Quite a few evening wedding receptions include a buffet-style meal where everyone stands in an enormous line waiting while those actually at the food table decide if they want Italian or Ranch dressing on their salad. If you’re having a small-ish wedding (no more than 50 people) with an open seating plan this is actually a great way to go. There aren’t enough people to form an enormous line in the first place, and it’s usually less expensive than a seated dinner. Usually, because a seated dinner means you order just what you anticipate needing, and a buffet is always a guess at what people will eat.
But what if you’re having a larger wedding? How do you keep hungry people from attacking the spread all at once? Are there better options for crowd management? Are there fun things to do in line? Are there ways to creatively call tables to join the reception buffet line in a way that keeps it moving smoothly? We’d like to think so.
Calling The Tables
At many weddings the Master of Ceremonies (MC) – if there is one – calls up tables by the table number (if you haven’t sorted out your table numbering, we can recommend a really easy way with pictures of the couple at various ages!). That’s the standard way it’s done, but there are people who will be anxious that they didn’t hear their number when it was called, and it calls to mind waiting in the DMV. There’s nothing to do but wait and waiting isn’t that much fun. How about making it more fun?
Could you have table colors instead of table numbers? Each table could have a color that is significant to the couple in some way. Perhaps the MC could get the guests involved in a trivia game that asks about those colors, and whatever table guesses right gets to join the line next. “What color was the shirt Tim was wearing when he first met Jennie?” It allows the two families and the groups of friends the opportunity to get to know more details about the couple that they might not have previously.
If there are seating cards, maybe each table doesn’t have a number or color, but each seating card has a symbol on it or a picture of something meaningful to the couple. A similar trivia game could be played with these symbols and pictures. Getting people to start interacting with each other warms up the party and gets people in the mood to socialize, feel less awkward and to feel welcomed and included. This also allows those guests who share symbols or pictures to have something to talk about in the reception buffet line!
A song name could written on the back of the table number or name card. When the DJ (or whoever is manning your iPod) plays that song those guests can get up and join the reception buffet (conga) line! These songs can reflect a theme, or be special to the couple because of a memorable moment.
Each table could be named for an exotic location that the newly wed couple would like to visit one day. Paris, Sydney, Moscow, Mumbai… Possibilities are endless, and again, are a point of conversation that invites guests to share their travels or destinations they would enjoy.
The Layout Matters
Another way to keep a wedding reception buffet line moving is to change up the usual long table full of things. If you change the layout into something that splits apart, it creates a much better flow. Having a T shaped buffet table helps the traffic move faster.
Also make sure to have drinks on a separate table from the food, as that tends to be where people cluster and congregate the most.
Have you tried anything different with a buffet that worked? Share your story!