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Food and Cakes

Heavy Appetizer Wedding Receptions

Hi- My fiance and I are considering a heavy appetizer wedding reception versus a full plated dinner. I've never been to a heavy appetizer wedding reception so I'm not sure how the flow would work. How long is the food out? How does it transition to the dance floor/music? I fear it would be an awkward transition. Also, are there big cost savings with doing heavy appetizers versus a plated dinner or will it end up in the same ballpark? Does anyone have any advice?

Thanks!
KnotRiley

Re: Heavy Appetizer Wedding Receptions

  • mikenbergermikenberger In a f'n cornfield member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer
    We were going to do a heavy app reception but actually ended up doing a full buffet. My DH and I got the idea from another wedding we attended and we liked the informalness of it. The problem was though, getting people to get food. The DJ helped in that case. It did take people a good 1-2hrs after the food was out to take notice and realize nothing else was coming out lol

    We ended up doing a full buffet after some consideration and our cost only rose $400.

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  • mikenbergermikenberger In a f'n cornfield member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer
    Adding since chrome on mobile is awful and won't let me edit...

    It was also very difficult for us to determine what was enough food for a "dinner" heavy apps. Hosting a buffet made it easier.

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  • kaos16kaos16 member
    Knottie Warrior 500 Love Its 1000 Comments First Answer
    I've actually heard that often times a heavy app wedding ends up being pricier than a dinner wedding.  Can you have your caterer/venue give you price quotes for each to compare?
    MesmrEwePrettyGirlLost
  • lovegood90lovegood90 Ontario member
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited May 2015
    kaos16 said:

    I've actually heard that often times a heavy app wedding ends up being pricier than a dinner wedding.  Can you have your caterer/venue give you price quotes for each to compare?



    I've heard this too.

    If you're looking to save money on food by having a heavy app wedding, I'd make sure to start your wedding at a non-meal time: start later in the evening at 8pm or start mid-afternoon, ending at 5 or so. That way you don't have to worry about people being hungry.

    Formerly martha1818

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  • Not sure when your wedding is but my FSIL gets married first week of June and she is having heavy apps rather than a dinner.  I will let you know how it turns out!  
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  • ShesSoColdShesSoCold bend over and I'll show ya mod
    Moderator 5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its
    I had very heavy apps instead of a sit down. It was definitely more expensive than a plated or typical buffet. We did include some buffet options - like a prime rib and three pasta options. Also a mix of passed apps and stations. We didn't have a DJ or dancing, but all the food was out the entire reception. And we only had 35 people so there were no issues with too many people at the tables. 

    If you decide to go this route, make sure to talk to your venue and see how many options they recommend and how many of each. I think I heard here that people typically eat 3-5 apps during a cocktail hour. So you want to make sure there's like 12-15 per person at least since that's their meal. 

    Good luck! I LOVED having the cocktail style reception and people still comment about how good the food was at our wedding. 
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  • Normally, heavy apps will be more expensive. It's a very common misconception. The plus side to it though: you can have a lot more options and you wont have to deal with the menu choices on your RSVP's
    PrettyGirlLost
  • kaos16kaos16 member
    Knottie Warrior 500 Love Its 1000 Comments First Answer

    Normally, heavy apps will be more expensive. It's a very common misconception. The plus side to it though: you can have a lot more options and you wont have to deal with the menu choices on your RSVP's

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  • Hey! This is super common down south. Your caterer will typically set up stations that are open all night. It really encourages mingling and is perfect for a crowd that skews a little younger. The only reason we decided to do a buffet instead is we have a super small guest list, and we couldn't see our grandparents and aunts/uncles dancing ALL night long (you typically don't have seating for everyone with stations).
  • 500days500days MA member
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary Name Dropper
    I would imagine that it would be around the same ball park for heavy apps vs. dinner. I think your DJ, who would be the emcee, would take care of announcing when food is out and when the bar is being closed/opened. You just have to talk to your caterer about specifics and a timeline for when food will be served.


  • jacques27jacques27 member
    Knottie Warrior 500 Love Its 1000 Comments 5 Answers
    edited May 2015
    Heavy apps (to constitute a meal) can often be the same if not pricier. For a meal replacement, you need to have 12-15 pieces per person. You can't expect people to eat 7 or 8 of just two different apps - you have to have variety - generally if you have under 50 people you can get away with six types - over 50 you'll want want at least eight. More variety equals more money. Also, because the apps are smaller, they tend to be more labor intensive (instead of roasting a prime rib and slicing it and plating it with two sides, they are usually creating complete composed bites x 200 x 8 varieties). More labor equals more money. So if you're doing it as a cost saving measure, you really need to price it out carefully to make sure it is indeed cheaper.

    That said, I think I would only do it if I didn't have any allergies or food intolerances in my crowd, and I had fewer than 50 guests.

    As someone who doesn't do gluten, with a composed meal there's a decent chance I might be able to eat everything just by accident or with only a little modification (like no sauce) or they can make a full gluten-free meal.  A protein, a veggie, and a non-wheat based starch like rice or potatoes and I'm pretty set. Most apps try to make each bite a composition to itself or contain a gluten component (like bruschetta, something wrapped in phyllo dough, a breaded chicken tenders, meatballs made with breadcrumbs in the binding, puff pastry bites, tortilla/flatbread roll-ups). So even though my friend had like 11 different apps available at her wedding, the only one I could eat was the fruit and cheese skewers. So, to make a meal, I would have had to suffice with 15 skewers - which is a pretty boring meal and was also impossible because they ran out of them and I only managed to snag four over the course of the night. She also had about 250 people and there were long lines all night and the catering staff wasn't able to replenish things in a timely manner because it was going so fast. The fruit and cheese skewers were also the only vegetarian app, so yeah...

    Don't get me wrong, I could make a meal out of apps and frequently did when I didn't have to worry about food intolerances because they are crazy delicious and it's easy to get creative and have variety. But I would only do it in a smaller controlled setting, personally.
  • We are doing a heavy app reception for DD's wedding. We are way down south and it is common here to do that over a sit down meal. We are having stations set up - a slider's station, mashed potato bar, pasta station, fruit, veggies, cheese, smores bar and a cake station. The caterer is providing food for 250 and the total cost will be around $3500.
  • BlueBirdMBBlueBirdMB member
    250 Love Its 100 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited May 2015
    We went for this and basically once we got food heavy enough for dinner, it was a stationed dinner...  Ultimately what we went for was different stations that were out for the full length of the reception.

    To start there were 7 smaller passed apps plus a mashed potato bar and a sushi station.  Then those were put away as the pasta bar, seafood station, and carving stations opened.  We left those open for quite a while since it was the bulk of the food.  Then those were put away as the cake and cherries jubilee was put out, plus a coffee cordial station.  We left the coffee and cake out for the entire night, but about an hour and half before the end, our late night snack of mini lobster rolls were passed.
    PrettyGirlLost
  • Obviously you need to price this out with your caterer - the key being that if it's meant to be a meal replacement that your caterer provides enough food, AND, what happens if people are famished and they run out at the venue?  The only reason I mention this is it happened one time at a reception I was at, heavy apps, and they ran out of food 75 guests before people got to the end of the lines at the stations.  Sad part was people were blaming the venue when it really was the bride/groom/caterers who hadn't planned for enough food...  That said - I have been to events where the caterers have been fantastic about refilling trays and no one leaves hungry.  But that's the type of thing to go over with your caterer when discussing and budgeting.

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  • LondonLisaLondonLisa London, UK member
    Seventh Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I think stations are a bit different that heavy apps. Firstly, yes, everyone needs a seat. Nothing discourages mingling and getting up to dance like being worried that as soon as you stand someone is going to take your chair!

    I have been to heavy apps weddings, most were nice because they included a few stations. The ones where it was annoying was when they were all passed apps. You have to have a LOT of servers and have the food coming out constantly. A few weddings with heavy apps we have had to practically chase down the wait staff, and people congregated where they knew food would come out because they were starving. 
    PrettyGirlLost
  • I went to a wedding recently where the food (for a reception that started around 5pm, so, a mealtime) was a buffet but only of apps. There were fruits, cheeses, veggies, crackers, breads, chips and then some hot apps (think meatballs, etc.). First of all, they took forever to allow guests to get food because everyone had to wait for the b&g and wedding party to be done with pictures and get their food first. That certainly put everyone in a sour mood. Then to feed everyone with the "bites" was kind of insufficient. Overall, even though the food tasted good, every guest I met mentioned how unhappy they were about the food situation. Of course no one mentioned it to the b&g but people are still talking about the food in a bad way, weeks later. 

    As others have noted, you really need to get with your caterer or talk to a few caterers to price out what you are envisioning. I agree with others that heavy apps that are intended to serve as a meal will probably be just as much if not more than just doing entrees. If you are worried about the cost of food figure out your budget per person and talk to your caterer about getting the most bang for your buck. For example, I went into my initial meeting with our caterer wanting to serve salmon as our fish. She explained that while she could do that, a blackened tilapia would be more cost effective, be a bigger crowd pleaser, and would hold up better to sitting in the chafing dish. A caterer that only tries to upsell you is not a good caterer, a caterer that helps you to maximize your budget while also making your guests happy and well fed is who you want to use. 
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    MesmrEwe
  • This can definitely work, but it's generally more expensive and it's harder to do well. So if you're looking for something cheaper and easier, a couple of plated options is probably the way to go.

    If you still want to do it, make sure:

    1) you have PLENTY of food. Like lots and lots of each option. If word gets around that the grilled cheese bite with tomato soup shooter is amazing, you don't want to run out. 
    2) everyone has a seat (don't listen to that knottie above - she is wrong and people will leave early if they don't have a place to sit down). 
    3) everyone KNOWS a meal will not be served. That may come in the form of a venue coordinator greeting each guest and letting them know that dinner IS appetizer/buffet style or a DJ announcement...whatever. If you don't communicate these to people, they'll probably see this food as a cocktail hour and then think you never served dinner.

    A quick story time.... we went to a wedding that did this and they screwed up all 3 of the things above. Several years later, everyone talks about this as "the worst wedding they've ever been to". They only had enough seats for about half the guests, so people were crowded around cocktail tables and ended up leaving early. They didn't communicate that "this is dinner" and once people realized they weren't serving a meal, guests rushed the apps and they ended up running out of food. People even hoarded the cookie favors because they were hungry and there was no more food. Then, because people didn't have enough to eat and they were sore from standing all night, the people who didn't leave early got HAMMERED. Just an awful scene all around....
    *********************************************************************************

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  • kaos16 said:

    Hey! This is super common down south. Your caterer will typically set up stations that are open all night. It really encourages mingling and is perfect for a crowd that skews a little younger. The only reason we decided to do a buffet instead is we have a super small guest list, and we couldn't see our grandparents and aunts/uncles dancing ALL night long (you typically don't have seating for everyone with stations).
    Lurkers:  if you are a good host, you always have enough seating for all of your guests!!!

    Amen!  We were at a wedding w/ light apps (it was a mid afternoon wedding/reception done by 5) and there wasn't enough seating for everyone!! There had to be at least 20-30 of us standing.  Of them 3 ppl NEEDED chairs due to having health conditions or recently having surgery.  We ended up spending the majority of the reception in the lobby where chairs were available.  People always think that people will stand, walk around, and mingle but 1) Thats not always the case & 2) People park in their spot by leaving their purses/sweaters/drinks etc.  Chairs for everyone please at BOTH ceremony and reception!
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  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers

    Hey! This is super common down south. Your caterer will typically set up stations that are open all night. It really encourages mingling and is perfect for a crowd that skews a little younger. The only reason we decided to do a buffet instead is we have a super small guest list, and we couldn't see our grandparents and aunts/uncles dancing ALL night long (you typically don't have seating for everyone with stations).



    If you don't have seats for everyone at your wedding, in any country or region, and I'm a guest, I walk out and go get my own food, because you just failed Hosting 101: EVERYONE NEEDS A SEAT.  And I will never accept an invitation from you again.

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  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers

    Hi- My fiance and I are considering a heavy appetizer wedding reception versus a full plated dinner. I've never been to a heavy appetizer wedding reception so I'm not sure how the flow would work. How long is the food out? How does it transition to the dance floor/music? I fear it would be an awkward transition. Also, are there big cost savings with doing heavy appetizers versus a plated dinner or will it end up in the same ballpark? Does anyone have any advice?


    Thanks!
    It's like a buffet and is usually served that way.  The difference is that the food is usually in the form of appetizers as opposed to entrees.  But if you're doing this at a meal time, there has to be enough food provided that the individual pieces totaled are the equivalent of a meal.  I don't know that it really saves money, though: it depends on what pieces you're providing and what type of service, as well as the venue itself.
  • theartistformerlyknownastheartistformerlyknownas peaced out. member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers First Anniversary
    I've heard similar numbers as PPs - about 3-5 servings per guest for a cocktail hour, 7-10 for a non-mealtime heavy app reception, and 12-15 to constitute a meal. You'll need more variety the more people you have, too, to account for a range of tastes - 12-15 options to choose from for 50-100 people, and probably 20 for larger than that.

    My step sister did a heavy app reception and while it wasn't without its flaws (ahem, not enough food or seats for everyone) I did like how she had them bring out different types of appetizers similarly to courses - table of cheeses and fruits at the beginnings, transitioning to heavier passed hot apps, and then lighter, sweeter ones with the cake (which there was also not enough of). I think that would help for people to realize it IS the meal, not to get bored with the choices, and help not have the "good" things run out at the beginning.

    Can't help on cost since it's not something I looked into for my own wedding.

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  • _Erica__Erica_ member
    Knottie Warrior First Comment
    We are considering doing a hors d'ouvres and dessert reception ourselves, but mostly because we are concerned that by the time we get through the ceremony (6:15 is the absolute earliest we can start at our favored venue) and the pictures, it will be an 8 or more likely 8:30 start time for dinner. 
    Our concern is this is just too late to start a multi course meal. 

    What time did others start their dinners and how late did your reception go? We need to be off site by midnight the latest.
  • _Erica_ said:

    We are considering doing a hors d'ouvres and dessert reception ourselves, but mostly because we are concerned that by the time we get through the ceremony (6:15 is the absolute earliest we can start at our favored venue) and the pictures, it will be an 8 or more likely 8:30 start time for dinner. 

    Our concern is this is just too late to start a multi course meal. 

    What time did others start their dinners and how late did your reception go? We need to be off site by midnight the latest.
    8 or 8:30 for dinner is very normal.  Ours was a bit earlier- about 7:30 by the time the main dinner food was served, but I've been to weddings where dinner was 8:30 or 9 (although 9 is pushing it a bit... I was hungry)
  • _Erica_ said:

    We are considering doing a hors d'ouvres and dessert reception ourselves, but mostly because we are concerned that by the time we get through the ceremony (6:15 is the absolute earliest we can start at our favored venue) and the pictures, it will be an 8 or more likely 8:30 start time for dinner. 

    Our concern is this is just too late to start a multi course meal. 

    What time did others start their dinners and how late did your reception go? We need to be off site by midnight the latest.
    If you have a late evening wedding and do not serve me food sufficient for a dinner, I would not be a happy guest. 

    If you are going to be off taking pictures for an hour, make sure your guests are fed something during that time. If you do not plan to feed anyone anything until 8 or 8:30 pm that is a huge problem. Also, during the week H and I eat dinner at 8 somewhat regularly.
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    theartistformerlyknownas
  • abt87abt87 member
    Sixth Anniversary 10 Comments 5 Love Its Name Dropper
    If your ceremony is at 6ish, I probably have to leave home at 5:30 or earlier. Which is earlier than most people eat.  Can you move the ceremony to like 7, and do all of the pictures beforehand?  That way people don't have so much time to stand around and think about how hungry they are. 
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