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Meals at weddings – formal sit-down meals versus buffets – the view of All Seasons Philipburn

Meals at weddings – formal sit-down meals versus buffets – the view of All Seasons Philipburn

What sort of meals do people like at weddings? Basically the choice is between formal set course sit-down meals or buffets. The purpose of this article is to highlight the benefits of buffets and why in fact they should be the more popular choice.

The Philipburn is unashamedly a wedding venue. We have beautiful grounds for your drinks reception, a somewhat unique pavilion for the wedding ceremony and a huge function room which is perfect for dining and a disco in the evening for those who want one. But weddings are not cheap and it is surprising how often we hear that couples have the constraints of a budget to hold them back.

The most expensive element of a wedding ceremony is usually the dining, so much so, in fact, that the wedding breakfast, as it is traditionally known, is often limited to a smaller number of family and close friends and then the rest of the “friends” are invited to an informal party in the evening.

What makes wedding meals expensive? Generally speaking you will not get especially expensive food, although this can be arranged. No, it is the staffing because from cooking to wash up, a large number of staff are needed. It starts in the kitchen because a roast and two vegetables which is generally the main course choice, has to be produced hot and all the meals at more or less the same time. You will usually see a sort of conveyor belt system in the kitchen and it needs to be “well oiled”. Then you have to have a cohort of serving staff to get the food to the tables. How often have you been to a formal dinner and the last table is just being served as the first table are putting down their knives and forks, having finished. Guess what, while everyone is eating they are standing around doing nothing!

After everyone has eaten, the machine goes into reverse as everything is cleared away, again with the staff cohort being mobilised into action. All those plates to clear and get to the pot-wash by all those people and then, oh yes, out comes the dessert.

Another thing about formal sit-down meals is that if they are not served on time there is a serious risk that they will deteriorate so the master of ceremonies is having to maintain a strict timetable.

“But buffets are just cheap [and nasty]” I hear you say. Not a bit of it. Buffets can be cheap, starting at around £13.50 per person but a high-end buffet worth its salt is going to have far more interesting and varied ingredients involved. Imagine perhaps a cold buffet consisting of a starter like a selection of patés or fish, or hot choices like soup or whitebait or a variety of other items, and a main consisting of poached salmon, king prawns and a range of cold meats with a large variety of salad items. Absolutely delicious and no issues for those wanting vegan, vegetarian or gluten free items. There will be a selection of all of those amongst the rich offering which can be given. Desserts and cheese again are available for self service – just have the items you like and ignore the ones you do not. If you prefer a hot buffet, there are plenty of options there too and sometimes a big pot of curry or bolognese is just what the doctor ordered.

There is a great beauty to this because the chef can get all of this prepared in advance in a much more relaxed environment. The much smaller serving staff merely have to put everything out for the guests who then help themselves at their leisure. There is still proper seating so when the speeches come, everyone has a place.

There are advantages for the hosts of these events. If you have a sit-down with one choice for each course, it is inevitable that there will be people who will not eat it for one reason or another, perhaps they just do not like it or they are vegetarian or they are vegan or they want gluten free. Oh dear – so do they all have to have something special for themselves? So another option is to have two choices for each course. That eases the burden a bit but it has to all be pre-ordered. Then the hosts have to have a fixed seating plan for their guests and produce little name cards with the guests’ names and menu choices because, as you might imagine, no one has the slightest clue what it was they selected possibly two months earlier and the staff have to know where to deliver the right food. Without clear notation, it is a total nightmare.

Selection of a buffet completely removes this burden. That’s a relief! But the really compelling factor is that even a high end buffet with better ingredients than a formal meal will bring the price down by at least £10 per head. So if you were going to have 60 for lunch, that is the startling reduction in the bill of £600. Instead, you could invite another fifteen guests for the same money. This is definitely worth looking at if you are on a budget.

Guests like a buffet too. They get lots of choice and if they are hungry can go back for seconds! Some people find it the other way around – they get a plateful of food which is too much for them so when going to the buffet they can select just what they want. There is nothing worse than being over-faced with a plate of food you know you will not eat. The thing about buffets is that caterers always tend to over-provide so they really are good value for money. It is also a lot more relaxed for guests who can swan around the room a bit and go and talk with their friends.

Think about how impressive it all looks laid out when your guests walk into the dining room; time to get the cameras out.

So this is why at All Seasons Philipburn we now encourage our wedding couples to think seriously about a buffet. There are just so many reasons why it is a good idea! Indeed we have adjusted our wedding packages to promote buffets ahead of formal sit down dinners. Just come and discuss it to set your minds at rest – you will be glad you did. It really is the modern way!

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