don’t have to bother with serving food and replenishing glasses. However, the lack of meal options may be a major con for some attendees.

Buffet-style reception, in turn, may be more appropriate for a small wedding that welcomes an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Buffets offer food diversity which often borders with wastefulness and impose long wait times.

Each wedding dinner style has drawbacks, but do they indicate tackiness? Certainly not. Using logic and following your heart when choosing your reception type is the only right way to do it.

A buffet is an excellent alternative to plated dinner if it’s appropriate to the event, elegantly designed, and well-planned.

Not Formal Enough

A wedding is traditionally viewed as a formal event that requires a formal dinner. Therefore, before speculating on whether a buffet is suitable for a wedding, we should define a formal dinner.

A formal dinner requires attendees to wear evening attire following the black or white-tie dress code. Guests are seated following protocol.

The food must be served from the kitchen by waiters. The guests shouldn’t handle the serving themselves or pass dishes around the table. A hostess is optional but desirable.

A buffet dinner eliminates the need for waiting staff and passes their responsibility on to guests. Thus, a buffet doesn’t align with the formal dinner definition.

For this reason, some people view buffet weddings as tasteless. Such prejudice is extreme among people of older generations.

Wait Time

One of the main concerns regarding buffet-style wedding receptions is the long wait time for guests. The time spent waiting to be called up to the buffet table is always dragging.

If you have a single table and over 100 guests, the last person may only get to their food an hour after the first one. Guests also tend to spend a long time picking a little bit of everything present at the buffet station.

Sure, making your guests suffer, looking with hangry eyes at those who have already reached for their food, is cruel. Some may even say it’s tacky. But, thankfully, this issue is easily solvable.

If you have a large wedding, opt for multiple buffet stations rather than one. This way, guests can separate into smaller groups and get their food much quicker. Queues eliminated; problem solved.

Another way to brighten up the wait is to place some wedding finger food or bread on the guest tables. As a result, people will be less hungry and more patient.

Read more about Wedding Reception: wedding menu, expensive wedding caterer.


Buffet-style wedding receptions are often viewed as tacky because they’re cheaper than a plated dinner. Unfortunately, that’s a common misconception.

Indeed, you can cater a buffet wedding yourself, saving on chef fees. But when you compare buffet and plated receptions catered by professionals, the difference is usually insignificant, or the former turns out even more expensive.

The issue here lies in the difficulty of estimating the necessary food quantity. In the case of a plated dinner, servings are precisely calculated.

Each guest can only eat what’s on their plate. But with a buffet, you can’t make predictions.

Some guests may eat multiple times the expected amount. Others may not eat at all. Plus, buffet tables often comprise numerous appetizers, salads, and snacks that don’t have accurately defined serving sizes.

Due to such complex calculations, most couples choosing a buffet-style wedding order more food than is needed and end up paying extra.

Is unintentional overpaying for buffet tacky? Most likely not. What’s tacky is judging a wedding by the sum spent on its catering.


This justifiable concern arises from the complexity of serving calculation. Some leftovers typically are present even at a plated wedding reception. But with a buffet-style dinner, they’re inevitable. Often in large quantities.

Such wastefulness is completely non-sustainable, which is indeed considered tacky in modern society. However, whether leftovers will become waste depends solely on you.

Food that hasn’t been touched on the buffet table doesn’t have to end up in the trash. You can pack it and take home or give it to your guests. Alternatively, you can donate it. Many people would appreciate such a generous act.

The bottom line? Ordering too much food and throwing it away afterward is undoubtedly tacky. But giving the leftover food to those who need it more is, on the opposite, a graceful move.

If you choose a buffet-style wedding reception, take care of food packaging in advance. Some guests may have to travel far from the venue, and the packaging should keep food at the right temperature.

You should also bear in mind that not everyone is as conscious of waste as you may be. For example, some people take much more food on their plates than they can physically eat. This food can’t be given to other guests afterward.

Food Choice

Buffets offer freedom. A wide variety of available food ensures everyone can find something they like. At plated wedding receptions, in turn, guests don’t always have a choice of food or may have very scarce options.

Asking each guest about their allergies and food preferences is cumbersome, especially if you’ve invited a few hundred people.

At a plated reception, someone may be left hungry if the menu doesn’t feature anything they can eat without hurting their health.

The odds of such occurrence aren’t that low, even if you offer a few meal options to choose from. You’d be surprised how many allergies a single person can have.

Being considerate to the preferences and health conditions of others is the exact opposite of tacky.

If you wish to display yourself as classy, you should inquire each guest individually or offer them multiple food options. Only serving meals you like the best is insensitive, even if it’s your special day.

A point to note is that while a buffet wedding dinner is remarkable for its diversity, it shouldn’t be stuffy.

The food must follow the overall wedding style or theme. For example, mixing mac and cheese with oysters is odd unless these are your two favorite foods.

Help Socialize

At plated wedding receptions, guests tend to separate into groups. Seating is critical here.

If someone is seated among unfamiliar people at a plated dinner, they may feel uncomfortable and not even have a chance to change the location.

Buffet weddings, in turn, help socializing. Guests can meet and talk to each other at the buffet table. Plus, a buffet wedding lowers the formality degree, and people feel freer to move around or acquire new connections.

Is socializing freely at a wedding party tacky? I don’t think so. Communicating with others is natural, and a wedding is a happy day when everyone would enjoy their time.

But should you choose a buffet wedding to make the event more fun? It depends on how formal you want your wedding to be.

If you have a pre-defined entertainment program and don’t want anything too crazy, a plated dinner may be a better choice.

But if your main goal is for everyone to have a perfect time, a buffet reception is at least worth your consideration.

Can Be Luxurious

Buffets are a common choice for self-cater weddings or in cases when the budget is tight.

Unfortunately, this correlation has led to a common perception of buffets being cheap and tasteless. However, a buffet can beat any plated dinner in opulence if you want it to.

A luxurious wedding buffet can consist of a fresh oyster bar, black caviar, Cristal champagne, and truffle pasta. But, of course, the degree of lavishness is limited only by your budget.

To make a wedding buffet elegant, consider hiring an event planner and professional catering.

Industry experts will ensure your luxurious wedding buffet doesn’t seem over the top (which is tacky, too) and complies with the highest quality standards.

The food presentation plays an essential role in the guest’s perception, too. A plated dinner can be served sloppy, while a buffet can be truly exquisite.

If your budget isn’t tight, don’t save on a professional designer and decorator, no matter which dinner style you go for.

Even more down-to-earth buffets, however, don’t imply anything about your taste. There’s nothing wrong with staying within your budget. What’s undoubtedly wrong is starting your family life from debt.

Informal & Relaxed

While some people consider buffets not formal enough for a wedding, others may be looking for a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Tastelessness is defined by something being inappropriate in a specific situation.

For example, if you’re organizing a small country-style wedding, a fine plated dinner may seem overly posh. So instead, a buffet or family-style wedding dinner is a more natural choice.

It’s crucial to consider who will attend the wedding, too. Your close friends and immediate family are likely looking forward to having a good time, delicious food, and socializing.

A buffet wedding reception offers precisely that. However, some attendees who aren’t close to you may frown upon such informality and even consider it disrespectful to tradition.

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