Cocktail, Buffet or Set Menu? Food for your Wedding
I am a big fan of food. I enjoy Steak, Fish, Chicken, Pasta, Chinese, Italian, Indian, Cold, Hot- It doesn’t matter what kind or style of food you put in front of me, chances are I will eat it, enjoy it, and go back for seconds.
But one of the questions I often ask is should I have a Cocktail Function, A Buffet, or a Set Menu?
The Price Difference
Every venue offers different styles of food at varying prices- If you want your guests to dine out on caviar, the cost is going to different to that if you want them enjoying spring rolls, so before worrying about the cost, worry about what kind of food you want.Once that is decided, comparatively there can be about $10-30 difference per head between Cockatil, Buffet or Set. For a small function of 40, it may still be in budget, but for a function of 100 it starts adding up. The best suggestion is to get a few different menus for CB&S and compare whether the cost justifies the style.
If you are having a large function, most people assume cocktail should be the way to go. As mentioned above, price can vary so the next factor is the food.The quality is often that which you would get with a set menu, only in smaller portions and it does taste great.Will there be enough?Quantity overall, yes- However you often find the tray of lamb shanks disappears quicker than the tray of spring rolls or salmon purée. You will get at least one shank but going back for thirds or fourths may be more difficult (unless you stand by the kitchen door ready to pounce). There is often lots to eat but the really “nice” food gets eaten quicker.
People with Allergies:For people who may have allergies, a cocktail function can be a death trap! With so many people touching, dipping, & grabbing items of food, there is bound to be cross contamination. Even if the food is gluten/peanut/dairy/etc free, your guests who touch it may not be as so you end up spending extra money for nothing or having those guests needing to get to the food before everyone else. A way to avoid this is to have a special tray made up just for those with allergies but this may cost more (and again, depending on how good the chef is, it still may get cross contamination.)You wont leave a cocktail reception hungry, but unless the menu consists of all the “Really Good Stuff”, you might leave a little underwhelmed*
*AGAIN- This is not true of all menus, check your venue/caterers to see what they offer
Buffet is often chosen to let the guests go up as many times as they like to enjoy all the food they want. The advantage of a Buffet is the food will never run out, and the quality of food is usually very high with steak, roast, fish, fresh seafood and salads all available.Is it too much food?
If you have under 40 people, you are almost guaranteed to be paying for food that will not be eaten. Over 50 to 100 it becomes proportionate. As DJs, we often are the very last to eat and I have always found there to be more than enough food to go back for seconds no matter what the size of the party is.Often people only go up once or go back for something they really like (usually with the desert buffet) only the “Serious Eaters” (like myself) will go up for the equivalent of 3 meals- Every reception has them but often there are only a fewPeople with Allergies:Like the cocktail menu, often people with allergies must be sensitive to cross contamination, so if you are using the same server for a gluten meal as you are a gluten free meal, it becomes pointless. Same if your bread crumbs fall into the food while leaning over- for most people we wouldn’t notice but for someone with allergies this can have disastrous effects. A way to get around this is to have anybody with an allergy go first, that way they can fill up their plates and cross contamination would not be an issue- however they probably won’t go back for seconds. If everything is allergy free this can also be a good way to avoid contamination but you must specify this when choosing your menuA buffet you will never leave hungry, but just ensure you will get your monies worth.
A set menu is the most traditional of a reception. It usually consists of an Entrée, Main, Desert, & coffee. Depending if it is offered and in budget, some menus can have “pallet cleansers” (which are sorbet deserts between the meals) or 2 entrees with a main and desert. It all depends on what you want.Is there enough food?Yes! Most people are full by desert and even someone like myself never leaves still feeling hungry. One of the disadvantageous though is the menu can be fairly limiting- unlike a cocktail or buffet, the selection is set, however most people will eat meat, fish or chicken so it isn’t usually a problemPeople with Allergies:This is the safest option for people with allergies as the individual meals can be prepared by themselves and the risk of cross contamination is at its lowest. Also most normal meals can be prepared as an allergy free option or a complete separate meal can be made- however as before, be sure to mention this prior to confirming your menuA set menu is one of the best options for quality and quantity, but can be limited on variety.
This is like a set menu but there are only two mains options and they are place alternatively in front of your guests- meaning if they wish for the other dish they need to find someone willing to swap. Even though this can cause a few grumbles, it works out cheaper than giving guests the option of 2 mains as the chef only needs to by a set number of each item
If you like food, more food, and then even more food- this is the way to go. Often filled with a huge assortment of Asian dishes, the amount of food provided is more than a traditional buffet and is often for families of 120+. Not all venues are able to do a Chinese banquet so be sure to check if yours can.