Everyone wants the food at their wedding to be amazing. Wedding Guests always remember the food. They will remember if it was good, if it was bad, if it took too long and they were starving... they'll remember if there wasn't enough and they were still hungry even after eating.
Having the right type of food plus the right style of service is important. BBQ Buffet dinner gives a more casual feel than a Plated Filet Mignon dinner. It will help set the tone of your wedding. That being said, there are a lot of options of how to serve dinner.
Depending on your experiences, you may already have a preference for the way food at a wedding should be served. I am here to compare the options and maybe even give you new options you didn't know existed!
I am a fan of buffets. It is great for a more relaxed environment, and people can pick and choose what they would like on their plate (and how much). It's quite a bit less work for you and your caterer too. No need to send out the extra invitation inserts of "chicken or fish". Buffets are great for large groups, but it is time consuming to get everyone through the line. One way to help, is to set up multiple lines. I like to have up to 4 lines depending on the wedding guest list size. We can get (give or take) 250 people through a buffet in 30-40 minutes with 4 lines. (This obviously varies greatly depending on the guests, venue, and set up.) Then, once it gets to the final table, instead of a group of friends of the bride/groom that are starving and wondering if the flowers in the centerpiece are edible, they are pleasantly surprised that it's already their turn for the buffet.
What I like even better than Buffets though, are Soft-Open Buffets! Soft-Open Buffets are similar to buffets, but instead of having the guests sit down, and dismissed table by table, the buffet is available straight from cocktail hour. It's a bit quicker because we save the first migration time to the seats. Normally, as the wedding planner, for a traditional buffet, I would go around at the end of cocktail hour and ask everyone to find their seats. 15-20 minutes later the guests would be seated, and we would have the bridal party grand entrance, then dismiss by table. With the Soft-open, usually the grand entrance fits nicely at the end of cocktail hour, then I would go around telling groups the buffet line is open. For some reason, it generally only takes them a few minutes to get in line! *wink wink, nudge nudge* The migration time is much shorter, and the hungriest guests will be the first in line. They also only have to go to their seats once!
I do love the sophistication of plated dinners though. It's so elegant and they're garnished beautifully. It is an opportunity to really treat your guests to fine dining. You would think it is faster than buffet, but generally it takes about the same amount of time to get all the plates delivered to the guests. Here is where staffing is crucial. You need to have enough staff to get the food to the tables at a good pace.
Probably my favorite way to serve food at a wedding, though, is Family Style. (However, it still depends on what ambiance you are designing.) Family style is the perfect balance between Plated and Buffet. Every table is brought food in courses. An example would be, the catering staff would bring each table big bowls of salad. As each guest is helping themselves to salad, the waiter is getting the next course to trade out the salad bowl. The things I like about this serving style, is you feel more like a family when you interact at a dinner table this way, it is the fastest way to get food out, and you are not waiting in line, so it feels like you're at a restaurant.
Really, the styles all vary greatly, and not all Caterers offer every option. Every style of service fits everyone differently as well. More than likely, you know how you want your wedding day to feel, and the food can help that feeling transpire.