Love Letters from CJ

Which Dinner Service Option Is Best For You?

March 15, 2022
March 15, 2022

love note from CJ Dickson

There are a million little decisions that go into planning a wedding. 

And more often than not, they have to be made in a specific order, since so many of these decisions act as dominos, each decision influencing the outcome of the next. 

Dinner service styles are one of those bigger choices that really do trickle down to so many other details. And when I say “service styles,” what I am talking about is not so much what you are serving as a meal as it is how you are serving it. 

So let’s discuss the pros and cons of the two most popular options for dinner services that we offer at CJ’s Off The Square.



Buffets are a popular way to serve food at a wedding reception. And here in the South, they are probably THE most common way of serving dinner at special occasions like a wedding. 

At CJ’s Off the Square, we offer both traditional, self-service buffet or attended buffets, where our staff serves you, but you still walk through the buffet.

A self-service buffet is included in all of our menu options. This allows you and your guests to walk through the buffet and help yourself to as much or as little of each item as you like. So I love it because if you love sides — like I do (pass the potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts please) — I like larger servings of those while I might skip the protein altogether. On the opposite side of the spectrum, my husband will eat meat for 3 people and have hardly any sides, and be perfectly happy. So self-service makes it really easy for each guest to pick and choose how much they would like and make a plate that is perfect for them. 

The attended buffet has become a popular option as our clients have become more conscious of germs and having many guests handle the same serving utensils. In this style of service, the food is displayed in a similar style to traditional buffet service, but our staff will actually serve each item. Your guests walk through the line and the server will ask them what they would like and make the plate for them. So each guest still gets some control over what and how much food is on the plate, they don’t actually serve themselves. The downside to this option is that it can take a little bit longer for all of your guests to be served. There is also an additional fee for adding staff to serve the meal, though it is less expensive than a seated (or plated) dinner service. 

Seated (or Plated) Dinner Service 


The other option for serving your guests is a seated, or plated meal. 

This style of service is more popular in big cities and the Northeast but is becoming more and more popular here in the Nashville area. 

This is a great option if you prefer a more formal style of dinner service. The easiest way to offer seated dinner service is to work with our chef to create one menu that will be elegantly plated and served to your guests at their table. We start with a salad course, then serve dinner — which is your choice of two proteins and two side items. So everyone will receive the same menu, but it is plated and served to them. They don’t have to get up and walk through a buffet. Everything comes to them. This version of seated dinner service is easy and elegant… my favorite!

Some couples prefer to offer their guests a choice of entree. With this option, there is a bit more work involved. You will need to ask your guests to mark their preference for the entree on an RSVP card or wedding website, keep track of this, and then submit a guest list that lets us know what each guest selected. You will also need to not only assign guests to a table, but also to a specific seat at the table so our servers know what to serve each guest based on what they ordered. 

This isn’t complicated, but it does take more work. 

The downside to seated dinner service is that what is on the plate is all there is. There are no seconds. And you can’t have more sides or more meat …the portions will be the same for every guest. So if the quantity of food and portion control is a priority, buffet service might be the way to go. But if you prefer a more formal service, seated dinner service can’t be beaten. 


Is there a “right” way to serve dinner at my wedding?

If you know me, then you know I don’t believe that there is any single “right” way to do anything as it relates to your wedding. I have clients who would never dream of doing anything but a seated dinner… and even more, can’t understand why everyone doesn’t love a buffet. It really is a matter of personal preference

Buffet dinner service continues to be popular but we are seeing more and more couples choosing seated dinner service. You really can’t go wrong with either option. Consider what fits your style and what your guests might be used to. 

If you’re still feeling unsure, give us a call or shoot us an email. We’d love to brainstorm with you and are happy to share some insight and advice based on your unique circumstances. 

No matter what dinner service style you choose, you are going to love dreaming up a delicious menu with our catering team. We can’t wait to see what you pick out! 


CJ Dickson, Master wedding planner and creative director of CJ's Off the Square