Whether you're planning a formal seated dinner or a picnic-style celebration, every couple wants to serve a meal their wedding guests will love. In fact, food is an amazing opportunity to personalize your big day with favorite dishes and cuisines that are most meaningful to you. However, before customizing your dream meal, it's important to establish exactly how much food to serve at your wedding, in order to keep your guests full and happy (not hangry).
We always recommend consulting directly with your caterer on exactly how much food to serve at your wedding, but with the help of some industry experts, we've got a few solid guidelines to get you started.
First, know your numbers.
It's important to recognize that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to how much food to serve at your wedding. Ann Bloomquist Jarema of A'BriTin Catering & Hospitality and parent company of This Little Piggy Catering in Saint Paul, Minnesota, shares that most caterers will account for food in ounces based on the total number of guests for your event. So, in order to get an accurate picture during the early stages of budget planning, make sure to first solidify the guest count and work in food expenses from there.
Hors d’oeuvres and cocktail hour
During the cocktail hour, many couples choose to serve a variety of bites for guests to enjoy as a pre-dinner starter. Think mini-sized fan favorites like beef sliders, shrimp cocktail shooters, spring rolls, fruit skewers, and so much more.
Whether you opt for passed hors d 'oeuvres or self-service snack options, Ann Bloomquist Jarema recommends accounting for at least two single appetizer portions per guest, but we recommend three to five to be safe.
Salads and sides
Depending on the formality of your event, salad can be served as a stand-only course or as a side selection in your buffet or family-style meal. Regardless, accounting for eight ounces (or roughly one cup) of salad per guest is a good rule of thumb when considering how much food to serve at your wedding.
Most wedding reception meals also include two to three side dishes, and couples can expect to order four to six ounces per side, per guest.
Entrées are typically the star of any meal, so you'll want to be sure your guests receive a portion fit to satisfy. If you’re planning a plated (or sit-down) meal service, your guests may have already selected their entrée in advance, making the ordering process pretty straightforward. While portion sizes can certainly vary depending on the dish, most experts agree that you'll want to plan on six to eight-ounce entrée per guest.
If you’re opting for buffet-style meal service, guests will serve themselves from a food station and select their own food choices and portions. While your caterer will likely follow some of the same guidelines outlined above for salad, sides, and entrées, they’ll also have to account for larger portion sizes that can result from guests serving themselves.
Pro tip: If you’re worried about running low on food with buffet-style service, consider hiring a staffer or two to serve from the buffet line and keep portions consistent among your guests.
A hybrid of plated and buffet-style service, family-style wedding meals are served on large platters and bowls which are passed around for seated guests to serve themselves. Again, you’ll want to keep all of the above in mind for food ounces, but remember to be mindful that your guests may be generous while dishing out their own meal. When it comes to family-style service and figuring out how much food to serve at your wedding, having some extras of everything on hand is always a good idea.
Ordering wedding cake is often a more straightforward approach, with one slice of cake needed per guest. While some couples may worry this approach won't be enough, Ann Bloomquist Jarema says to remember that not all your guests will take cake after a full meal, leaving you with plenty of slices to spare.
Additionally, if budget constraints mean you’re not able to serve all your guests from a beautiful display cake, Jeremy Michalski of Cutting Edge Catering in Rancho Cucamonga, California advises couples to consider another seamless option. "We recommend a standard three-tier cake for 100 guests and adding an extra sheet cake for each additional 50 guests," he said.
If you and your guests plan on partying into the early hours, don't forget to include some post-dinner bites to feed a hungry crowd. "Lots of weddings that go to midnight are now offering a late-night snack, which ranges from a nice charcuterie board to chicken and waffles," Jeremy Michalski said.
However, keep in mind that not all your guests will stay for the late hours of the evening, so you won't necessarily need food based on your total guest count. Always be sure to consult with your catering company and they’ll be able to get the numbers squared away just right.