Unique Passed Appetizers Guaranteed to Elevate Your Cocktail Hour
Ask just about any wedding guest out there: The cocktail hour is often the most loved part of any celebration. Of course, there are plenty of good reasons for this. The ceremony (the serious bit!) is over and the festivities have begun—and it's time to eat, drink, and be merry. We'd argue that the first item on that list is the most important when it comes to cocktail hour. Your attendees are hungry—which is why preparing a next-level bite-sized menu is absolutely essential (plus, you'll want to counteract all that free-flowing Champagne right off the bat).
Most couples opt for a passed appetizer service come this interlude, and there's a solid chance you're considering this food style, as well. If so, we'd like to encourage you to think beyond those safe, overdone choices, like sliders and shrimp cocktail, especially if you and your spouse-to-be are foodies. You'll want to curate a cocktail hour menu that speaks to your specific culinary tastes, whatever they may be.
Not sure where to start when ideating your selections? Think about the cultural foods you grew up eating; serving up renditions of those childhood staples is an incredible way to personalize your big day. Alternatively, note the places where you and your partner love to eat. Consider your go-to date-night restaurant, and create a menu based on the dishes you most often order.
Of course, there's nothing wrong, per se, with traditional passed apps (after all, they're classics for a reason!)—but feel free to reinterpret them by serving these go-to dish types creatively. Take these pizza bites, for example. Pizza is a total crowd-pleaser—and a food that you've likely seen served at many a wedding. Make the dish your own, however, by serving miniature pies in the cutest tiny boxes, like Modern Art Catering did here (they topped each bite with arugula for an added twist!). Ahead, more fresh takes on signature cocktail hour foods—plus, dishes you (and your guests!) won't see coming.
Avocado toast is great, but it's a predictable daytime cocktail hour food. Switch it up by topping flaky ciabatta with all kinds of unexpected combinations, like pickled veggies, chicken salad, and more, just like The Girl & The Fig Caters did here.
If you're planning on hosting an extended cocktail hour during your nautical nuptials, you'll want to serve food with more substance than traditional bite-sized snacks. These hearty crab cakes, provided by Montage Palmetto Bluff, were topped with a tartar sauce aioli and filled guests bellies until it was time for dinner.
Mobile Fruit and Cheese Plate
At weddings, meat, cheese, and fruit offerings are often grouped together and displayed on a long grazing table. We're all for serving these crowd-pleasers, but why not reinvent their presentation for a fun twist on tradition? This couple, for example, enlisted their staff waiters from Seasons Catering to pass around their favorite cheese, nut, and fruit options on chunky wooden boards.
Colorful Ahi Tuna Bites
An easy way to elevate sliced ahi tuna, a classic big-day snack? Make like Field to Table Catering and Events and serve bite-sized pieces on flaky sesame crackers, and top the snacks off with colorful watercress and colorful edible flowers.
Bacon and Bourbon
Your event's appetizers don't have to consist of edible snacks alone. Consider this unique food-and-drink pairing: Salty-sweet maple-glazed bacon only enhances the flavors of your wedding bourbon.
A Little Bit of Everything
If you're catering to a crowd of foodies on your big day, an assorted collection of cocktail hour bites (like this tray-full of Le Papillon snacks) will surely impress. Guests will enjoy the experimental approach—and engage more with your big-day cuisine, since they'll likely have to ask waiters what, exactly, it is that they're trying.
Pizza lovers, this passed app is for you. Instead of serving regular slices, present teeny, tiny pizza triangles in miniature boxes emblazoned with your names—this approach, coined by Peter Callahan, is about as creative (and cute!) as it gets.
You'll want to ensure that there's a little something for everyone at your cocktail hour, which is why serving a few meatless options is a must. These ratatouille vegetable bruschetta toasts, provided by Montage Palmetto Bluff, were winners with vegetarian guests at this celebration.
Work a few light, fruity options into your cocktail hour menu for a fresh change of pace. Sweet halved figs—topped with a salty, crunchy almond—broke up the heavier selections during this interlude.
Take a note from this couple's book—they enlisted roomforty to cater their insanely-creative cocktail hour offerings—and bring an experiential quality to your cocktail hour appetizers. Guests were encouraged to run these unique bites through the panko line down the center of the serving board (take that chips and dip!).
Looking for a fun way to serve your tuna poke? Scoop portions into cones, like Belle Mer did here.
Personal Hors D'oeuvre Boards
Want your guests to experience your entire cocktail hour menu without having to wait for a waiter to make the rounds? As your caterer (Hotel San Cristobal handled the food at this wedding) to prepare pre-portioned boards full of all your snacks for a personal, fun twist on the passed app experience.
Pass apps' biggest downfall? They're often messy or require two hands to eat (which is a dilemma, if you're guests are already holding your signature cocktail in one!). Remedy this common issue by serving precarious bites (like tuna tartare) in oversized spoons for easy snacking, like the caterers at La Valencia Hotel did here.
Baby tacos are even cuter when served inside lime wedges, as evidenced by these Omni Catering bites. Bonus points if you pair this miniature dish with tequila shots.
As far as cocktail hour food presentation goes, this might be the most inventive option on this list. As a nod to the Hawaii locale, the catering team at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea created a miniature beach scene—featuring graham cracker "sand," edible tropical flowers, and a palm leaf—when curating these pink ginger-wrapped sushi bites' display.
Ricotta and Fruit
If you're getting married in a place near the water that's also known for its next-level seafood, take advantage of your locale and serve some of the sea's freshest treasures. This duo asked Class Eventi to prepare salmon wedges, topped with a light sauce, nut slices, and watercress, as a nod to their oceanic location.
The New Tomato and Mozzarella
Instead of skewered tomato, mozzarella, and basil, consider a reinvented take on the classic app. Global Cuisine Catering filled glass bowls with tri-colored tomatoes, mozz balls, and olives—and polished each dish off with a sprinkle of caviar.