Cocktail Hour Bites

Jessica Salerno
Chicken meatballs served by Two Caterers at Paige and Alexander Toussant's cocktail hour.

The “I dos” are said and everyone is ready to celebrate. But before the newlyweds make their big entrance, guests at the cocktail hour will need something to nosh on. Whether you choose a unique menu that reflects you as a couple or serve up more traditional fare, these bites should be a preview of sorts for the dinner to come. If you're not sure what to choose for the menu, focus on dinner first and then move onto cocktail hour to avoid serving similar dishes twice, suggests Carly Ziemer, event coordinator at Two Caterers.

Also remember the type of crowd you're serving. Foodies might love an interesting appetizer from another country, while a meat-and-potatoes crowd may favor something a little more traditional. But if you're looking to get adventurous, cocktail hour is the time to do it.

“With cocktail hour, you can be a lot more fun with your food, so I would say get creative,” Ziemer says. “Think about things that you like and how you can do smaller versions of it or put a twist on it.”

Classic options, like shrimp cocktail and mini crab cakes, are always crowd pleasers, says Cynthia Beyers, event sales coordinator at Bosc + Brie, but there are contemporary options that are sure to satisfy your guests, too.

“A lot of newer things have become popular,” Beyers says. “Mini sliders and doing crudite, a mini veggie cup with the dipping sauce already [in it] are great options.”

And when picking out the food, don't forget the “one-to-two bite” rule. Choose food that's easy to eat with one hand, in one or two bites, while holding a drink in the other. Otherwise, things could get sloppy.

“I would avoid having appetizers that are more than one bite because they're messy,” says Bob Himes from A Catered Event. “If it's more than that, people will spill on their clothes.”

Those looking to cut costs will be pleased to learn butler-passed hors d'oeuvres are often cheaper in the long run, because guests will only take one or two appetizers instead of filling their plate at stations or a mini-buffet. Beyers suggests having a combination of stations and passed hors d'oeuvres for those who want to display the food in unique ways without getting bogged down in lines.

“Everyone is mingling and drinking cocktails and seeing people they haven't seen for a long time,” Beyers says. “They just want to pop something in their mouth and enjoy spending time with friends and family.”