fruit display at an Indian wedding

Different Ways to Serve Meals at Indian Weddings: A Guide

Since the vast majority of Indian weddings are catered outside – by an outside caterer the way the meals are served is important. When I’m helping couples select their wedding venue, they often ask me about serving their lunch or dinner as a sit down plated meal or family style. At most weddings and formal events, the venue caters it themselves and serves sit-down plated meals. At Indian weddings however, you usually see buffets because:

  1. Indian food is not conducive to pre-portioned, plated service
  2. Indian people like being able to select what they want/don’t want
  3. The venues don’t want to get involved with the food service at outside catered events, since they’re not providing the food

Most venue outside catering packages are based on serving buffet meals. Venues do offer plated meal service but those prices are different as there’s a lot more labor involved.

In this article, I’m going to go over the pros and cons of: buffet, plated, and family style meals at Indian wedding events.

{Buffets at Indian Weddings}

Things to Know About Buffets:

  • venues are ‘hands off’ when it comes to meals for outside catered events. Caterers are not allowed to cook onsite and the venue’s responsibilities are limited to providing items for setup and serving. Caterers are responsible for transporting, setup, and clean up.
  • plated and family style meals cost more
  • important for Indian weddings: buffets make it easier to manage guests’ dietary restrictions compared to family and plated meals.

Buffet Pros:

  • guests can select which items and quantities of each they’d like
  • North Indian good (most common for weddings) doesn’t work as well plated. It’s great for family style, which I talk about more later in the article.

Buffet Cons:

  • considered less elegant than plated meals
  • long lines
Indian food in chafing dishes setup for for an Indian wedding reception.
Photo: HDE Video Concepts


Guests getting dinner in the buffet line at an outdoor Indian wedding reception.
Photo: HDE Video Concepts

{Plated Meals}

Things to Know About Plated Meals:

  • they’re not common at Indian weddings. From a logistical standpoint, there are a couple of issues:
  1. labor. Since Indian wedding receptions typically have at least 35o guests, you have to have a lot of servers to make this work well. Otherwise, instead of waiting in a long buffet line, guests wait at their tables. The standard outside catering package at venues comes with 1 server per 30 guests. That’s 1 server for every 3 tables. For plated meals, you need 1 server per table – 3x increase in servers which will increase your costs.
  2. The 2nd logistical issue with plated meals at Indian weddings issue is that at most Indian weddings there are some guests with dietary restrictions, namely vegetarians, Jain food, people who eat halal. In order to make a plated meal work, you have two options. You can seat guests with special dietary restrictions together on the same table, according to their dietary restriction so that the servers know that everyone at table X gets the vegetarian/halal/Jain etc. plate. But you might not want to seat all of those people together and it makes it a lot harder to deal with {inevitable} last minute changes. The other option is to work with the catering team and let them know the table numbers where the guests with dietary restrictions are sitting. So if there’s a vegetarian on tables 4, 7, and 15. You can’t assign a seat number but you can let the caterer know what table. Then the servers will have to ask when they get to those tables.  Doing this requires a lot more work and pre-planning on your part and makes last minute changes really hard.

Personal Experience: I’ve personally seen plated meals work when the entire wedding was vegetarian. But even then they didn’t hire enough staff so after each person was served their plate, it took an additional 10-15 minutes for the naan to be served. And if you wanted seconds of something the servers were just too busy the first half of the meal to have time to stop and take requests.

Plated Meal Pros:

  • elegant
  • formal

Plated Meal Cons: 

  • costs more
  • guests still wait – at their table, instead of buffet line
  • guests don’t get to select dishes nor quantities
  • accommodating dietary restrictions is tricky
  • not all caterers can do plated meals

Indian wedding samosas single served on cups


Mexican food served an a sangeet for an Indian wedding.
Photo: VEK Photo
Indian food served buffet style at an Indian wedding
Photo: Wedding Documentary Photo + Video

{Family Style Meals at Indian Weddings}

Things to Know About Family Style Meals:

  • you don’t see it often at Indian weddings
  • it requires a lot more labor and equipment for caterers which means greater costs for you
  • family style might cramp your table decor

You know when you go out to an Indian restaurant and they bring each item in those nice metal dishes? Well imagine if you’re at a wedding and there are 7-8 items per table, times 35 tables. That’s 280 dishes! And then what do you do about guests with dietary restrictions, similar to what I described with plated meals. Do you seat all the guests with the same dietary restriction together?

Personal Experience: I’m vegetarian and attended a wedding where dinner was family style. As luck would have it, I was sitting at the ‘end’ of the table, meaning I was one of the last people at the table to be handed each dish. By the time each dish got to me, there was little left. Moreover, there were only a couple of vegetarian items to begin with.

Family Style Pros:

  • Indian food is very family-style friendly
  • it’s unique to have at a reception

Family Style Cons:

  • costs more
  • portions are often too small
  • getting refills isn’t easy
  • accommodating dietary restrictions is tricky
  • you have to be extra careful planning centerpieces as you’ll need space for all those food dishes!
  • similar to plated meals, family style meals require more labor from the caterer as well as venue staff, therefore cost more.
Indian wedding reception family style dinner
Pin for later:
chafing dishes setup for a wedding reception
Photo: Lin and Jirsa

{Take Aways}

With outside catering at Indian weddings there are options when it comes to how meals are served. You can serve meals buffet, plated or family style. And I know this is important to you as food is a top priority in our culture.

Buffets are the most common for the reasons described above: basically from a logistical and cost standpoint it is the best option.

Did this article help you? Let me know in the comments. And follow ShaadiShop on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram so you can see our latest guides and tips.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! 🙂

Samta Varia
Founder & CEO
ShaadiShop: Indian Wedding Venues

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