Are Appetizers a must??

Are Appetizers a must??


You picked your venue, you picked your dress, you have a day to look forward to. Now the days are passing and your countdown is getting smaller. You have finalized your head count and have a budget set. It’s down to the wire and you are trying to finalize your menu. Many places have gigantic menus with various options, it can be overwhelming.


Let me start by saying this; Traditionally, your guests are expecting some sort of meal. Whether it’s a taco bar or a steak and lobster plated meal, it’s 100% your choice. However, most of the time your guests are expecting to eat something.  If you are not planning on serving a meal, please do your guests a favor and let them know ahead of time so they can come prepared! This saves the venue and service staff from being yelled at and also makes for a better reception with happy friends rather than “hangry” guests.


Anyway, as you are making your food choices, the option will come about for appetizers. Many people assume that you have to get an appetizer… I am here to tell you that is NOT the case!




Now, I would not rule out appetizers for every single wedding in the world. There are some cases where it is necessary, but many times couples will spend unnecessary money because they feel obligated to order hoer de voures.


If you are feeling pressured to order appetizers, or are unsure about what to do, this is for you. Allow me to guide you through the decision making process so you can feel confidently about NOT ordering appetizers.


First and foremost, consider your timeline.


The average wedding lasts 5 hours. A lot can happen in 5 hours. Your cocktail “hour” (where appetizers would be passed out) typically lasts as long as your photos after the ceremony takes. Rarely is it a full hour. Most of the time cocktail hour lasts between 30-40 minutes. Sometimes shorter depending on how many photos you take prior to the ceremony. It is very common now for Brides and Grooms to do a “first look” in which they take many of their photos together prior to the ceremony.  So if you plan on doing a first look, or plan on taking majority of your photos before the ceremony, your cocktail “hour” realistically is only 20-40 minutes.


Now think of this from a guests perfective. They arrive at the wedding just in time for the ceremony. If they arrive early, they can get a drink at the bar, sign the guest book, mingle, etc. Majority of the guests will arrive 15 minutes prior to the ceremony, just the nature of how it works. In that case, guests will be directed to the ceremony space upon arrival. They may or may not have grabbed a cocktail or refreshment and may or may not have signed the guest book.


So, after the ceremony, this is their first chance to truly start to mingle with everyone. It takes time to say hello to distant family or friends you haven’t seen in a while. Once the ceremony is over, this is everyone’s first chance to really start mingling. Plus, this is their chance to go to the bar, grab a drink, sign the guest book, drop the card in the card box, find the seating assignment AND find their seats for dinner.


Use your venue to your advantage. For example, venues can be very engaging. Whether it’s a beautiful winery, an aquarium, or a luxury yacht wedding, choose a venue that enhances guests experiences beyond the wedding and reception. I have worked a countless number of yacht weddings that takes guests on a cruise throughout the Newport Harbor. Every wedding, guests are so excited about not only sharing the yacht wedding with the bride and groom but also getting a free harbor cruise. What better way to entertain guests than to cruise through the gorgeous canals of Newport Beach. So many times guests are memorized by the view and scenery, they spend more time looking beyond the windows than they do down at your centerpieces. If you do this, it is a sure way of knowing guests won’t be missing the appetizers.


Many times the ceremony takes place in a location different than where the reception takes place. So consider the time it will take for guests to walk and/or drive to the next location for the reception. If you only have 30 minutes for cocktail hour, guests have more than enough going on for them to even begin to realize there wasn’t food for that short amount of time.


As I mentioned earlier, appetizers are not an automatic NO. If you are having an hour long ceremony and then plan on taking an hour and a half of photos, you definitely should have something for guests to eat while they wait. I would also suggest appetizers for those weddings that have a large gap between the ceremony and reception. For example, the ceremony starts at 2:00 pm but the reception doesn’t begin until 6:30 pm. You definitely should have something for guests who arrive to the reception early.


If you still are concerned about your guests not having appetizers, my suggestion is to give them things to occupy their time with. Things like “Message in a bottle” where guests can write marriage advice to the bride and groom, or a big wall collage of photos guests can wander around. Photo booths are also another great option!


The more lively the cocktail hour, the less likely a guest is to notice there wasn’t any appetizers. The larger the party, the less likely they are to notice as well because there is so much going on in a crowd of 200 people. Open up the dance floor, get people moving! Open the bar, if they are anything like my friends, that’s where most of the people will be.


I know the saying goes, “people will remember your food and the dancing.” While appetizers are obviously in the food category, I can guarantee you that if you have a delicious dinner and a lively cocktail hour, people won’t even realize there wasn’t any appetizers.


There are plenty of people who want to have appetizers passed around towards the end of the night. Yes, this does this help sober people up, and who doesn’t want a midnight snack after a long day of drinking.  HOWEVER, this is also not necessary. If you do choose to do this, be mindful of how much you order from the caterer because people may start to leave after an hour or two of dancing time. You may not have to order for all 200 of your guests if you don’t think all 200 will dance all night long.  If you have given guests a full meal, and served some sort of dessert, that is more than enough food for an evening so don’t feel pressured into getting more.


So whether you are trying to cut costs, or just unsure on which way to go, just know you don’t HAVE to have appetizers. There are plenty of options instead of appetizers. Fill your guests time with a bar, photo booth, activities, an engaging venue, and a lively atmosphere. Don’t allow tons of time between the ceremony and reception either to help with the flow of events. The longer your cocktail hour, the more likely guests are to get hungry!.

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