Cocktail & Hors d'oeuvres Reception vs. Buffet/Sitdown Reception?

I've talked to a couple recent brides and they strongly felt that if they were to it all over again that they would eliminate the "dinner" or "full meal" and do an hor d'oeuvres reception. They both thought that it was such a huge expense and most people (themselves included) seemed not to eat all their food but instead were mingling.

This option is not only appealing because of the potential $saving$ but because the vision I have for my wedding is a big, beautiful, and FUN party. With an hor d'oeuvres reception, I see far more mingling and dancing with less stuffiness of a formal sit-down or even a buffet dinner. If I were to it this way, I'm thinking to have both passed and stationed hors d' oeuvres.

Do guests expect to have a full meal?

Please, what are your thoughts?
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 5:26 am
its.nicsknack
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(23) Comments

Jenice32
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Our families are pretty traditional and because we are doing a lot of things against tradition, we felt that we had to provide them with a simple, yet full, meal so they won't completely freak out. Also, heavy hor d'oeuvres can be more expensive than a meal because of the preparation time and staff to pass trays around. I put on events at work, so that's how I found that out.

But if your guests are not super traditional and are guaranteed to mingle instead of just waiting for something to happen, then go for it!
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 5:47 am
Ms.Sumomo
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My family is big on food. So we?re only having an our of cocktail our with pass hor d?oeuvres and buffet afterwards. We?re only having ~50 guests. It?s going to be really intimate. Everybody knows everybody so they?ll be able to mingle regarless.

It?s really depend on you and your FI. What you guys want your wedding to look or feel.

As I guest, I could careless, I?m there to celebrate with them.

Good luck and happy planning!

HTH
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 5:48 am
moemarsita
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I think it's just nice to know beforehand. My friend had a wedding right at dinner time and there was only light hor d'oeuvres. It was to the point where people were so hungry, they were like vultures waiting for the food to come back out.

Also, it takes a lot of time to do a buffet, even though it can be cheaper. My venue offers service and even family style. I thought the last was particularly strange, but a friend who went to a wedding that did this said it was awesome. Everyone was served at the same time and it got people talking. I'm definitely considering that as an option.
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 6:46 am
married2mrwright
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married2mrwright

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When I was married the first time (10 years ago) we had a "heavy hor's d'ouvres" reception. Partially to save money, but mostly because I didn't want my wedding day to be about a big dinner. Dinners at the hotel started at $100 pp and we did heavy hors d'ouvres and champagne for $60 pp. We had hot and cold selections, passed and stations. We also had wedding cake, coffee and tea. We listed "Champagne and Dancing" on the reception card and passed the word by mouth that we were not having a dinner reception, so all of our guests were forewarned.

We had hired an 18 piece big band and wanted the reception to be about the music and dancing. Our wedding was at 6 pm and the reception started at 7:00 pm. We didn't have seating cards or assigned tables (just a few with "Reserved for Family" at the front of the room, near the dance floor)and had a mix of tall bar-height tables for 4 and lower round tables for 8. We also had seating available for about 150 guests at anyone time (this was at the suggestion of the manager who said it would keep the party moving with people up and mingling/dancing). Pretty much only the older folks ending up finding a table to sit at the whole night. The feel was supposed to be that of a 1940's dance club...nothing overly stuffy or formal (although it was a black-tie wedding).

We had 250 guests and not ONE of them complained about not getting a full dinner (they were all informed well in advance that it would be dancing and hors d'ouvres). Most of our guests had an earlier supper before the wedding (in fact several of our guests, got together around 4:30 pm for dinner at a local restaurant before heading over to our wedding at 6 pm). We had a Bride's Breakfast that morning (the Groom had breakfast with his family and GM at a separate location) and a BM had some sandwiches, fruit and salad catered to the room where we got ready so we were all pretty well fed before the ceremony. That said, if you do choose this route, be sure to ask a BM or MOH to make a plate of hors d'ouvres for you and your DH...you will be chatting so much, you'll never get to do it for yourself! My MOH also asked the caterer to send a sampler up to our suite for a midnight snack! It was awesome! Especially the chocolate covered strawberries!

What people rave about, until this day (even though the marriage didn't last people still rave about the wedding...kind sad, but there you have it) is that the music was a blast and the dancing was awesome. It's not everyday that you hear an 18 piece big band playing swing and jazz standards.

It was also 5 days before Christmas, which is a time when people tend to eat too much anyway, so I think many were happy to have a celebration with fare that was a little "lighter".

I also went to friends afternoon wedding that had a "tea" reception with cookies, pastries, light hor d'ouvres, fruit, tea, coffee, champagne and punch. In was held in the courtyard of a B&B and was darling. There were about 50 guests and the wedding was a 2 pm with the tea from 2:30-5:30 pm. There was no dancing, but they did have a jazz combo (piano, bass and drums) for background music. Afterwards, some people went to dinner together (we joined up with some friends and went to a local restaurant) and I think she and her new DH had dinner at their inlaws (which was preplanned by his side of the family).

I agree with the previous posters though, make sure you let your guests know that there won't be a full meal. This can be easily conveyed in your invitation with wording such as:

Hors d'ouvres and Champagne Reception to Follow

Dessert and Dancing to Follow

Tea and Cake Reception

FWIW, until the excess of the 1980's took over, weddings we simpler, more casual affairs for most families. Often times the reception was just champagne, punch and cake. I think that notion is very quaint, especially as more and more, today's weddings are WAY over the top!

I think an hors d'ouvres reception can be done in a fun way, especially if you want the emphasis of the celebration to be on mixing, mingling and dancing and not sitting and eating.
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 7:14 am
qtqiqi
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like the pp mentioned, as long as guests are aware of what's serve, this can be a very neat idea! As a guest, I would prefer to have light dinner on weekends as we usually have a late lunch on weekends.

As far as saving goes, I've heard the cost for hor d'ouveres can be surprisingly high on multiple occasions.
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 8:31 am
MrsBabySalute
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Both of our families are foodies. If we just serve hor d'oeuvres, they are going to freak out and probably think we are "cheap"! In fact, a friend of ours had a heavy hor d'oeuvres wedding and the cost of the food came out just about the same as our sit-down dinner in Hawaii! So it's not really a $$$ saver sometimes. Plus I overheard some guests saying: "Wow, that's all they are going to serve - hor d'oeuvres? No REAL food?" I think guests expect to have a meal at a wedding... especially when they give you a nice gift, but if your family and guests are non-traditional, an "hor d'oeuvres only" reception might work.
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 8:34 am
abattyref
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Like the pps stated, I think you could definately do the hor d'oeuvres reception as long as it's clearly stated on the invitation and timed appropriately.

A friend of mine made the mistake of having buffet-style snacks and hor d'oeuvres at a 1pm wedding. She didn't state on the invitation that it was an hor d'oeuvres only reception and they ran out of food. Everyone ate while the wedding party and immediate family took photos. When we were finished, there was no food left. It totally sucked... but thankfully went unnoticed by most of the guests.
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 8:53 am
Kristen
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Yeah, I agree with pp - it depends on the time of day the reception is and if you clearly convey that the wedding is only hor d'oeuvres. I usually assume that there will be a meal, but that's also because all the weddings I've been to were in the evening and had the dinner options on the RSVP cards (I know, duh). If the hor d'oeuvre route does prove to be cheaper for you and you feel like your guests would have a good time without the meal (they'll still be fed so they shouldn't complain too much), then go for it!
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 10:53 am
deeinthenola
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I have to say that it depends on what you want your wedding ambience to be like. If you want it to be more social and casual, then a buffet and hor de ouvres would be the way to go. If you want more formal, then sit down dinner.
I am all for the sit down dinner. It can be fun and elegant!!
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 11:11 am
franieliu
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I think it depends on the # of guests & the type of wedding you are having. Honestly, if you are having a wedding with over 100 guests, it'll probably look a little messy to have bunch of people walking around. & you may end up having guests complaining of not getting any food to eat cuz there'll be guests who'll want to hog all the food. & that can be pretty crazy....
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 11:24 am
married2mrwright
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If you've ever been to the SF Black and White Ball you can see how hors d'ourves and drinks works on a large, grand scale. It can be done successfully for 100+ (I did it, as I mentioned in my previous post on this thread) as long as you let your guests know what and what not to expect. It's all in the presentation...you don't do it because you want to cheap out on the food, you do it because you want the focus of your wedding reception to be on something else OTHER than the food.



Honestly, I find that the weddings I remember most are the ones that go against what is "expected". Unless you're gonna serve a 5-star, 10-course, gourmet meal, not many will remember their chicken, rice pilaf and vegetable medly anyway!



There are plenty of major, black tie events that go on with just hors d'ouvres, desserts and drinks which much success. It's all about the time of day (I would set the wedding for 6 pm or later) and the wording you use in your invites. At the end of the day, your guests are not coming to your wedding for the chicken and beef dinner, they're coming to celebrate with you and your DH!



If you want to add a high dollar element to your hors d'ouvres reception you can add a sushi station or raw bar. You have passed caviar with vodka shooters, foie gras or something with truffle oil or saffron in it. And serve several signature cocktails. All of those scream luxury and not "cheap". Then hire a great band and boogie the night away.



Wedding receptions do not have to be the standard 3 or 4 course sitdown meal with a salad, beef and chicken (or fish), rice/potato/pasta and veggies or a buffet just because that's what everyone else does and what most people expect. It's YOUR day, do it your way!



If you're trying to save money...then consider doing an afternoon tea reception with just champagne and punch, cake, tea sandwiches, cookies, pastries and tea or coffee. Again, it's not about the food, it's about all of these people want to celebrate your marriage with you.
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 11:57 am
lukduck
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I would say....that if it is for budget reasons then hor d'oeuvres is okay, but if there is something else you can spend less money on...that might be a better bet. If you live in the Los Angeles area there are tons of caterers that are wonderful...I work in production so I have a few emails/websites of a few caterers who are very inexpensive and the food is great, and they would be willing to work within a budget...let me know if you want those names
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 12:10 pm
married2mrwright
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Here's some helpful information:



HORS D' OEUVRES



At receptions where a full meal is to be served, hors d' oeuvres may be offered to guests during the first hour of the reception. However, at a tea or cocktail reception, hors d' oeuvres will be the "main course."



Options: There are many options for hors d' oeuvres, depending on the formality of your reception and the type of food to be served at the meal. Popular items are foods that can easily be picked up and eaten with one hand. Hors d' oeuvres may be set out on tables "buffet style" for guests to help themselves, or they may be passed around on trays by waiters and waitresses.



Things To Consider: When selecting hors d' oeuvres for your reception, consider whether heating or refrigeration will be available and choose your food accordingly. When planning your menu, consider the time of day. You should select lighter hors d' oeuvres for a midday reception and heavier hors d' oeuvres for an evening reception.



http://www.weddingsolutions.com/article/Wedding_Reception_1.html




And some pics of amazing hors d'ouvres (none of which say to me "this couple cheaped out by only offering hors d'ouvres"):

































Also, think of all of the wonderful ways you can personalize your reception by incorporating your favorite foods or cuisines. Or featuring specialities from your heritages or travels. I know if we were to go this route we'd have some spanish tapas, thai chicken skewars, greek olives and cheese, and sushi in addition to fruit and veggie crudites and lots of CHOCOLATE!
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 12:15 pm
franieliu
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franieliu

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I understand what loridecter is saying. Presentation is extremely important. However, I come from a traditional asian background & food plays a major part in our life. Both mine & the groom's family will probably be offended if we go for the hors d'oeuvers only wedding. Our guests won't be happy & our parents will definitely be hearing about that later on. My parents didn't even want us to go for the buffet style. & for the traditional chinese wedding, we are suppose to have 10 courses through out the whole reception, but we are not going to do that. We are going for the normal western style sit down dinner. Just a compromise of what everyone wants. But if we do have that option, it may not be a bad idea at all.
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 3:25 pm
married2mrwright
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married2mrwright

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As Franie and the other girls posted, if you have a VERY traditional family with expectations of a full, sit down dinner, then a hors d'ouvres reception probably won't fly! Obviously if they expect 10 courses, then just serving 3 or 4 is a major compromise.

That said, if your family is more flexible in their expectations, I say go for it! There's a lot you can do to personalize your wedding ceremony and reception.

One of the best weddings I ever went to had a potluck reception. All of the food was "catered" by the bride and groom's family. An aunt, cousin, etc. each brought their food to share on their best silver, crystal and china for the buffet. Everyone thought it was a posh, catered event. As a favor, the bride and groom sent a little booklet full of the recipes for the items they served at their wedding, home with each of their guests.

Another neat wedding I attended had a picnic reception complete with corn on the cob, chicken salad and grilled pork chops. Everything was outdoors and they used vintage linens. The best was the different lemonades they had in big glass jugs...regular, strawberry and "leaded" (I think it had vodka or something mixed in with it to make a cocktail). They had croquet and bocce ball on the lawn as well as dancing (they had an iPod and speakers hooked to a generator). It was a blast AND very much represented them!

Your wedding can be everything you want it to be and nothing that you don't! Think out of the box and have some fun!
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 4:27 pm
its.nicsknack
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Wow! Thanks so much everyone. Its all such great information! Loridecter, thank you for sharing your experience and such great suggestions! I'm definitely taking it all in.

I've talked it over with my FI and we both feel that our families and friends wouldn't care in the least if we had hors d'oeuvres reception in place of a buffet or seated dinner. As long as they get food, I don't foresee any issues.

We are from different cultures (FI is Persian and I'm American) and we're planning to incorporate both throughout our wedding. After thinking it over, I think we'd have more flexibility to introduce more cultural foods that otherwise wouldn't neccessarily go well together as a meal.

Like all the other parts to planning a wedding, I have some things to think over. Thanks again for all your help!!! I don't know what I'd do without you :)
Posted on August 29, 2007 at 6:14 pm
ssnipes
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Personally I think hors d'ouvres would be best! Plus you could have fun with such a variety of different foods both Persian and American! Everyone could dance and eat at the same time! Haha sounds like a party to me :)
Posted on September 5, 2007 at 6:07 pm
SFAug07
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For us, the food and drink was one of the important elements, so we went for a sit down dinner, served family style. There was more than enough time before and after dinner to mingle. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't change that. Our wedding was a formal event, so a buffet wouldn't have fit...
Posted on September 8, 2007 at 11:10 am
AmyL
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We're thinking of doing hor d'oeuvres reception too. The guests can have a little taste of everything.
Posted on September 9, 2007 at 4:08 am
crazedmob
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I feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. The wonderful positive comments about a heavy hors d'ouvres reception were so great to read. We are two families who love to snack and pick at food here and there, favorite dining ...appetizers and shared desserts....so this style of reception fits us perfectly and if someone doesn't like it ..they can always run out for a burger if they feel the need (haha) ...We have tried to create a wedding and reception that describes my daughter and her FI . Beautiful rustic outdoor wedding setting, formal wedding attire uamong oaks and babbling brooks, great reception at home with great drinks, music to dance the night away and now the perfect food spread! Thanks everyone for taking the crazy out of the crazy mother of the bride!

Posted on July 8, 2008 at 5:23 pm
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