chafing dishes setup for a wedding reception

Plated Meal vs. Buffets At Indian Weddings

Plated Meals vs. Buffets at Indian Weddings is a detailed guide that explains the pros, cons, and overall budget impact of these two meal styles. Plated meals are elegant in that they’re served to you at the table. And as you plan your Indian wedding you might have thought about doing a plated dinner – after all it’s also different from the buffets that everyone else does.

There are a few reasons why most Indian weddings are buffets:

  1. Several Food Items: Indian food is not conducive to being pre-portioned. Unlike a lot of other cuisines, Indian cuisine is all about the variety and number of items.
  2. Variety of Cuisine: In Indian food there are dry and wet sabzis and curries, requiring a variety of tableware.
  3. People Enjoy Selection: Indian people like being able to select what they want and don’t want. This is particularly important for guests with dietary restrictions.

{Venue Considerations}

Due to liability issues outside caterers are not allowed to use the venue’s kitchen*.

Caterers setup what’s called a satellite kitchen and pre-prep most of the food and bring it to the venue. Often, the only thing they’re actually cooking on-site is the naan.

*There are exceptions. Some venues have more than 1 kitchen, some venues rent their space with kitchen access. In general hotels and resorts do not allow outside caterers to use their kitchen. FYI: we have the info about which venues allow kitchen access and which don’t, on every venue profile on ShaadiShop.

{Venue Pricing Based on a Buffet}

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 and the costs will increase.

{My Personal Experience}

The only time I’ve seen a plated dinner semi-work at an Indian wedding reception was when all of the food served was vegetarian. I say “semi-worked” because there was serious lag time in the service. How it works below.

{How Plated Meals Are Served
at an Indian Wedding}

  • First, guests are served their “mains plate” – that is all of curries.
  • The naan is served family style and brought out to each table after all of the main plates are served….so about 15 minutes later.

The issue with this is there’s a pretty big lag between the two – about 15 minutes. And no wonder – the average Indian wedding has 350 guests and for plated meals there are typically two servers per 30 guests. It takes time to serve all of those plates!

In my opinion, if you’re going through the trouble of serving a plated meal then pay more to have one server per table. By the time the naan arrived at the table, people were well into their meal.

{Dietary Restrictions and Plated Meals}

Sorting out vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian at an Indian wedding may be a bit challenging. There are two ways to deal with this:

Work with your caterer and the venue’s serving staff to pre-inform them about where the vegetarian guests are seated, since you’ll have the seating chart. But, the the seating chart is its own challenge and invariably gets altered the week of the wedding. So…be sure you want to take on the added logistics of sorting out where people with dietary restrictions are seated. Ask your friends who’ve gotten married about their seating chart and how close to the wedding date they were altering it.

Have guests request the vegetarian option on the spot. The downside is the vegetarian person at the table will likely receive his/her food much later than everyone else at that same table. This is not a great experience for guests and is what people are accustomed to for work events but not for weddings.

{Bottomline on Plated Meals at Indian Weddings}

  • Can be done
  • Costs more
  • Requires more of your time due to more logistics and planning required

{Family Style Meals at Indian Weddings}

Naturally once couples and their families start thinking about plated meals then family style also comes into question. Family style is not recommended for an Indian wedding. Think about serving anywhere from 35 to 50 tables with 10 serving dishes, EACH.

Furthermore those dishes are going in the middle of table, reducing real estate for your centerpieces.

And it’s just not a great experience for guests to pass around the dishes to each other. Now to mention other challenges:

  • How often are dishes replenished?
  • How do you organize around dietary restrictions?

{Take Aways}

Plated Meals vs. Buffets at Indian Weddings describes the pros, cons and overall impact of these two meal styles. There are reasons why most Indian weddings are buffets. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what the alternative options are. Since many couples contemplate a plated meal at least once throughout their planning process we wanted to share some thoughts about this to better educate you.

Plated meals are elegant and not common at Indian weddings and if you can work out the logistics detailed above then go for it!

Family style is a no-go (no offense to anyone whose had a family style Indian wedding).

Our objective is to educate couples, so they can make informed decisions to shape their ideal wedding day.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! 🙂

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Cover image: Lin & Jirsa Photography




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