A served and seated dinner provides an entirely different event experience and aesthetic than a stations or buffet style reception. It can be a wonderfully intimate way to celebrate your new marriage with your closest friends and family all seated around a table, getting to know each other. As a Charleston-based catering & event company that has been serving the Lowcountry of South Carolina and welcoming the magic of celebration since 1978, we think there are a few basic things all brides and grooms should know when deciding on a served dinner.
1. Served dinners are more expensive. When having a served dinner, you need a seat for every guest attending the reception, this drives your rental cost up- more tables, more linens, more centerpieces, more glassware. Consider mix and matching floral centerpieces with candle or lantern centerpieces to save on your floral budget. If everyone’s being served at the same time, catering companies need more staff to execute dinner service- more chefs and more servers- this inevitably increases your bottom line budget. Lastly, even if you have an open bar, if you want wine service with dinner, most catering companies will charge a per-bottle fee in addition to your open bar price. Consider having guests get up to go to the bar for a refresher or ask the servers to offer refreshments if they’re free. If you insist on wine service with dinner, consider closing the bar during the dinner hour to save on your bar cost.
2. Served dinners require more planning. If you’re planning on offering multiple options, you must pre-plan and coordinate your invitations so you can have a proper entree count to provide your caterer. We typically ask for these final entree counts at least 2 weeks prior to the wedding. Additionally, it is important that your catering company know about any allergies so they can accommodate any guests that may need a special entree. During dinner service, we typically ask that the place cards somehow denote what entree the guest requested on the response card. If this is not done, often times people forget what they ordered and guests end up with entrees they do not want.
3. Served dinners take time. An average served dinner will typically take about an hour and a half, with getting guests seated prior and up and onto the dance floor after. If you’re dreaming about a wedding full of people buzzing about and hitting the dance floor all evening, know that a served dinner takes time to execute and will typically take up ⅓ of your reception.
4. Details matter. When planning a served dinner, talk with your caterer about customizing the china, glassware and flatware you use. Mix vintage patterns to create fun decor. Incorporate a metallic charger to make a statement or mix and match water glasses to create an eclectic feel. The table settings will be a focal point so pay attention to every detail- what napkin fold do you want? How do you want the place card? Will there be a menu card at each setting? Does the chair match the aesthetic? When making all of these decisions, be sure all of these details coordinate with the centerpieces you have chosen. Get creative with your table scapes and chairs and your tables are sure to catch the eye! Lastly- candles, candles, candles! Candlelight is the best way to create budget friendly ambiance at your wedding. Ask your caterer if they provide votives to sprinkle on the tables. If not, purchase a box and have your caterer place a few on each table. It will make a world of difference!