Compare Wedding Insurance's Guide to Wedding Buffets

Recently at Compare Wedding Insurance we had this question regarding ways in which a wedding buffet can be made stress-free when it involves a large number of guests, and how to ensure that they receive their food within a reasonable amount of time:

"I'm getting mixed answers from people when I ask them this so I thought maybe you could help me out. I'm marrying a Portuguese guy with a huge family. Our wedding will have over 300 people and a buffet dinner. Normally, a buffet serving that many people would have 4 different line ups so that people could get their food quickly. The venue I have chosen can only work with 2 line ups.

With that many people, I'm worried that people will start getting agitated while waiting for their table to be called to go get food. I thought that it would be great if we could provide some entertainment. I instantly thought of having a couple of salsa dancers come in and do some dancing for maybe 30 mins until we were ready for the speeches to start. What do you think? Do you think that is tacky or cheesy.. or do you think it would be a cool idea? Or maybe you have some other ideas on how I could take the edge off for the people who have to wait so long?"

We understand your concern that your guests will become restless if they have to wait too long for their food during your wedding reception. 300 guests is a lot of mouths which need to be fed and it is unfortunate that your wedding reception venue cannot allow a larger number of line-ups. By our estimations if there are 300 guests and only 2 lines then it will take well over an hour to get food to everyone. If there are families with children then this length of time could be a lot longer.

After some discussion, we came up with the following suggestions:


We definitely think that you should provide some form of entertainment whilst guests wait for their turn at the buffet table. The salsa dancers sound like a fun and unique idea so long as it fits in with the theme of your wedding and the cost of this is within your budget. This is not tacky at all so don't worry about that. We think that your guests will appreciate the effort that you have gone to in arranging entertainment whilst they wait to be fed, rather than them having to make polite chit-chat and ignore their rumbling stomachs! We think that a 30-45 minute salsa display is definitely long enough – any longer and you run the risk of your guests becoming bored rather than entertained.

Here are some entertainment alternatives you might also want to consider:

  • Have some background music playing throughout the whole meal until the speeches commence ( e.g. a soloist or duet of harpists). You could even ask your venue to play some music through a CD player or iPod with speakers to create a relaxing ambience during the meal.
  • How about some wandering entertainers who could occupy the tables of guests who have yet to be called up to the buffet table ( e.g. caricaturists, hypnotists, mind readers or magicians).
  • On each table have a pre-printed quiz about the couple (prizes could be given after the speeches for the best answers) or simply a trivia quiz to keep their minds occupied. Take a look at our article Tips And Advice On How To Get Guests Mingling At Your Wedding for some great ideas on how to keep your guests entertained at their tables whilst they wait to be fed.


In order to avoid congestion at the buffet tables and ensure its smooth running ask your venue organizers to do the following:

  • They should provide enough serving staff at the buffet tables so that guests can be served or assisted as quickly as possible.
  • Ask your caterer to have food items clearly marked. This will help to avoid confusion amongst your guests as to what dishes are and will avoid hold-ups on the buffet table if guests have to keep stopping to ask catering staff questions about the food on offer. Most venues will offer to put out cards with each dishes' name and (if necessary – e.g. spicy, vegetarian, contains nuts) a description of the ingredients. This should help to speed the line up and allow your guests to be served more expeditiously.
  • Ask them whether the buffet tables can be accessed from both sides as this would definitely cut down the waiting times for your guests to reach the food.
  • Another way to take the edge off of people's appetites whilst waiting to get called to the buffet table is to provide some nibbles on their table for them to tuck into during the interim period.

Edible Table Centerpieces

Edible centerpieces not only taste great and, in your case, would serve the purpose of allowing your guests to graze whilst they wait for their entrees, but they also serve as a fabulous table decoration. I am unsure of what your wedding decoration theme is but here are some examples of what you could have on your tables:

  • Decorated baskets of bread, muffins and/or other baked goods.
  • Decorated baskets or crystal bowls filled with fruit.
  • Use 3 tier glass stands in the center of each table and fill them with bite-sized appetizers and treats.
  • A cheese board with different cheeses, crackers and garnish it with fresh fruit, olives or peppers.
  • For a unique twist you could add Portuguese edibles to introduce your non-Portuguese guests to a sample of your husband's culture!

Edible Favors

If you are considering giving your guests favors then how about an edible favor which could double up as an entrée or snack for them to enjoy during their wait for the buffet table. These favors could also serve as place cards if you personalize each of them with a tag bearing each guest's name and place one at each place setting.

  • Mini personalized baskets with some pre-wrapped cheeses and assorted crackers. You could select 2 or 3 different types of cheese but cheddar always goes down well. These baskets can be assembled and put on the tables an hour or 2 in advance of the wedding reception as the cheese is best served at room temperature.
  • Mini bagels and personalized tiny tubs of cream cheese.
  • A decorated muffin, cookie or sweet treat to stave away your guest's hunger pangs!

Speak to your venue if you are interested in these ideas and if they are unable to provide the edible centerpieces ask a family member or friend if they would be willing to either (a) put the baskets/platters together for you/with your help and arrange them on your wedding day or (b) find a local delicatessen who would be able to assist you with this.

We hope that these ideas help. Good luck with your big day!


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