Dessert at Queen's Landing, photo by Amanda LaChapelle

Wedding Hors d’Oeuvres: Passed vs. Displayed

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You’ve picked your wedding date and chosen your venue and now you’ve started thinking about your menu. Many couples elect to have a cocktail hour while the bridal party is taking pictures, either immediately after the ceremony or shortly before the reception. During this time guests are invited to mingle with one another and enjoy some pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres.

Many brides and grooms wonder whether it is best to have hand passed hors d’oeuvres or displayed hors d’oeuvres, also referred to as stations. Although many venues offer packages that include both types of hors d’oeuvres, not all of them do and you may need to choose one or the other. You may also choose to have a combination of both served during your cocktail reception.

Passed Hors d’Oeuvres

Wedding appetizers at Pillar and Post, photo by Eva Derrick
Wedding appetizers at Pillar and Post, photo by Eva Derrick

We recommend 3-4 pieces per person per hour for passed hors d’oeuvres. Serving hors d’oeuvres as guests mingle creates a more formal atmosphere. The ‘bite-sized’ portion makes them easy to eat while having a conversation.

It is important that each server is briefed on what is in each hors d’oeuvre so that they can properly answer guest questions relating to ingredients and allergies. We also recommend offering a combination of meat and vegetarian hors d’oeuvres so there is something for all tastes and dietary restrictions.

Displayed Hors d’Oeuvres and Stations

Wedding food at Prince of Wales; Photo by Sugar Photo Studios
Wedding food at Prince of Wales; Photo by Sugar Photo Studios

The biggest advantage of choosing displayed hors d’oeuvres is that guests have

the freedom to choose what they’d like to eat and how much of it they’d like. It’s also easier to offer heartier (and not so finger-sized!) options with displayed hors d’oeuvres such as shaved meats or sliders because guests can simply take a plate with their food on it. Another advantage to displayed hors d’oeuvres is purely aesthetic – it’s possible to create stunning displays and have a chef in attendance which will impress your guests.

Offering a combination of passed hors d’oeuvres and displayed hors d’oeuvres gives you the best of both worlds! Regardless of whether you elect for hand-passed or displayed hors d’oeuvres at food stations around your venue, there are a few key things you should keep in mind overall:

  • Choose bite-sized foods that are colourful, elegant and wedding-appropriate.

    Dessert at Queen's Landing, photo by Amanda LaChapelle
    Dessert at Queen’s Landing, photo by Amanda LaChapelle
  • Ask your caterer what their most popular hors d’oeuvres are – this will give you a good starting point in choosing your menu and if there is a chef’s specialty, it’s for good reason!
  • Consider allergies and dietary restrictions when choosing your hors d’oeuvres. For example, ensure there are vegetarian options available and avoid an all-seafood spread.
  • Choose hors d’oeuvres that reflect your personal tastes and fit within your budget.

Have you been to an event with passed or displayed hors d’oeuvres and thought one was better than the other? Share your experiences with us and other brides and grooms who are in the midst of wedding planning!

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