Food is a central component at nearly every social event because it brings people closer as they gather and partake in incredible spreads. That said, choosing the foods you’ll serve at your wedding is a major decision. Aside from the main course and dessert, you’ll have to decide on hors d’oeuvres or late-night snacks you can offer guests. So, which should you choose? In this bridal guide, we’ll dive into the benefits of each, plus some tasty ideas to help you decide.
The Argument for Hors d’Oeuvres
Passed hors d’oeuvres are similar to appetizers the venue workers will serve your guests during cocktail hour. Often, these are small finger foods people can easily eat while enjoying a drink and conversing with others. One major difference between appetizers and hors d’oeuvres is that the latter are smaller. Additionally, there are typically many of the same hors d’oeuvres on a single platter for the server to carry around so people can take whatever they’d like.
Hors d’oeuvres are fairly small—think finger food you can eat in a bite or two. This is because you don’t want everyone feeling full before the meal even begins, and you don’t want your guests to start drinking without having some food to accompany the beverages.
Common Hors d’Oeuvres
Not sure which foods to choose? Most venues and food vendors have a set menu for you to pick from. This list may include warm and cold dishes in a range of flavors, such as tomato soup shooters with grilled cheese bites, or custard tarts.
Some common hors d’oeuvres include:
- Shrimp cocktail
- Mini quiches
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Fruit skewers
Having a variety of flavors ensures that all your guests will have something to munch on. Remember, cocktail hour runs for about 60 minutes before everyone moves to the reception, so there’s a bit of a wait before the main meal comes out. Due to this, many experts believe offering food to your guests is one of the top tips for a successful cocktail hour. Some people can get hangry, and you don’t want friends and family kicking off the celebration in a bad mood.
The Advantages of Late-Night Snacks
Serving a snack partway through the reception has become a popular option over the last several years. This allows guests to enjoy a treat long after mealtime has passed, which helps reinvigorate them so everyone can continue partying. After all, dancing for hours gets exhausting, but food provides plenty of energy!
Like hors d’oeuvres, the food you serve late at night should be portable so guests can eat on the go. Most wedding planners recommend waiting to serve late-night snacks until an hour and a half before the last song. This way, guests no longer feel full due to dinner, and some guests may even feel a bit hungry.
Common Late-Night Snacks
One important difference between late-night snacks and hors d’oeuvres is the types of food couples typically serve. You won’t see shrimp cocktail and stuffed mushrooms served as late-night snacks—the food is usually less formal. With snacks served later in the evening, you can offer something savory, sweet, or a bit of both.
Some ideas for late-night snacks include:
- Chicken and waffles
- S’mores bar
- Mini milkshakes
- French fries
- Mini churros
While you can offer several food options for guests, most couples have one savory and one sweet choice. Moreover, unlike hors d’oeuvres at cocktail hour, waitstaff won’t walk around with platters of food. Instead, guests can approach the table displaying the snacks and help themselves.
Everyday Bride Tip
Consider offering a few different flavors if you serve options such as pizza or milkshakes. For pizza, this can mean providing cheese, pepperoni, and veggie. And for milkshakes, you can’t go wrong with options like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry!
Tips for Picking Food Options
Still not sure which one you should serve, hors d’oeuvres or a late-night snack? Typically, hors d’oeuvres are the most common because they ensure no one feels famished while waiting for dinner. Guests may even expect a small snack during cocktail hour. If you decide to serve a late-night snack instead, note it on your wedding website or with the information you send in the invitations so people know to eat something before leaving their homes.
You should also consider the budget for your wedding, review which food options the venue offers, and consider what guests would most likely eat.
Review Prices for Each
The main course is the most expensive part of the food budget, without factoring in the price of alcohol and dessert. Evaluate the costs of serving hors d’oeuvres vs. a snack late in the evening.
Most venues have a menu for cocktail hour, and some supply a late-night snack with an upcharge. Other times, you can order takeout and have venue workers set it up on a serving table. Keep in mind that some locations do not allow outside food, so if you consider this option, talk with the venue manager first.
Know What Your Venue Offers
As you begin touring venues for the ceremony and reception, review the menu for cocktail hour and discuss late-night snack options. This can help you select the perfect place to tie the knot and give you ideas regarding what to serve. Additionally, a venue may offer food packages at differing price points, which would help you stick to your budget.
Consider Your Guests
While your wedding decisions shouldn’t revolve around what your guests would like, you still need to consider their preferences. For instance, you and your partner may love spicy food, but all the choices at cocktail hour or late in the night shouldn’t be super spicy. This helps ensure you offer foods that the majority of people will enjoy, rather than a select few. And if you are that spicy food lover, you can still have a peppery option or two.
Taking guests into consideration also ties back to the most common food options. If every wedding you’ve attended served hors d’oeuvres, most planners would recommend having hors d’ouerves early in the evening to satisfy guests. By opting out of serving hors d’ouerves but having an open bar, you risk people getting tipsy before the party really starts.
If it fits your budget, there’s nothing wrong with having both hors d’oeuvres and a late-night snack. You could cut expenses in other areas; for example, some couples plan a flowerless wedding and use that money to increase the food budget. We say this because many may consider having both options as a luxury, increasing the overall cost of your wedding. When you have a tight budget, you can cut expenses in other areas to invest in the parts of your wedding that matter most to you.
If you choose to serve both, strive to have a mix of flavors. Leave the typical wedding options for cocktail hour and bring out the party food like sliders, French fries, and gourmet donuts for the nighttime feast. Finally, invite guests to take any leftovers from the late-night snack back to their hotel or home. This way, nothing goes to waste.
A Final Note
Above all else, this is your day, and what you serve ultimately depends on what you and your partner like most. That being said, proper etiquette calls for remaining mindful of the guest experience. Everyone at your wedding is there to support and celebrate your love, so try to pick out some delicious options that will keep your guests feeling full and satisfied. Happy wedding planning!