Long farm style reception tables with white linens and white and gold centerpieces
Photo: O'Malley Photographers

There are so many different ways to serve dinner at your wedding reception, from family style meals and Russian service to plated dinners and buffets. Each option ranges in formality and cost, allowing couples to select a fit that's just right for their celebration's style and how they think their wedding guests will like to eat. Here, we explain the most popular service styles to help you decide which will best fit your needs. Pro tip: just be sure to communicate this guest ahead of time (either on your inviation or wedding website) to keep them in the know—and to present the menu!

10 INNOVATIVE MENUS FOR YOUR MODERN WEDDING

Multi-Course Plated Service

The traditional plated dinner is among the most common types of wedding meal service, and is generally served as anywhere from two to six courses. Remember that each course takes time, so you'll want to select the right number for your celebration. If plenty of dancing time is important, you'll likely want to choose fewer courses. If you and your significant other are major foodies, go all-out with a multi-course feast. The majority of couples choose will choose to have two or three courses served at the tables and then set up a dessert station or have treats tray-passed on the dance floor.

Family Style

If you're a casual couple or prefer to keep meal time interactive and conversational, a family style meal might be right up your alley. Despite the seemingly casual name, this option, which encourages guests to mingle as they pass large platters of food around the table, is as common at a black-tie wedding as it is at a backyard bash. However, there is a common misnomer that family style service is more affordable, but this is often not the case. Since your caterer will need to prepare extra food to accommodate guests not knowing exact serving sizes, it's often more costly than a plated meal.

Buffet Style and Stations

Wedding buffets and meal stations are great ways to give guests a taste of everything, and are especially good choices for couple's who like the idea of giving their guests the opportunity to explore during dinner. Although there's little difference between a buffet and stations, serving each meal option in its own space often makes the experience better for guests, as no one has to wait in a long line to reach the food. 

Russian or French Service

Russian and French service lean toward the most formal side of catering. With French service, waiters bring food to the table on platters and serve each guest individually. This is typically executed by multiple servers arriving at a table at once to serve guests so that they can all begin eating their meal at the same time. The Russian style of service is similar, but the guest serves himself from the platter rather than being served. These service styles tend to require a more attentive catering team as well as excess food preparation, so it's safe to assume that the cost will be a bit higher than a plated meal.

This story originally appeared on Martha Stewart Weddings.