Dear Here Comes The Guide,
Can you tell me how many hors d’oeuvres per person is the norm for a cocktail wedding reception? I’m not having dinner, just hors d’oeuvres and cocktails for about four hours. I need to figure out my menu and am at my wits end trying to find the answer!
—Lisa D., Eagle Rock, CA
Don’t panic! First, this is the sort of issue your caterer or event planner can help you resolve. But if you plan to cook up those little quiches and cocktail wieners yourself, or make a run to your local gourmet deli, then Jim Wharton of New York Food Company (one of Southern California’s finest caterers, and the event planner at Verandas and La Venta Inn) offers the following sage advice:
“Lisa, there are many factors to consider, such as time of day and guests’ expectations. Typically, for hors d’oeuvres with a meal service we plan 3 to 5 bites per person; for hors d’oeuvres instead of a meal, we suggest 12 to 15 bites per person. This could include an antipasto display where the average guest may sample 3 to 4 items, tray passing with a variety of offerings, or event stations preparing miniature portions of entrée-style foods.”
Wharton mentions another concern—“If your event is scheduled so that guests miss a meal, and then you don’t offer sufficient food, you’re going to hear some whispered grumbling.” (And no doubt some stomachs rumbling!)
Catering impresario Laurence Whiting also cautions about the food-to-alcohol ratio: “You want to make sure that guests who are drinking have enough food to absorb the alcohol. Otherwise you’re asking for trouble.” Ever the gentleman, he also gently points out, “There are always variables, but people arrive at a wedding reception hungry, and they deserve to be fed.” Wharton reminds us that, “On average, your guests will invest 6 hours of their life in your wedding, including travel time. Plying your friends and family with plenty of great food is important if you want them to enjoy your wedding day as much as you do!”
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