How to Pull Off an Elevated Wedding Buffet

Yes, this often-neglected style of service can feel sophisticated, too.

dessert table
Photo: Delbarr Moradi

The style of service you select for your wedding meal makes a big difference in the overall guest experience. Though wedding buffets get a bad reputation for being the most casual option, there's no reason you can't make it feel more sophisticated and in sync with your day's overall aesthetic. To explain how, we defer to caterer Jessica Lasky. Here, she offers her sage advice on creating a wedding buffet that looks beautiful, runs efficiently, and feeds the masses.

The secret's in the styling.

When it comes to styling a buffet to look its best, Lasky has one critical piece of advice: "Texture is the name of the game." She relies on linens or runners to bring color to the buffet table, then adds a layered feel by using decorative elements with different textures and varying heights. Finally, she takes a thoughtful approach to food placement. "Risers, little wood boxes, wire stands, or anything else that brings height and dimension is great," the pro says. "And keeping things clean and cohesive, like with all white platters, elevates the vibe."

Consider how all the elements will look together.

Have a chat with your catering team to see what they can do that works with your wedding aesthetic, and keep in mind that your floral designer may be able to help advise on the design and styling for the buffet so it feels cohesive with the arrangements they're making. Whatever dishware, utensils, and linens you use at the buffet should feel like part of the overall look of the wedding. You'll also want to think about the small, unexpected details. "We always, always have fun with serving utensils-they're like a great piece of jewelry," says Lasky.

Remember that chafing dishes aren't the only option for keeping food hot.

While it's true that many caterers rely on chafing dishes to keep food hot at a buffet, there are often other options available through rental companies that will reflect your wedding's unique style. "We sometimes use little burners underneath cute cast iron skillets, or we love earthenware cazuelas from Spain that we heat in the oven before we put them on the buffet-they can retain the heat," Lasky explains. When she does use chafing dishes, she does her best to to secure rounds, copper, and more stylish ones that come in varying heights and sizes. If you don't want a very traditional look, the pro says you should avoid displaying boxy chafers in a straight line. Instead, focus on getting a look that feels more collected than formulaic.

Don't be afraid of room temperature options.

Lasky's cooking style includes a variety of foods that taste great at room temperature, like fresh and colorful salads and cheese and charcuterie. This allows her to keep the entire buffet table looking really interesting to guests. Breaking up traditional chafing dishes with beautiful platters and plates is important. "We see with our eyes before we taste with our stomachs," she says. "Changing out your platters is important throughout the buffet line, but make sure the table stays tidy and looking bountiful and beautiful."

Add a few working stations.

To break up a traditional buffet, you may want to look into adding a working station or two into the mix. An interactive station, where guests can watch a chef at work, is always more interesting than food simply set out for guests to serve themselves. "A chef working the wood burning oven, pulling pizzas is always fun, but my current favorite is when we toss cacio e pepe inside an enormous parmigiano wheel which has been bored out to hold the pasta for service," she explains.

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