21 Cocktail Hour Food Ideas Your Guests Will Love
Your cocktail hour is one of the first moments to introduce your guests to your wedding's cuisine. This is a pretty major first impression, especially if you two consider yourselves to be foodies. And if traditional offerings like pigs-in-a-blanket and veggie platters don't live up to your idea of impressive cocktail hour fare, you're likely on the hunt for creative snack ideas that look as fresh as they taste. That's where we come in. We rounded up the coolest cocktail hour bites from real weddings. Trust us—there's definitely a way to infuse this post-ceremony, pre-reception interlude with plenty of flavor.
We're not, however, telling you to knock the classics. Kebabs, French fries, charcuterie boards, and more are staples for a reason—chances are, your guests will expect them. But there are ways to make these go-to dishes feel tailored to your particular event, most of which has to do with presentation. Throwing a modern fête where a rustic meat-and-cheese plate might feel off-beat? Serve up these savory snacks on trendy acrylic trays (not wooden cutting boards!) that feel infinitely more contemporary. If tacos are a must-have, consider a taco wall instead of a make-your-own station. (These types of food installations aren't just a way to serve delicious bites—they ultimately contribute to your big day décor.) Or go majorly-mini with one-bite tacos, served in lime wedges alongside margarita shots. Yum.
We're all about the more inventive snack options out there, too. From gazpacho in a mug and full pizza pies with every topping under the sun, to crunchy maple-glazed bacon bourbon shots and a bread station (yep!), there are so many ways to make your cocktail hour a wedding highlight. Click through to discover which of these tasty appetizers would work best at your celebration.
Getting hitched by the sea? Pass around an oceanic delicacy, like oysters. Bonus points if you also lay out a cocktail sauce, vinegar, and citrus bar for toppings.
Bread lovers, this one's for you. Present croissants, ciabatta rolls, sourdough, and nut breads in wooden crates for that authentic, fresh-from-the-bakery aesthetic.
Updated Charcuterie Board
Not all meat, cheese, and fruit plates are served on rustic cutting boards. Make like Smoke and Brine Co. and give the traditional appetizer a modern update with clear and smoke-gray acrylic trays. Polish off the station with a just-as-contemporary escort display (this one was created by Luna Wild Design Co. and Chasing Linen), so guests can snack on mozzarella and prosciutto as they search for their table information.
Don't let anyone convince you to save those artisanal donuts for dessert—especially if they're your favorite. For a fun presentation idea, try piling donuts into a dainty jewelry display case so guests can grab them quickly as they mingle.
The only thing that could ever make tacos taste better is pretty presentation. This flower-filled wall (Rooted & Wild Floral Design Co. provided the bright pink bougainvillea!), complete with stocked shelves and limes for squeezing, would bring an epic element to just about any cocktail hour.
Bags of kettle corn (both salted and caramel!) work just as well as a pre-ceremony snack as they do as cocktail hour cuisine.
Bacon and Bourbon
Enhance your wedding bourbon's flavor with salty-sweet maple-glazed bacon. Extra crispy, of course.
Soups by the Mug
If you're creating a cocktail hour menu around light, easy-to-eat foods, put this handy idea on your radar. Serve up your favorite soup (a warm tomato works in the fall, while a chilled gazpacho is best for summer fêtes!) in a mug, to eliminate the need for spoons. Guests will be able to sip, while keep their other hand free to hold your signature wedding cocktail (what else?).
Think beyond the go-to chicken kebab and brainstorm a few fresher combinations. Charred peaches, basil, and mozzarella make for a solid trio, as do grilled grapefruit, mint, and avocado.
This is your compromise if your fiancé wanted to pass around post-ceremony pizza bagels.
Full Pizza Pies
If bites aren't going to cut it, full-blown pizza pies—complete with all the fixings!—will surely satisfy.
Fries to Go
Pro tip: Squeeze ketchup into the base of paper cones before adding in piping-hot French fries.
Full rounds of cheese look sophisticated before you cut into them (pile them on top of each other and they could pass as a cake!)—but that won't stop you and your guests from indulging.
Little Hot Dogs
If the pig-in-a-blanket app isn't your style, but you stil want to serve up hot dogs, go for a classic presentation. Half-sized dogs, topped with ketchup and mustard, are your best bet, so grazers don't get too full before dinner.
Chicken and Waffles
Bring on the southern comfort with a fried chicken and waffle bites station.
Make a light salad snack easy to nosh on by adding arugula, onion, tomatoes, and mozzarella balls to paper cones. A breadstick is the perfect finishing touch.
King Crab Legs
Your waiters will have a hard time keeping their king crab leg trays full—they're a crowd-pleaser, every time.
Fire up the grill and roast plenty of in-season veggies ahead of your cocktail hour. Asparagus, zucchini, carrots, peppers, and eggplant are all solid ideas.
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
These grilled cheese wedges and tomato soup shots will take you all the way back to your childhood.
Pair healthy shrimp wraps with a spicy summer salsa (choose a recipe that's grilled corn and tomato forward!) for a low-calorie bite that's seriously flavorful.
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