Over the years, I’ve seen all kinds of fun cakes and not-cakes at weddings but by far the biggest trend has been the candy buffet or dessert table. And it’s not hard to see why, since it’s more than just a dessert – it doubles up as decor, as a favour – even as entertainment. It creates a gorgeous focal point in one part of your reception, a striking visual reinforcement of your colours or theme. I love these tables, but what I love even more maybe are the ways that even this alternative has sprouted alternatives! With personalised menus being a big trend for weddings, the specialised food station really comes into its own, and can be a fun twist to the dessert table, especially if you’re planning something a bit different like a brunch wedding. And it’s not limited to food either – you can apply the same principle of taking a basic treat and turning it into a visual feast and apply it to drinks as well. Here are ten of my favourite dessert and candy buffet alternatives, along with some ideas for creating the look at your wedding.
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1. THE COOKIE BAR
Not a far cry from a dessert table, the great advantage of a cookie or biscuit bar is that it’s something you and your friends and family can DIY, since it’s possible to make ahead of time if properly stored. You could ask your loved ones to each contribute a specialty, or you could make a few bases and then provide toppings and dips for guests to choose their own. Add little glassine bags to the spread and encourage guests to take a selection for the trip home or a midnight snack.
Row 1: Cookie Bar Sign by Malila Designs | Row 2: Cookie Bar Banner by Pretty Party Company | Row 3: All You Need is Love and A Cookie Sign by Dainty Darling Co. (left); Cookie Bar Sign Template by My Crayons Design (right) | Row 4: Treat Bags for Wedding Cookie Bar or Buffet by The Favor Loft
2. THE CHEESE BUFFET
Credit: Cheryl McEwan/SouthBound Bride
I’m a big fan of this one, in case you hadn’t already noticed. I styled the one pictured above, and I had so much fun playing around with different artisan breads and cheeses. I think this makes a great accompaniment to a pre-reception wine tasting, or an alternative to a sweet dessert for savoury-loving couples. You can have a cheese cake as your centrepiece and then surround it with breads, fruits, chutneys, etc. or spread out the cheeses themselves in belljars and on different stands and platters. Make sure there’s a variety of heights and include textures like ribbon tied around loaves or cutlery.
Row 1: Wedding Cake Topper “You Complete Brie” by Dalatho | Row 2: Vintage Wedding Party Bunting by Vintage Bunting Shop (left); Sweet Dreams are Made of Cheese Sign by Old Potting Shed LTD (right) | Row 3: Printable Cheese Wedding Sign by Alex and Co. Printables (right) | Row 4: Cheese Markers by Impressions Stamped
3. THE CHARCUTERIE STATION
Credit: Jen Fariello Photography via Martha Stewart
Speaking of savoury loving couples, charcuterie is another delicious way to spoil your guests during cocktail hour, as this couple did (don’t you love the idea of presenting it on a cart?). As always, variety is key, so get a range of meats, cheeses, breads and crackers, dips, chutneys and butters, as well as extras like different kinds of olives. Add lasercut tags or special labels so guests know what everything is. This is perfect if you have a bit of a Mediterranean theme to your decor (although it isn’t necessary, of course!) or just a rustic vibe going on.
4. THE WHISKY & CIGAR BAR
Show me the way to the next whisky bar… no need to ask why, when it looks as pretty as this one. Add cigars and this is a little paradise for the boys, one they’ll be talking about long after the big day. We have a great little DIY article on how to put your own whisky bar together from a real SouthBound bride.
5. THE ICE CREAM PARLOUR
The perfect beach version of a candy bar – your guests will love the childhood delight of being able to build their own ice creams and sundaes and it’ll keep them cool on a summer day too. Styling the ice creams, cones and toppings to look like an old school ice cream parlour adds to the fun and nostalgia. See here for a DIY tutorial including downloads and templates if you like the look above.
Row 1: Sundae Bar Sign by Hottomatoink2 | Row 2: Ice Cream Banner by UrEnvitedToo | Row 3: Wooden Ice Cream Cone Stand by Pinnery (left); 50 Pink Striped 8oz Paper Cups by Sparkle and Comfort (right) | Row 4: Ice Cream Sundae Bar Sign by Malila Designs (left); Personalized Dessert Spoon Ice Cream Flat Spoons by Mushroom Wooden Craft (right)
6. THE POPCORN BAR
Okay, you KNOW that many of your guests are going to just adore this idea! I mean, who doesn’t love popcorn? By all accounts, this is a really simple alternative to a dessert bar, and one that guests can interact with if you include a number of toppings and flavourings. I love the rustic styling of the one above (you can get all the printable elements here), but you could make this work for any setting by customising the labels and table.
Row 1: Mini Popcorn Box by Erickson Design | Row 2: Popcorn Seasoning Set by Sazon Forte Spices (left); Popcorn Bar Collection by Pen and Paper Flowers (right) | Row 3: Wedding Popcorn Bar Sign Printable by Yee Love Yu Studio
7. THE TEA OR COFFEE BAR
If you’re hosting a morning wedding or if the bride or groom have a real passion for tea or coffee, this is a fun way to go. Provide a number of varieties, beautifully laid out, and encourage guests to try a few. Make sure you include lots of visual variety so it doesn’t just look like the tea table at a PTA meeting.
Row 1: Coffee Bar Sign by Evergreen Design Signs | Row 2: Coffee And Tea Bar Sign by Malila Designs (left); Sweet Sayings Sugar Packets by Island Life Gifts (right) | Row 3: Wedding Coffee Cups by Labels Rus
8. THE CEREAL BUFFET
Brunch weddings are so awesome, and the food is a big part of what makes them so fun. I love the idea of a cereal buffet (even if I personally loathe cereal) – it’s such a fun breakfasty twist on the candy buffet! This kind of cheeky twist is exactly what makes alternative food stations so fun, and a real talking point for guests. Who hopefully like cereal more than I do.
Cereal Bar Sign by The Party Patisserie
9. THE CHAMPAGNE BAR
Make your guests feel like VIPs with their very own champagne bar! Be creative – add syrups and mixers, pretty swizzles, fruit pieces, etc.
Row 1: Sip Sip Hooray Party Banner by LantzandLady | Row 2: Champagne Bar Sign by PS Weddings and Events (left); Personalized Name Stir Sticks by Z Create Design (right) | Row 3: Gold Wedding Sign by MWLdesignsLTD
10. THE DONUT STATION
Donut even joke, donut displays are where it’s at right now for wedding treats! And there are so many cool ways to display them, from donut walls, to towers of donuts, to donut wedding cakes, etc. etc. Yum.
Row 1: Treat Yourself Pastel Doughnut Wall by supersweetparty (left); Donut Favor Bags by Nottingham Paper Goods (right) | Row 2: Donut Stand by Freestyle Mom | Row 3: Donut Bar Lettering by Freestyle Mom (left); Donut Wall Display by Dear Heart Signs (right)