In the past, this was left strictly to the question of whether you are serving your guests via buffet or a plate and serve dinner. These days, however, I do more and more weddings where even with a buffet-style dinner the couple (mostly the bride - ha) wants to go ahead and have the look that you get with full place settings at each table. I wanted to address this issue exclusively for couples opting for a buffet-only dinner and what options you have.
Full place settings - While some find it tacky to have plates at the table and have your guests carry them to the buffet line, it is honestly not that difficult. If you really love the plates you have purchased/rented, go ahead and set that table - after all…it’s YOUR day. It does look beautiful in photos and it is easy enough to have the DJ announce that folks need to grab their plate before getting in line.
Pre-set salads and water - You might decide to leave dinner plates at the buffet, so what then? You can (typically for an additional fee from the caterer) opt to have your salads pre-set at each place setting and water glasses filled. Water glasses can look especially elegant by adding a lemon wedge or a strawberry to the side of each glass. This is done during the ceremony or cocktail hour if it is in a different space to keep everything fresh.
Rolls and a small plate with butter - Similar to a pre-set salad, your caterer can add a basket of dinner rolls to each table. At each place setting a small plate with a pad of cool butter can be placed. The Clinton Center does this sometimes and garnishes the plate with a couple drizzles of something sweet like syrup or honey for flair on the butter plate.
Folded napkin and menu - Adding linen napkins may be just the thing to complete this look without pre-setting salads, rolls, butter or water and keeping dinner plates at the buffet. Linen napkins can be folded to include a small pocket for your dinner menu along with your placed cutlery and empty glasses. I suggest rack cards from Vistaprint - you can purchase about 100 each for $20.00 and they have some very cute templates to choose from with an easy online design tool. I recently had a bride create a special message to her guests printed on a rack card instead of a menu and it was precious, too.
Add wedding favors - A nice wedding favor is always a sweet touch at place settings. Even if you do not want to spend very much of your budget on this, Etsy has some adorable little gift boxes wrapped to perfection with ribbon which you can customize to your colors. Simply add some Hershey Kisses and mints and voila!