Wedaholic.com: Top Tips For A Waiter-free Wedding Reception


Hi Everyone,

I received this question from a bride-to-be regarding how best to manage a wedding reception buffet without using any wait staff.

"I plan to have a buffet at the reception. I will not have wait staff, but will be using china and glass. How can I be effective in having guests return dishes to a specific area once the evening meal is over? Also, when we have a toast, I plan to have champagne. How might I get this opened and served without wait staff? I thought about having the beverage in buckets at each table and asking groomsmen and relatives to open and pour at their tables only. What do you think?"

This was my reply:

With good planning there is no reason why you and your guests should not be able to enjoy a perfect and hitch-free wedding buffet. Although some couples might baulk at the idea of having no wait staff at their wedding reception I personally think that it will add an air of intimacy to your wedding buffet. Just you and your guests - how relaxing!

Wedding buffet clean-up

Here are my tips for how to effectively ensure that your guests return their used dishes to a specific area of your reception venue once the buffet is over.

♥ Discuss with the reception venue in advance the layout of the room and decide on where the best place to set up the station for soiled tableware is. They will probably suggest a rolling table with a garbage can nearby for uneaten food. Make sure that it is not going to look too obtrusive at your wedding reception. It is important to agree these details in advance of your wedding day.

♥ Ensure that the area where the soiled plates and cutlery are being returned to is clearly marked with a sign. This will help to avoid confusion of where guests have to leave their dishes - the last thing you want is your guests wandering around with dirty plates not knowing where to leave them! You could put together a sign politely worded asking all guests to return their used dishes and cutlery to the designated area, e.g. “Please place your plates here when finished. Thank you for your help.” and ask the reception venue staff to place it at the station for dirty plates on the day of your wedding reception.

♥ Before the meal begins nominate someone on your top table to include a few words additional to or in their speech reminding guests that there are no wait-staff. They could ask guests to help out by returning their used plates to the designated area. They could say something along the lines of:

“We hope you enjoy the delicious buffet and would ask that when you have finished eating please take your plates and cutlery to the designated clean-up area [and have them point in that direction so that your guests are clear where they should leave their soiled plates]”.

Remember to thank your guests for their co-operation with this. I think you’ll find that most people will be glad to help you out on your wedding day!

♥ As a back-up plan for those guests who forget, refuse or are unable to clear away their own plates politely ask (rather than nominate!) a couple of responsible groomsmen, bridesmaids or even a couple of helpful wedding guests if they would check that the tables have been cleared of dirty plates. Do this in advance of your wedding day so that you know someone has it covered and that you and your partner do not need to get involved in the cleaning up process!

Champagne Toasts

Whilst having wait-staff to serve drinks at a wedding is helpful it is by no means necessary. Your guests are very likely to be able to open a bottle of champagne and pour themselves drinks. I don’t think you will hear any complaints about this!

Here are my tips:

♥ I agree with you that beverage or ice buckets in the center of each table is the perfect way to display your champagne. It will be within easy reach for the guests on each table and will also serve as a sophisticated centerpiece for each table.

♥ There are lots of ice buckets available nowadays either to buy or to rent. Whilst silver ice buckets look elegant, if you prefer to co-ordinate the buckets to match the color theme of your wedding then how about clear plastic or glass buckets which can easily be decorated with beautiful flowers, trailing greenery and surrounded by candles in colors to match your wedding. You could also use silver or colored pails and decorate them to co-ordinate with your wedding style.

♥ Calculate how many bottles of champagne you will need for each table depending on how many adult guests are seated at each table. Remember that the average bottle of champagne will yield 6 flute glasses.

♥ Champagne is best served chilled so organize for the buckets to contain a mixture of ice and water for the bottle to sit in for at least 20 minutes prior to opening. It is not only preferable to serve champagne chilled but it is also essential as champagne that is too warm will foam over and spill when the bottle is uncorked. So ensure the champagne is chilled - you don’t want your guests sucking champagne off their dinner plates with a straw!

♥ Remember that some guests are scared of opening champagne bottles whether this is due to the loud pop sound it makes, the fact that they usually spill most of it and don’t want to embarrass themselves in front of your wedding guests or that they might never have opened a bottle before! Perhaps you should find a fun way to ask a guest at each table to volunteer to open the champagne bottles at their own table and serve the guests seated with them. You could place a card on each table or, even better, hang a little note off of the neck of the champagne bottle. On the card/note you could ask for a guest or guests at each table to open the champagne bottles and keep everyone’s glasses topped up for the toasts.

♥ You could also print up a helpful little note to help guests who are unsure about how best to uncork the bottles and place one on each table. Here is a sample:

1. Use a napkin to dry off the bottle a bit so you can get a good grip.

2. Remove the foil top and loosen the wire cage. Leave the wire cage in place until you are ready to open the bottle(beware as some bottles have enough pressure built up in them (especially if they have been shaken when being handled) that the champagne cork will fly out immediately upon taking the wire cage off).

3. Have glasses ready in front of you and remove the wire cage.

4. With the bottle upright drape the napkin over the cork at the top of the bottle (this will help to catch the cork rather than it flying across the room and hitting another guest!) and get a good grip on the cork.

5. Hold on tight to the cork. With your other hand get a good grip on the fat part of the champagne bottle and slowly and gently TWIST BOTH HANDS IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. As soon as you feel the cork forcing its way out, apply pressure to push it back in whilst continuing to twist it. This way the cork will be released with a sigh rather than a pop!


6. Take the cork and towel away and start pouring the champagne!

With the help of your guests there is no reason why a waiter-free wedding has to be more complicated than one with waiters buzzing all around your reception venue. By going it alone you and your wedding guests can enjoy an efficiently run yet relaxed and fun wedding reception!

I hope this helps.


Posted by Emily on November 6, 2006 02:19 PM to Wedaholic.com