Warning: This post may cause you to want to get married all over again 🙂
Food stations and interactive bars, whether grazing tables, dessert stations or canape buffets, have really taken the wedding world by storm. Over the past few years, the trend just didn’t want to dissipate, and it is easy to understand why. Your special day will probably go on for 12 to 16 hours, and you do not want hungry guests, making food stations a great idea. Not only are they infinitely customisable, but they are also adaptable to any type of wedding – from formal to informal, as a full meal or snacks, a serve-yourself bar or something more interactive that serves as part of the entertainment. Sounds good? Then here is the list of our all-time favourite wedding food station ideas.
What you need to know about wedding food stations
Before you get dead-set on having food stations as your wedding food, there are a few things you need to consider:
- Would your venue allow it?
- Is there enough and suitable space for the station(s) in the venue?
- Would you need a caterer, or can you do it yourself? And – do you want to do it yourself?
- Would you need extra staff to man the station(s)?
- How many guests are you inviting?
- How many stations would you have?
- Who would do the set-up and styling?
- Would you need extra equipment?
It’s important to mention here that all food stations are not created equally! Some options such as candy buffets or popcorn stations can be set up the day before (as long as you have access to the space – make sure to check this with your venue), while others, like tapas or carving stations, will need to be manned by staff for the ease of your guests. Then there are the foods that must be kept refrigerated or frozen, like oysters, sushi and ice cream, or heated, like curry stations. Some food stations need professional caterers to pull them off safely, and timing is often crucial, so your wedding timeline is of utmost importance.
Wedding food stations that you can do yourself
These food stations are super easy and simple to put together because you can prepare them in advance, particularly if you’ve got access to the venue the day before the wedding. If this sounds like something you would love to incorporate, we highly recommend delegating this job to a trusted bridal party member or friend – just do a practice run at home and take photographs to give to your designated volunteer, along with a list of all the items for your station, so they know exactly what they need to do!
Popcorn bars are one of the easiest and cost-affordable stations to set up. We have done our fair share of them over the past few years! This station is perfect as a pre-ceremony snack, a pre-dinner snack or as a late-night snack. You can even set it up for the entire time your guests will be at the wedding. The popcorn can be popped a few days in advance, just be sure to store them in airtight containers. Add flavoured salts, a few drizzles like salted caramel or browned butter, and maybe a few other bits and bobs (think lucky charms, small chocolates or other candy) and you have one popping bar! (remember the brown paper bags, nobody wants to be walking around with fistfuls of popcorn!)
For candy buffets your list of choices are endless! You can opt to go with childhood favourites, more modern nibbles, or even themed ones according to colour, flavour, or country of origin. We recently did a German-inspired candy buffet chock full of traditional treats. You can also include nostalgic eats such as fudge, marshmallows, lollipops or coconut ice. All of these treats can be packed or placed into glass jars and bottles beforehand and then simply packed out on the day. Remember to add pretty paper bags for guests who would like theirs as a takeaway.
Similar to a candy buffet, only better since it is cookies! Get an assortment, pack them out in piles or heaps or jars, put a name card or sticker on and you are good to go. They can be baked or purchased in advance, just store them in airtight containers until the day. Again, remember the brown paper bags!
Doughnut walls or stations
This is what most of our sweet dreams are made off – a selection of yummy doughnuts, for us to take from to our heart’s content. Order, bake or buy a selection of doughnuts, then on the day either hang them from a pegboard, stack them on cake plates, pile them on the table or thread them onto standing poles. Whatever you do, just make sure guests can get to them and get them off quickly, because they are sure to go fast!
Another type of food station that just doesn’t go away. Buy (or bake if you are talented) a selection of delicious macarons, then display them however you find attractive. You can even serve this food station as part of your wedding cake, or as the wedding cake!
This is our favourite food station – the oyster bar! Get a lot of shucked oysters (get them shucked, don’t do it yourself), put them out on crushed ice, then add a few hot sauces, lemon wedges, and other toppings such as salsa, caviar (if possible), etc. and allow your guests to help themselves. For the truly adventurous you can serve a shot of tequila with every oyster.
Gin is still the flavour of the moment, with rum coming in fast. For this boozy bar, you can substitute any hard liquor or even wine of your own choice. Pack out enough glasses, have enough ice, place the unopened bottles of drink of choice with the necessary mixers on the table or in an ice bath, add a few interesting details such as cucumber ribbons, lemon wedges, etc. and you are good to go!
Wedding food stations that need a little bit of help, from the professionals
Even though your guests will most likely still serve themselves, these are the food bars or stations that either requires a bit more setup, more specialised equipment, more hands, or even someone to cook the food on order. For these stations to be successful we would highly recommend getting in a professional, and you will most definitely need the cooperation and approval of your venue.
Tapas have become the word used to describe any and all bite-size food not traditionally thought of as a canape. What used to be Spanish is now global. For your tapas station, you can stick to traditional Spanish bites or go for International flair, including little bites from around the world. Usually easy to eat, with minimal utensils needed, these bites can be served hot or cold, depending on what you have available. A great way of serving the main meal!
Charcuterie or grazing tables
Although an easy station to set up you would want to have a dedicated professional do it. Consisting of cold meats, fresh bread, spreads and butter and cheese and all sorts of other antipasti, this type of station can quickly look messy if there is not someone who can tidy it up every now and again. And also refill butter and loaves of bread and olives as needed. This is one of our most popular options, we serve it as a starter at almost ALL of the weddings we do.
A tricky station to pull off if you do not have access to a big enough pizza oven or even a conventional oven. To do, simply pack out piping hot pizzas as they come out of the oven. They can all have the same topping, or different toppings, with extras that your guests can add afterwards such as fresh herbs, guacamole, etc. A great way to feed guests if you dream of having a fun, informal wedding.
More towards the traditional buffet, having a carvery can be turned into something special by included not so traditional cuts of meat such as smoked brisket, lamb ribs, or even venison. Serve with accompanying sauces and you have a delicious offering.
Tacos and nachos bar
What avo-filled dreams are made off. Serve bowls of pulled pork, chicken, salsa, corn on the cob, sour cream and guacamole with a choice of either nacho chips or taco shells and allow guests to build their own Mexican experience. Just remember the serviettes since this gets messy!
Breakfast or brunch station
A more “newish” station, the breakfast or brunch station has a lovely appeal. Serve your favourite breakfast food so that guests can build their own perfect breakfast. Think sausages, quiche, coddled eggs, pastries, toast, and more.
You would think we have covered all of the sweet possibilities, but no – wait there is more! For dessert, you have so many options, from a lollipop bar with a selection of lollies on ice to a cupcake tower. You can have a fruit bar for the more health-conscious, or a chocolate fountain if you really want to indulge. Just remember to display all of the goodies beautifully since this is the last picture your guests will mentally take of your big day, and you want it to really stick!
How to style your wedding food station
The images should give you some inspiration and ideas, but here are the tips: use on-theme containers, remember your signage, have enough cutlery and crockery if needed, and don’t forget the serviettes. Add height by using taller containers, boxes to place the platters on, and cake stands, display stands, cutting boards or trays can add interest and visual impact. If you are hiring a professional, be sure to chat to them about your expectations as well as any colours or themes you would like to incorporate.
Food stations are a wonderful way of getting the guests involved, serving a bigger selection of food and having fun. It can be pricey, so make sure you spend your money where it counts, and get professionals in to do it as far as possible. There is still a long list of other station and bar options, including sushi, candy floss, raw/salad, canape, curry, burger, and more, but the ones featured here are the ones we see most often.
For all the retro lovers out there, why not consider a champagne tower – you know you want to!