Food stations are becoming a popular way to get guests mixing and mingling at your wedding. The traditional plated meal has guests seated at their specified table all evening, and limits their ability to converse with other people at the wedding. It also restricts guests to only the food on their plate, without the option of second servings. This planner loves the idea of setting up your meal in stations, or at least partially in stations, so that guests can mix it up all evening and choose only the food they love.
The sky is the limit when you’re setting up food stations. You could set up only the appetizers and salads in stations, and have the main meal served, or you could create an entire meal where each item is at its own station.
If you choose to go with stations, carefully think about your seating arrangement. You can still have people seated at specified tables, but have them get up to get their food, or you can set up more of a lounge style, where you have some traditional round or rectangular tables, some cocktail tables, and some low, coffee-table style areas. This arrangement would allow guests to choose where to sit, and with whom. Whatever you do, ensure that you have enough space for everyone to sit, or at least set their food and drink down. Be sure to make arrangements for any elderly or mobility-challenged guests – perhaps have their food served to them.
Following are some ideas for stations, but remember, you’re only limited by your imagination! Just remember to provide options for any health concerns or dietary restrictions your guests may have. Ensure that there are vegetarian choices, and that you account for any lactose, gluten or seafood allergies.
- Shrimp cocktail on ice
- Oyster bar
- Specialty cheese
- Italian antipasto
- Cheese fondue
- Tempura (done on-site, including veggies, seafood, and a variety of dipping sauces)
- Raw veggies and gourmet dips
- Salad bar
- Soup station (small serving vessels to sample a variety - i.e. shot glasses)
- American (burgers, dogs)
- Canadian (roast beef, turkey, gravy, au jus)
- Poutine bar (fries, different gravies, cheese curds, shaved meat, smoked salmon)
- Mashed or baked potato bar (sea salt, chives, green onions, cheeses, bacon bits, salsa, tomatoes, sour cream, whipped butter)
- Gourmet grilled cheese (variety of cheese, flavoured ketchup)
- Sweet potato frites (with custom aioli and ketchup)
- Mac and Cheese (gourmet mac and cheese with bacon, extra cheese, green onion, bread crumbs, lobster, andouille sausage, roasted corn, etc.)
- Risotto (creamy rice with toppings including caramelized onions, mushrooms, asparagus tips, walnut pesto, gorgonzola and asiago cheese, etc.)
- Pizza station (made to order)
- Perogie station (variety of flavoured perogies with sour cream, green onion, bacon, cheese, etc.)
- Pasta station (variety of pastas and sauces, basil, oregano, garlic, shrimp, meatballs, parmesan cheese, etc.)
- Sushi (made to order)
- Korean BBQ
- Mediterranean (souvlaki, greek salad, hummus, baba ganouj, tabouli)
- Mexican (hard and soft tortillas, tortilla bowls, chips, meats, cheeses, guac, salsa, sour cream, lettuce)
- Stir fry (made to order - consider serving in Chinese takeout containers)
- Pad Thai (made to order)
- Thai Fresh Roll (rice paper wraps, shrimp, tofu, glass noodles, carrots, lettuce, daikon, coriander, mint, mushrooms, peppers, green onions, peanut sauce, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce)
- Ice cream sundae bar (various ice creams, gelatos, sauces, nuts and candy toppings)
- Creme Brulee bar (choice of fruit, chef “brulees” top to order)
- Crepe and waffle bar (fruit, sauce, flavoured whipped cream)
- Mini dessert selection (desserts in shot glasses, truffles, tarts, squares, etc.)
- Coffee/Cappuccino/Espresso bar (barista-made using syrups, creams, liqueurs and toppings)
- Tea, hot chocolate and hot apple cider bar
- Smoothie/juice bar
- Fruit infused waters
- Scotch Tasting Bar
- Wine Tasting Bar
- Beer Tasting Bar
Work with your caterer to come up with an attractive set up for stations. Raising some foods on lifts to create levels at each station will improve the aesthetics of the station, as will accessorizing with flowers, candles, or other items that match your décor.
You must also consider the flow of guests when you set up stations. Ensure that there is enough space between stations to allow guests to walk freely, and try to allow popular stations to be approached from both sides to prevent line-ups. Have more than one chef at “made to order” stations or carving stations to serve guests more quickly.
Finally, make sure that there is enough catering staff on hand to keep stations neat, clean, and replenished. You don’t want your guests going back for seconds of their favourite food only to find that the bowl is empty, or have them slip on gravy that’s been spilled on the floor!
Food stations can be a really fun and interesting option, and an entertaining way to feed your guests. You’re only limited by your imagination in station options, so let your imagination run wild, and enjoy!