Food stations inspire a free-flowing, interactive atmosphere

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As modern brides and grooms break free from the structure and tradition of weddings past, one portion of the celebration that’s stuck around and evolved is catered stations.

By Rachael Thatcher | Newport Wedding magazine 2020

Stations lend themselves to a variety of options, allow for a looser structure than a sit-down meal, and can serve as a way for the bride and groom to express their personalities through the selections.  

This is not your run-of-the-mill self-serve buffet we’re talking about, but rather an interactive dining experience. Interactive stations offer food as entertainment, allowing guests to ask questions like, “What grade sushi is that?” as they watch their spicy tuna roll being assembled.

According to Barbara Behan Howlett, the owner of Glorious Affairs catering in Middletown, raw bar stations are a popular option in the Ocean State. Howlett says they often have a local oyster farmer behind the counter who can tell guests about the family farm while shucking.

“They can get more educated in what they’re eating,” she says — a subject in which people are becoming increasingly more interested.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s a trend; it’s here for good,” Howlett says. “It’s an important piece everyone wants to know: what am I putting in my body?”  

Stations also ensure that vegetarian cousins, gluten-free BFFs, and picky nieces and nephews can all find something suitable to eat, given the variety and options available. 

In addition, Howlett says, “the host or bride and groom can be a guest at their own party while they’re enjoying the stations.” 

With this format, structure can be thrown to the wind. Well, maybe not completely. You’ll want to hold onto that schedule. But it does allow guests to eat, mingle and dance at their own pace.

“I find that at every event — whether it’s a cocktail party or especially wedding receptions — you have a window of time and it’s precious, and you need to utilize every moment,” Howlett says. In her 28 years in business, she notes, “I’ve never had someone regret the stations.” 

Glorious Affairs offers a wide variety of stations, from tacos to pad Thai, sushi, Southwest and New England, which includes lobster rolls and chowder. “It depends on the season, too,” Howlett says. “If you came [to me] in the winter, I would say, ‘Why not do a soup and salad station, or soup and grilled cheese?’”

Blackstone Caterers in Middletown also offers a number of stations which are interactive, in that wedding guests can select the proteins and toppings for their plate. 

For example, the caterer’s macaroni and cheese bar includes toppings like sautéed mushrooms, crumbled applewood-smoked bacon, diced tomato and more. The build-your-own ramen noodle bar allows guests to choose broth, proteins and toppings, as well. Blackstone also offers a carving station, seaside Rhode Island station and slider bars, among others.

“We are very customized, so we love to execute them to the client’s vision,” says Karen Tungett, co-owner of Blackstone Caterers.

Oftentimes, custom stations are inspired by the newlyweds’ home state, which is a fun way to showcase the couple’s personality, Tungett adds. “We also decorate stations beautifully with signage and props, such as lanterns and crates [that are] specific to the wedding décor,” she says.

If you’re leaning toward the idea of stations, but don’t want to give up the structure or tradition of a sit-down dinner, there’s the option to do a little of both. “You don’t have to do a sit-down throughout the reception,” Howlett says. She suggests doing a first course and entrée while sitting, and then moving desserts and other things later on into the station format to get people up and moving. 

 “I do find that most brides and grooms are looking for foods or atmosphere that’s much more comfortable and not as formal,” Howlett says.  

This concept stretches from the reception back to the rehearsal dinner. Howlett says that many couples are leaning toward welcome parties that include everyone — either in addition to or instead of a rehearsal dinner with just the bridal party.

Stations can be a great fit there, too. Actually, when it comes right down to it, where don’t stations fit? 


Mashed potato station

Ramen station

Pasta station

Taco station

Pad Thai station

Candy station

Ice cream sundae station

Cappuccino/coffee station

Pizza station

BBQ station

Raw bar

Pretzel bar

Popcorn bar

S’more station

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