Wedding Reception Appetizers and Hors d’oeuvres

bruchetta appetizer for a wedding reception
Photo Courtesy of Carly Daniel Photography

You’re in the home stretch of wedding planning. The reception venue is booked and you’re starting to get into the really detailed planning, like what appetizers you want to serve to your reception guests.

Before you get down to fine-tuning your appetizer menu, you first need to make sure that hors d’oeuvres are appropriate for your wedding reception. Think about the theme and mood of your reception, and especially what time of day it is being held.

Late morning receptions call for a light brunch without appetizers. Appetizers at an afternoon reception certainly wouldn’t be expected, but if you want to serve them then you can give guests a lighter lunch. Evening wedding receptions that overlap with the dinner hour are the most popular type of reception for serving appetizers or hors d’oeuvres, though not every evening reception has to.

Receptions held at certain times of day might even be appropriate for serving appetizers only, with no meal. Late afternoon (around 3pm) or late evening (around 8pm) are off-peak times where a meal would not be expected, but it would be nice to serve appetizers to guests as they mingle.

fruit flower display
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If you choose to have an appetizers-only wedding reception, you’ll need to decide what to serve, how much you’ll need for your guest list, where to display the food, and how to decorate the food tables. Your reception invitations should also make mention of the fact that hors d’oeuvres will be served so guests know to eat before coming but to leave some room for appetizers and wedding cake.

Let’s take the most common scenario, the evening reception with hors d’oeuvres, and examine a sample reception timeline for serving food:

5 – 6 pm: guests begin to arrive, appetizers and hors d’oeuvres served
6 – 7 pm: announcement of bridal party, dinner is served
7 – 8:30 pm: dancing
8:30 – 9 pm: wedding cake cutting and serving
9 pm – 10: dancing continues, bouquet toss, last dance at 10
If you decide that serving appetizers is right for your wedding reception, then you have some executive decisions to make.

First, do you want the appetizers catered or homemade by volunteer friends and family? Catering is more expensive, but pulling together the efforts of various helpful relatives is more work. Finding the right answer depends on your stress threshold, the amount of help you have available, your budget, and the formality of your wedding reception.

appetizers for LDS receptions
Photo Courtesy of Wasatch Studios

Second, do you want appetizers displayed at a table so guests can serve themselves, or would you like them carried around the room on trays by wait staff and passed to guests as they mingle? Professional caterers can do both, but they will also charge an hourly rate for the wait staff if you choose the second option.

Passed hors d’oeuvres at a casual backyard open house would be out of place, but if your guests are dressed to the nines and gathered in a five-star hotel for your reception it would be a nice touch. If you instead decide to lay them out buffet-style, locate the tables in an accessible location and let the table décor echo the rest of the reception tables. Make sure that any centerpieces don’t interfere with easy access to the food.

The type of appetizers you serve depends on your budget and the formality of your reception. If your wedding has a theme, it should also be incorporated in your appetizer choices somehow. Some of the most popular wedding reception appetizers are:

• Stuffed mushrooms
• Scallops wrapped in bacon
• Mini crabcakes
• Beef puff and pastry
• Chicken wings or kabobs
• Italian meatballs
• Pigs in a blanket
• Egg rolls
• Beef skewers
• Quesadillas
• Coconut shrimp or chicken
• Wantons
• Paté (any kind)
• Fruit skewers
• Sliders or small sandwiches

appetizers for LDS receptions
Photo Courtesy of Whitney Lewis Photography

This is only a partial list to get you started – it’s possible to turn practically any dish into an appetizer. Bite-sized “mini” versions of practically any food are great, as long as they aren’t messy or require a knife and fork.

To serve or not to serve hors d’oeuvres? That’s a tough question that can really only be answered by you and your fiancé. Take into account the time of day, your budget, and the formality of your wedding reception. Appetizers aren’t usually expected at wedding receptions, but many times they are the perfect complement to an evening reception or just what is needed to fill out a reception that falls between normal mealtimes.

♥ Jenny Evans
Exclusively for
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Catering for LDS weddings, LDS reception, LDS open houses

LDS weddings, LDS reception, LDS open houses

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