Unexpected Wedding Food Ideas Your Guests Will Love

ice cream sandwich
Photo: Jes Workman

You don't have to plan an unconventional wedding to serve up unexpected, unique cuisine. There's so much more to your big day's hors d'oeuvres than shrimp cocktail and pigs-in-a-blanket (not that there's anything wrong with those options!). To inspire your own creative fare, we've rounded up our favorite dishes with a twist from real weddings. Mini lobster rolls and tiny ceviche bites proved that small versions of the classics often have maximum impact. Festive paper cones with fries and personalized packets of popcorn made the cocktail hour snacks compact enough to tote around, while milkshake shots, gelato carts, and churro donuts showed up the classic wedding cake.

Ultimately, there's nothing wrong with sticking to tried-and-true wedding foods. They're signatures for a reason, and there are so many ways to make expected cuisine unexpected, including serving those staples in unique ways. However you approach it, here's one piece of advice: Serve the foods that you love as a couple—no matter how niche—to ensure that your menu, like the rest of your wedding day, reflects who you two are.

01 of 27

Pressed Chicken Spoons

cocktail hour food served on spoons
Rachel Havel

You won't want to let these shareable snacks pass you by during cocktail hour. The oversized spoons, made by GB Culinary, featured pressed chicken thighs with garlic aioli and pickled beets.

02 of 27

Individual Meals

picnic charcuterie board
Meg Smith

Consider ordering individual meals from a caterer and serving them in picnic baskets, like this duo did here. Attendees snacked on miniature cheese boards with charcuterie, mason jar salads, and easy-to-eat entrées, like salmon, Wagyu steak, and vegetables, courtesy of Betty Zlatchin Catering.

03 of 27

Dippable Bites

spring rolls on serving tray wedding reception food
Ether and Smith

Who says finger foods have to be reserved for casual settings? Try serving dippable options like these from Panda Catering. Miniature egg rolls or spring rolls with a signature sauce are perfect cocktail hour bites.

04 of 27

Loaded Ladles

cocktail hour appetizers on platter
Joel Serrato

Serve lighter fare, like tuna tartare on wonton spoons, so that guests can easily grab and snack.

05 of 27

Milkshake Shots

tray with milkshake shot filled glasses
Abby Jiu Photography

Mini milkshake shots, complete with chocolate chip cookie dippers, will satisfy everyone's sweet tooth at the end of your big day. The Inn at Fernbrook Farms supplied these sweet treats for the couple and their guests to indulge in on the dance floor.

06 of 27

Serrano Ham and Pan-Fried Foie Gras

chef serving variety of gourmet appetizers
Anya Kernes

This couple's caterer, De Bouche en Bouche, made a sampler of light bites, such as serrano ham and pan-fried foie gras, for their reception; they were presented so beautifully, they looked like dessert!

07 of 27

Gelato Bike

couple portrait eating gelato on bike
Tailor James Photography

For those who love gelato—or who have a special connection to Italy—consider adding a bike filled with the sweet stuff. These brides believed that more is, well, more when it came to dessert, so they had six gelato flavors on deck from Dolce Bacio, in addition to their wedding cake and cannolis.

08 of 27

Charcuterie Cones

reception appetizer cups
Valorie Darling

These antipasto charcuterie cones, a twist on the charcuterie board dreamed up by Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions, will please celebrants. One perk to this particular appetizer? It's perfect for those hoping to curate an allergy- or intolerance-friendly menu, as it can be completely gluten-free.

09 of 27

Homemade Paella

bride and groom holding wedding paella
Alex Mari

Dish out a delicious, homemade main entrée, like paella, to root your reception in tradition, like this couple. The bride's father and best friend who she grew up with next door were both chefs, and they prepared this meal. The food was reminiscent of childhood, as she often cooked and shared homemade dishes with her neighbors.

10 of 27

Pizza Pies

pizza appetizer
This Modern Romance

If you're searching for a unique main course, copy this couple and set up a pizza station. Bonus points if you go for unique toppings, like this pie: a smoked salmon pizza with dill crème fraîche and caviar made byWolfgang Puck Catering.

11 of 27

Donuts, Parfaits, and Cookies

Molly & Garrett Real Wedding Cake on Dessert Table
Sophie Epton

When it comes time to serve desserts, why display just one? This set-up, complete with berry almond parfaits, churro donuts, and cookies, was created by Hey There, Cupcake. Perfect for the couple with a sweet tooth, a spread of unexpected sugary treats will leave you and your guests fully satisfied.

12 of 27

Bubble Teas

grace john wedding man and woman holding bubble tea
Bo Shim of Bashful Captures

Signature sips are not just reserved for cocktails. Treat yourself and your guests to bubble teas—they're perfect to cool off and indulge in during a warm-weather celebration. Patina Events provided these tasty sips.

13 of 27

Crispy Fennel and Leek Arancini

Appetizers on a stick at reception
The Edges

Calling all outdoor enthusiasts: This crispy fennel and leek arancini on a tree branch, created by Meadowood Napa Valley, is quite literally the epitome of al fresco eating.

14 of 27

Easy Eating

server holding wooden platter of food on sticks
Elias Kordelakos

It's safe to say that serving appetizers on a stick makes for the best kid- and adult-friendly wedding foods. Address Montgomerie made this delicious shrimp tempura on a stick.

15 of 27

Omelet Bar

spinach and pepper omelet for wedding brunch
Ashley Brown

Who said you can't have breakfast for dinner—or for any meal? Try out a custom omelet bar, like this one crafted by Hamby Catering, that your loved ones can customize with their favorite ingredients.

16 of 27

Spread of Fruit and Cheese

wedding cake of cheese with fruit surrounding it
Mo Davis Photography

Create an awe-worthy display of wedding food come dinnertime with fruits, savories, and a specialty cheese cake.Bacchanal Wine catered this event to piece all of the delicious items together.

17 of 27

Ceviche Bites

server holding copper dish of wedding appetizers
Greg Finck

This all-around favorite will please any palate during cocktail hour. Plus, you can mix and match other bite-sized eats to go along with them, too, likeFour Seasons Baltimore did at this party.

18 of 27

Donut Cubbyholes

antique wooden shelf with wedding dessert pastries
KT Merry

Let your guests pick out their donut of choice from individual cubbyholes. Just be sure to make like VG Donut & Baker and dish out different sizes and flavors for variety and a great photo opp.

19 of 27

French Fry Cones

herbed fries
Joel Serrato

Go carnival style and present your guests with garlicky French fries in paper cones. It's so much more festive than serving them plated.

20 of 27

Mini Chocolates

red backdrop chocolate truffle dessert station
KT Merry

Give your loved ones a sweet surprise at the reception with a chocolate-inspired seating chart like this one; a rich bite was placed next to each guest's name at this party catered by Fairmont Grand Del Mar.

21 of 27

Home and Heritage

azuki sam wedding food on white plate
O'Malley Photographers

Take tradition to a whole new level with wedding food inspired by your culture—like this colorful Hawaiian-inspired salad with poached pears, created by Chef Chai.

22 of 27

Country Cobbler

blueberry crisp
Kayla F Photography

Add a bit of rustic charm to your sweets menu by letting guests enjoy crumbly blueberry cobbler. Make sure everyone tops theirs with mounds of vanilla ice cream.

23 of 27

Waffle Bites

mini savory waffles
Lori Paladino Photography

Waffles aren't just for weekend breakfasts: Serve bite-sized varieties, with dollops of sour cream, corn, and cilantro, during cocktail hour.

24 of 27

Baby Lobster Rolls

lobster rolls
Emily Delamater Photography

You don't have to get hitched in Maine to serve up this New England classic. Lobster rolls are an unexpected hors d'oeuvre all on their own, but these tiny versions kick it up a notch.

25 of 27

Ready-to-Go S'mores

Jasmine Star Photography

A s'more just doesn't taste as good if you haven't roasted it yourself. Set your guests up with everything they'll need so they can make their own at your venue's fire pit.

26 of 27

Popcorn Packets

popcorn in baggies
Branco Prata

Perfect for a pre-ceremony snack, small popcorn bags will keep your attendees satisfied until it's time for more.

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Churro Bites

Rebecca Yale Photography

Add some cinnamon-sugar sweetness to your dessert spread by offering tiny churros.

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