we all fall in love with the amazing tabletops that we see posted in designer mags, the layers of glorious china, the mutlicolored stemware, the overall "ahhhhhhh' feeling that one gets when looking at a well designed table. But there are differences between pictures and reality - or in designer terms - aesthetics vs. logistics.
so brides, it's time again to put on my party pooper hat and say: please stop setting the tables with complete place settings when serving a buffet.
Yes, I get that we set up tables that include all layers of china, just like all the magazines. But don't forget, we are trying to sell you something, specifically the china and charger plates. That being said, when I meet with clients, I never advise them to have dinner plates on the table unless they are serving food family style.
But why? you ask, silently telling yourself in your mind that I probably really don't know what I am talking about... right?
But here is your simple answer: it is a HOT MESS.
The longer answer is divided into three parts that we have touched on in other areas of this blog.
1.Expectations of behavior - most of your guests have been to a few weddings or events in their lifetimes. More than likely, many of those events were served buffet style. How many times do you think those people carried their plate from the table to the buffet? I suspect you know the answer is more than likely zero. So what do you think happens to your orderly table release when half (or more of the guests) do what they have always done, which is to get up in an orderly fashion and head to the buffet, sans plates. This creates a significant amount of confusion and can end up screwing up your event timeline (more on this below)
2.Bad hostessing. In my experience, brides are so focused on creating their "dream vision" that they ignore the most basic rules of courtesy. Sure your guests will be impressed that you set such a lovely spread, but in the long run, they have taken time to come and celebrate with you and they really don't want to have to jump through hoops to get a meal. Please trust me when I say this - your guests do not care about the tiny details that make great photo shoots. I know this because I hear it. I meet with over 300 couples and their families each year and the bottom line: Do not keep your guests waiting, especially for food.
3.Vendors will hate you. We get that you have read articles, watched TV shows, have a friend who is so great at throwing parties and an aunt who decorated her whole house by herself - but ask yourself - is it your/their JOB? If the answer is yes, then read no further. If the answer is no - please for the love of all things bridal, take this advice ; we do this all the time. We have no reason to lie to you.
How this good idea generally dominoes OOC:
The venue will not set up extra plates on the buffet so half your guests will get to the buffet and have to go back to the table to retrieve their plate. This will mess up the DJ's orderly dismissal of tables and slow down the serving process. This will then affect the photographers timeline. In order to make up for lost time, the photographer may have to adjust their shooting schedule to get the shots they need in the timeframe allowed. This will ultimately affect you and your wedding party enjoying the evening as you had originally planned. (and no, I am not saying weddings don't run into glitches, but I am saying, why create an unnecessary one?)
A couple of suggestions to solve this issue (based on two decades of actual event experience from a food and beverage perspective).
If you really need to get pictures of the tables with china on them, do it on the 'reserved for family' tables for two reasons:
The photographer can still get the good close up shots of the set tables,
you have more control over the guests that are sitting there i.e. they will be in on the plan from the get go to take their plates to the buffet.
If you want to have food on the table when guests first sit down, here are a couple ideas:
preset the salad course. Guests will still go to the buffet for their main meal but upon seating, having salad bread and butter on the table is a welcome distraction while other tables are being dismissed for the buffet. this will generally require a heavier serving staff than a simple buffet
have individual desserts on each place setting,
offer a small family style serving of cheese/crackers or antipasti at each table with appetizer plates. the key here is to make sure you have enough food on the platter for tables of 8.