Southern Traditions
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Southern Traditions: Reception Style Dinner

By: Tey Stiteler

If your out-of- town guests are anything like mine, you find that you’re usually dining out for every meal. Whether it’s demonstrating how to peel crawfish or explaining how to pronounce pralines (prah-leens), one of the best things about being a host in New Orleans is sharing our culinary customs.

Today I’m sharing the tastiest detail of any New Orleans wedding – the food, specifically, the reception style dinner. Though there are several dining styles to choose from, what and how you serve your guests plays a big role in the feel and flow of your reception.

Geographically (or at least in the US) there are two main styles of wedding dinner service: buffet and seated, however in New Orleans the most popular choice is the reception-style dinner. If you’re a destination bride or a New Orleans transplant like myself this may be the first time you’ve heard this term.  So, what is it exactly?

Put it this way- If the sit down dinner was a tuxedo – handsome, classic and formal than the reception-style dinner is its seersucker suit cousin – dressed up or dressed down, it feels relaxed and easy.

Though alike in many ways, a reception style dinner isn’t exactly the same as a buffet style meal – it’s kind of like the lovechild of the buffet dinner and cocktail hour. The main similarity is the seating arrangement, or lack thereof. Reception style dinners don’t have assigned seating – in fact, they may only have seating for 60-80% of guests.  Not assigning seating encourages guests to mingle, dance and return to the buffet for more nibbles throughout the night.

Regarding food, reception-style dinners can serve any type, however it’s the addition of passed hors d’oeuvres and action stations that make it a little different. It’s like a buffet with a little something extra – or lagniappe as we call it here.

Despite being the most popular, the reception style dinner is not your only option for a New Orleans wedding. Plenty of brides opt for a seated dinner or a buffet dinner or a combination of the two.  There’s no right or wrong option, it’s about finding the right style for your celebration.  So is the reception-style the right choice for you?

Mrs. Vintage Blog// Reception Style Dinner

As with any choice, there are pro’s and cons.

Here are my top three pro’s for choosing a reception-style dinner:

1)     You can save money on rentals, since not every guest gets a seat or even a table to sit at. Often times couples will order a few extra high-boy tables that guests can stand around and eat at until they are ready to hit the dance floor. Which brings me to pro number two:

2)   Reception style dinners promote dancing, moving around and more of a party atmosphere. There isn’t that lull between when you are finished and everyone else is, so as soon as you’d like you can start the dance party!

3)   Getting up to get dinner can be fun, and often times guests really like having a bunch of different culinary options. It’s also quite interactive, allowing guests to chat and mingle while in the food line.

And now for the cons:

1)     While chatting with other guests in line can be a fun way to meet new people, lines in general can be a bummer. Lines can generally be avoided by scattering tables, actions stations, and bars throughout your venue, rather than grouped in the same place.

2)     Since reception style dinner promotes getting up for seconds, there may be people walking around or in another room getting food during toasts, cake cutting and the first dance.

3)     Large dinner buffets can take up quite a lot of room as compared to served dinner (where most of the food is out of sight before it is delivered). Be sure and check the size of the room and how many guests you will be having before committing to a reception style dinner.

So there you have it, the pros and cons of the reception-style wedding.  Remember, there’s no right or wrong style, it’s about finding the best fit for you!

Good luck and call me when it’s time for the tasting!

Mrs. Vintage Blog// Reception Style Dinner

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