how to choose an hors d’oeuvres menu for your cocktail hour

how to choose a cocktail hour menu

Choosing a menu can be one of the most fun parts of wedding planning for both the bride and groom – everyone loves food tastings! – but actually selecting the menu can be a daunting task. After all, the food is one of the most memorable aspects of a wedding according to guests, but catering to different tastes and diets can be a challenge. Here are some guidelines to help select a menu that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Know Your Guests: The number one rule for planning any menu is to know who will be eating. If a lot of your friends are vegetarians or vegan, you will want to include more vegan hors d’oeuvres that usual. If you will have a lot of children in attendance, you will want to have a few more kid-friendly items available. If any guests have food allergies, make sure  you let your caterer or chef know so you can be sure to have a few items that those guests may eat. This is easier to plan for with cocktail hours because you will naturally have some variety and guests can choose the items they like.

Displays versus Passed: Many caterers will offer both passed hors d’oeuvres and displays. Most cocktail hours offer a combination of both. There are certain foods that work better as displays, such as carving stations with an attendant or fruit and cheese platters. If you are trying to cut costs, cut back on displays and offer more passed hors d’oeuvres. Make sure you have enough portions of displayed food for all of your guests and assume that at least a few of your guests will take heaping portions (but adjust that number up if more of your guests are known as big eaters).

Variety: Cocktail hour is the perfect part of your wedding to add some variety in cuisine. Many caterers offer specialty stations for displays that feature a certain type of dish or type of food – think gourmet mac and cheese served in a martini glass or a Caribbean food display. Many caterers have wedding packages with different ratios of displays to passed hors d’oeuvres, but a good rule of thumb is to offer at least two displays and six different types of passed hors d’oeuvres. You can certainly offer more displays and fewer hors d’oeuvres, but the more types of hors d’oeuvres you offer, the higher your consumption will be (guests will want to try a bit of everything), so keep that in mind if you are looking to control costs.

Passed Tomato Soup Shooters

 Menu: For passed hors d’oeuvres, a mix of different types of meats and seafood, is advised. Offer at least two vegetarian options, more if you expect many guests who are vegetarian and vegan (and be aware of the difference between vegetarian and vegan!).

Don’t put everything on a stick: Skewer hors d’oeuvres are very popular, but mix things up! Many hors d’oeuvres come on a skewer, on a spoon, or on a crostini. Mix these up – even if you have a variety of different proteins but all are served on a crostini, guests may not think there is much variety.

Hot versus cold: This may partially depend on your caterer’s kitchen, but try to offer a variety of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, unless it’s expected to be very hot, and then you can offer almost all cold or room temperature menu items. But conversely in the winter, most guests will expect mostly hot items.

Chef’s specialty: Always ask the caterer what the chef’s specialty is and offer it, if possible.

Happy Menu Selecting!

Photo Credits: { NY Wedding Co | Colin Cowie Weddings }

Editors Note: This post was originally featured at Jewbilation, an online marketplace for Jewish celebrations and events. Visit Jewbilation for product and service vendors in your area.


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