How to Best Serve Finger Foods for a Wedding Reception

wedding finger foods

Updated: November 25, 2017

One of the most expensive items in a wedding budget is food for the reception.  It’s also one of the most confusing, especially if you are doing it yourself or trying to keep costs low.

One popular option for “keeping it simple” and affordable is to serve finger foods – also called hors d’oeuvres or appetizers. They’re smaller versions of the food we all love and can help out with the overall budget of the big day by nixing a full, sit-down dinner or buffet.

How do you slash the price tag on the event though without nixing any elegance? Well, it’ll be all in the presentation and service. How should they look? How will you serve them? What should you choose? Let’s get inspired.

Serving Up Hors d’oeuvres

There are two main ways to serve your appetizers and allow your guests to fully enjoy each and every bite. The best part about these delicious treats is that your family and friends don’t have to eat everything, instead, they can choose what they’d like. That’s made easier with how the small dishes are served.

Self-Service Line

Self-Service Line

You can easily set up your appetizers and small dishes in a buffet-style line that guests can walk through at their leisure. They can grab whatever strikes their fancy and enjoy.

What’s great about this choice is the design option behind it. The food comes a part of the reception’s overall decor. In tiers, on cascading trays, the possibilities are endless in terms on how to present the bites in a beautiful way.

Walking Waiters

Self-Service Line


Your other option, for a more formal affair, is to have walking waiters with trays. These servers can surf the crowd and offer up all of the delicious treats for the guests to try.

Each tray would have a different hors d’oeuvre to choose from. And it’s really the best way to go when you’re envisioning more of a black-tie event. Having passed hors d’oeuvres as well as a table spread is also an option if you need more food for a larger crowd.

Wedding Hors d’oeuvres Ideas

Whether you decide to go with a lighter menu for warmer, outdoor venues or a heavier menu that includes more preparation, choose your hors d’oeuvres can be a lot of fun. There are so many unique and innovative options. Go with what you love and what fits your wedding style. And then … enjoy!

In the meantime, take a peek at some of these fabulous choices.


Fried Chicken & Waffles from Cook Like a Champion

Fried Chicken & Waffles from

Blue Cheese Steak Crostini from Running to the Kitchen

Blue Cheese Steak Crostini from

Honey Porter Glazed Chicken Skewers from The Beeroness

Honey Porter Glazed Chicken Skewers from


Walnut, Sage, & Cranberry-Stuffed Mushrooms from Blissful Basil

Walnut, Sage, & Cranberry-Stuffed Mushrooms from

Caprese Kabobs from Helpful Homemade

Caprese Kabobs from

Spinach & Artichoke Canapes from Challenger Sweets

Spinach & Artichoke Canapes from


Smoke Salmon Canape from What To Cook Today

Smoke Salmon Canape from

Chili Lime Baked Shrimp Cups from Inspired Taste

Chili Lime Baked Shrimp Cups from

Salt & Pepper Squid from The Woks of Life

Salt & Pepper Squid from


Hazelnut-Crusted Fried Brie from Babble

Hazelnut-Crusted Fried Brie from

Cheesy Thumbprint Cookies with Bourbon Tomato Jam from The Flavor Blender

Cheesy Thumbprint Cookies with Bourbon Tomato Jam from

Mini Pimento Mac & Cheese from Vegetarian Ventures

Mini Pimento Mac & Cheese from


Pancake Bites from Apple & Sparkle

Pancake Bites from

Cranberry & Brie Bites from Kitchen Sanctuary

Cranberry & Brie Bites from

Salted Chocolate-Dipped Mandarin Oranges from Deliciously Yum

Salted Chocolate-Dipped Mandarin Oranges from

Prep & Cleaning

Most of the time, your venue’s service will be providing both the prep and cleanup for the event – including the food.

But if you’ve decided to go at it in a DIY style. Here are some quick pointers.

For a Light Hor D’oeuvre Menu

Foods in this category are usually simple, easy to prepare well ahead of time, and have simple handling arrangements (usually nothing more than refrigeration until set out for serving, if that).

If you are having a late-morning or mid-afternoon reception, light hors d’oeuvres are usually a good option.  Light hors d’oeuvres are also the best appetizers if you plan to serve a meal at your reception.

Light hors d’oeuvres generally are served cold or at room temperature and may include:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • dip (for fruits and veggies)
  • cubed cheese
  • soft cheese, such as a cheese ball or whipped cream cheese, as a spread
  • crackers
  • olives
  • nuts
  • candy
  • small sweet pastries like cookies or mini-tarts

For a Heavy Hor D’oeuvre Menu

Whether served hot or cold, though, heavy hors d’oeuvres generally require more care in handling in order to keep them safe and appetizing for consumption, and thus require more planning.

Heavy hors d’oeuvres are usually more expensive than light hors d’oeuvres since meat is usually an expensive food item, and also due to the greater care required in handling. They are best for receptions that are held around mid-day or evening, since these times coincide with meal times.

Heavy hors d’oeuvres often have meat and usually must be served and maintained at a certain safe handling temperature, whether hot or cold.  Examples of heavy hors d’oeuvres:

  • shaved deli meat with cheese on crackers
  • chicken wings
  • meatballs
  • pigs in a blanket
  • cubed chicken, beef, or pork, with dipping sauce
  • hot cheese dip (for meat or chips)
  • crab dip
  • pâté and toast
  • soup
  • small savory pastries like mini-quiches