Doing so might save you money, but it'll also cost you more time.
reception table with new england salad

A full guest is a happy guest, so serving awesome food at your wedding is a must. How you serve it, however, is up to you. If you're on the fence about whether or not you should give guests a choice of chicken or beef on their RSVP cards, these industry insiders want to help you understand the implications of asking your attendees to pre-select their wedding meal.

It Might Save You Some Money

Many people think that a buffet-style meal will cost less than a plated dinner, but this assumption is often wrong. According to wedding planner Marcy Blum, "Hotels tend to charge less if they know in advance what to cook." The same goes for caterers. When preparing for a buffet-style meal, your pros have to ensure they have enough food for guests to eat, which means they often prepare more than is necessary based on their best estimates. Pre-selecting a meal means they can purchase the exact amounts of food for your guests-no guessing required.

It Can Make for a Better Guest Experience

Offering a meal choice in advance is a great way to accommodate guests and make them feel special. "Who doesn't want to make their wedding customized to each guest? It gives couples the chance to personalize an otherwise run-of-the-mill RSVP card," calligrapher Kelsey Carpenter of Kelsey Malie Calligraphy says. Using illustrated icons like a bunch of carrots for a vegetarian entrée adds interest to the card." As a huge plus, allowing guests to make their dinner selection on the RSVP card gives them ample time to choose something they'll really enjoy on your wedding night, plus outline any allergies or dietary restrictions. The kitchen staff won't be under as much pressure to execute dishes ordered tableside, meaning food service will likely run a lot smoother and the entire table will get their meals at the same time (as long as the place card indicates which meal the waiter should serve!).

It's More Work for You

Keep in mind that if you plan to ask guests to choose their wedding meal in advance, you'll want to finalize the menu with your caterer at least four months before the big day so you know which options you're sharing on your stationery. You'll also need to account for the fact that you'll have a few more items on your to-do list. "Requesting a meal selection means you're tracking every entrée for each guest instead of just dietary restrictions," Susie Papadin, event producer at Shelter Co., reminds us. Instead of assigning guests to a table, you may need to create a more detailed seating chart or mark meal selections in some other way. "Be prepared for your caterer to ask you to indicate the selection on the place card," says Augusta Cole, an event planner with Easton Events. "An example would be a different color wax seal for beef, fish, or vegetarian."

Last Minute Changes and Slow-Downs Happen

Michelle Leo, owner of Michelle Leo Events, says that most planners will recommend creating a set menu but not offering the option for guests to pre-select their meals. "Planners love this because it's one less opportunity for problems on event day. Guests don't always respect a couples' wishes to sit where assigned," she says. "When they decide to move seats and don't swap out place cards in the move, they're risking not receiving the correct meal they pre-selected."


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