Difference between Hors d'oeuvres and Appetizers, and the growing trend for Heavy Hors d'oeuvres

While planning the menu for your wedding, you will come across many terms used to describe pre-dinner options or small bite-size foods—two of the most common ones being, Hors d’oeuvres and Appetizers. These terms are often used interchangeably, and so, many wonder if there’s even a difference between the two.  

The answer is, yes, a subtle one.  

The difference

Hors d'oeuvres are generally small and savory bite-sized finger foods and are served typically during the cocktail hour, which takes place after the wedding ceremony is over and before dinner begins. They are usually pass-arounds and can be served hot or cold.

Some examples of hors d’oeuvres would be canapés, crudités, deviled eggs, bruschetta, crackers, dips and nuts, smoked salmon and caviar.

The key here is that they are not supposed to be filling, in order to make space for the actual dinner.

Appetizers, on the other hand, appear as the first course to the start of a sit-down dinner, and work better when seated at the table. They're often larger and prepared in a way that accompanies the entrée and dessert courses. 

Some examples of appetizers include soups, salads, kebabs and shrimp cocktails.

You can offer both at your wedding, if you're having a cocktail hour. followed by a sit-down dinner. 

 Source:  Simbarashe

Source: Simbarashe

A new trend: Heavy Hors D’oeuvres

Many couples are now preferring to opt for heavy hors d'oeuvres or heavy appetizers, in replacement of full-course dinner meals, which literally means that there is no meal afterward and that they are the meal.

I would suggest this style if you want your event to be casual, free-flowing and intimate instead of a formal sit-down dinner. This also works when you don't have a large number of guests attending the wedding.

Some examples of heavy bites, in replacement of dinner include:

  • Mashed Potatoes Bar
  • Sushi Bar
  • Crostini Bar
  • Seafood Bar
  • Oyster Bar
  • Pretzel Bar
  • Charcuterie Station
  • Fruit and Cheese Platters with a Veggie bar
  • Carving station—serving honey-baked ham or roasted pork tenderloin 
 Source:  The Portos

Source: The Portos

Important to note: 

  • Make sure that you're clear in your invites and on your wedding website, that dinner will not be served. You can include wording such as "cocktails and hors d'oeuvres to follow."
  • Heavy hors d’oeuvres can be expensive. They generally require ovens, fryers and grills and so the rental cost adds up. If it’s an outdoor kitchen, then you have to add in costs for tent and lighting. If it's a winter wedding, you might have to include heating as well. 
  • Also, if hors d'oeuvres are all that you're providing to your guests, then make sure you order enough quantity with a variety of options for guests to choose from.
 Source: Anoop Padalkar Photography

Source: Anoop Padalkar Photography

my 6 tips on Shaping your menu

Regardless of what option you choose out of the three, here are some general guidelines to help you shape the menu: 

  1. I suggest to have few hors d’oeuvres for the cocktail hour, and then include a small appetizer if you're having a sit-down meal. For a lighter sit-down dinner, plan for more pre-dinner options, and if it's a full meal, then plan for fewer options. I have noticed:
    • For a one-hour cocktail party , typically 4–5 bites per person should suffice.
    • For a two-hour cocktail party, about a total of 6-8 bites per person.
    • For guests more than 50, you can offer 6 to 9 different items of food.
    • Parties with over 60-75 guests can easily have 9 or more items. 
  2. If appetizers are replacing an actual dinner, then for a two-hour party, you would need about 18-20 bites per person and about 12-15 different items.

  3. Guests tend to eat more the first hour and about half as much for the following hour, so keep that in mind while planning.

  4. Having alcohol in the party almost doubles the quantity of food, so plan accordingly.

  5. Include all the food groups in your menu. Break it down for equal amount of vegetable or fruit centered dishes, type of meat, cheese and a bit of starch. Make sure there are hot and cold options. Dinners you can go heavy on protein.

  6. Make sure you have some vegetarian options, and keep in mind of any allergies that any of your guests face.


 Source:  The Portos

Source: The Portos