Hors d'oeuvres

Joined Dec 2, 2000
My, my my, these "experience as you go parties" are just a dragging me down..
Not really, it's fun..
I was asked today for a proposal for a wedding reception for 70 (25 kids) for 2 hours on April 28th..
A bit of a short notice. Yikes

Anyway it will be at 3:30 PM so people will be starving..
The reception is for 2 hours.
There will be no alcohol, only softdrinks and punch service for the kids.
Coffee and decaf.
2 servers (mine)
Plastic plates, napkins and silverware.
No dessert, they have a cake.
Low budget. ($15 -$20 per person)

This is where I have gotten so far..
Any of those choices..
Smoked salmon mousse in cucumber cups
Vegetarian empanadas
Maybe a fruit platter with dipping sauce
a crudite platter with some kind of aiioli
Maybe some samosas (curried potatoes and peas in puff pastry triangles)
Crustini with ????????

The bride has never been to a wedding in her life..So she has no clue what she wants...

My questions are:

How many Hors d'oeuvres do I serve per guest at that hour?
How many different hors d'oeuvres do I serve in that time frame?

Let me know what you think and if you have other ideas that are a bit more creative yet not too expensive, Iam all ear...

Thank you



Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
As for piece count, it is hard to say without knowing the people, or exactly what they are looking for. This is a late afternoon reception, moving into dinner hour. Are they expecting this to replace dinner for people? Is there something planned afterwards? What type of clientele are these people?

Normally for that time of day, if they don't think that this will replace dinner for people, I would figure on about 5 bites (pieces)per person. Maybe one more or one less depending on their eating habits.

As for some ideas:
-Savory cheesecake
-Bruschetta with tomato and basil

Oops, cooks just walked in. Got to go. Will send along some more ideas later.
Joined Apr 19, 2001
I'd go for 12-15 per person, and at least 7-8 varieties. Things to remember -

1) There's lots of kids, so do some kid friendly stuff; even chicken fingers or little weinies in blankets! A 'low-end' fruit platter, with lots of grapes and little stuff the kiddies can pick at. 'Low end' cheese platter (cheddar, monteray jack, maybe smoked gouda). Believe me, the parents are going to be begging you for 'something to keep the kids quiet'! I've had 'em walking into the kitchen while we were getting the food out to beg for something for the kids.

2) For that price, think about maybe 1/3 stationery items like dips/crudite, white bean dip with crackers, etc. Save you your time making all those little itty-bitty thingies!

3) If the bride has never been to a wedding, what are her guests like? Will the samosa be too 'exotic' for them?

4) I used to do a "Tuscan" table, with different breads and crostini, white bean/roasted garlic/rosemary dip, tomato/basil/onion and tomato/basil/fresh mozz, an olive platter, chopped roasted veg platter - you get the idea. Gussy it up with some fake grapevine leaves, pretty serving bowls, stagger height under a colorful tablecloth.

5) If these guys are coming in hungry, think filling things - maybe some baby stuffed potatoes; aroncini, the little stuffed fried Italian risotto balls; the old potato puffs -seasoned mashed taters in puff pastry rolls - heck, anything stuffed into puff pastry looks 'ritzy' to low budget folks!

6) Roasted veg fritatta (or crustless quiche), baked out in sheet pans, then cut in little shapes. Or puff pastry 'pizzas', again cut out in little shapes.

Good luck! Remember, pearls before swine!!!!!
Joined Sep 21, 2001
I did an app. party for 35 last Friday for a department meeting at the local university. They came by and picked up the food and returned the dishes because of their tight budget. This was a cocktail mixer, so heavy apps, but not to be considered dinner.
They got:
Assortment of fresh breads and veggies with roasted eggplant and onion dipping sauces.
Thin sliced procuitto.
Fruit platter with orange sauce.
Shimp canapes on pastry
Chicken and mushroom brochettes in a pesto vinegrette marinade.
Spicy bbq meatballs.
I charges $8.50 per person. My food cost was @ 30% (thats high), and the labor took 3 hrs by myself (low, makes up for my high food cost), so I had no outside labor cost. Not a big deal. They loved it and told me that I was their new caterer!
My rule about appetizers:
Expensive food, simply prepared.
Cheap ingredients, prepared spectacularly.
Either way works. But don't spend all afternoon on your Truffle and Foie Gras Tart and expect to make anything on it!
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Maybe I'm missing something here, but $20.00 per person for 2 hours of hd.s is NOT low budget by any means. 2 hours is gone in a blink.

My experiences in that same situation.... The men and kids ate but the ladies never did. Always prefering to wait for dinner at the reception. So I would lean toward items to please them and the children more then ladies.
The more they liked what you had the more they ate. Give the men tenderloin sandwiches and they''ll eat every last one.

20 kids are alot (in this situation), they need you to fill them up so that when they get to the reception their not over stressed and whining. They like fried stuff, cheese sticks, egg rolls (sorry nothing gourmet for them) mini p&j's, mini corndogs, mini pizzas, mini tacos/nachos.....

I still think you have to give the ladies something light and something they can't spill, like crudites,... that might be the only thing the bride eats all day.

The father of the bride will want something FAMILAR to eat (and
he's the real bill payer and tip-er). The MOB will want nice to look at ite

You can pass a couple items but I bet they'd be happiest with a buffet.

My two cents....for what it's worth.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Mild Thai peanut sauce with either veg or chicken sate
veg tortas
I had the most incredible sugared dried rhubarb tonight!!! to wonderful
Mini sandwiches....many just ham and cheese...
dips are gonna be a mess with kids.
Joined Apr 1, 2002
I don't know if this would work under the circumstances, but I thought I'd just throw it out there. I'm doing an outdoor wedding June 8 where we had the same problem - lots of kids. The bride had choosen hds, carving station & pasta stations, but she wanted rather exotic ingredients & a garlicy sauce for the pasta. We came up with the idea of a grilled pizza station for the kids. Using flour tortillas, grilled on one side, flipped, topped with their choice of ingredients & thrown back on the grill (lid down) just to heat. Everything will be precooked and we'll "top" them backwards (i.e. cheese first) so the heat of the tortilla will melt the cheese. The sauce will be kept warm on a butane tabletop stove. The bride & groom were so excited about the idea that I got to add $2.75 a person for all 150 guests. (That just about pays for my new stainless steel grill!!!) And this is going to be VERY simple ingredients. If it works as well as I think it will, I'm going for the smoked salmon, etc, next time!
The Saucy Cajun
Joined Dec 2, 2000
Well that just blows my bubble.
The newlyweds only have $1000 to spend for the whole party..
Including the cake and all the extras..
So iam out of the loop.
They are hiring someone who is making them deviled eggs and carrot sticks and ranch dressing.
Stuff like that.
Very frustrating.
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Don't be frustrated - it's just one of those 'life's little lessons'!

We have a problem here with all the 'Italian' restaurants doing catering (I'm talking 'Joey's Pizza' type places); they'll do a whole sheet pan of baked ziti for $15. So when people come to a REAL caterer, they're blown away by the prices.

I just tell them, hey, you want Joey's ziti, fine - go order it! But if you MY ziti, well, here's the deal!
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Next time try to head off the frustration...

Try to find out before you ever get into details what their budget is. I'm not good at that, but others have perfected this (I'd love to hear how others ask clients). Some pre-qualifing questions about their event to let them know right away your too expensive or to let you know their low budget. Anyone?
Joined Mar 3, 2002
From the customer's p-o-v:

Uhm, just ask them? After all, if you don't know their price range, how can you make up any sort of menu?
Joined Apr 1, 2002
We stress that we provide CUSTOM SOLUTIONS - that we do not have a fixed menu. We ask time of day, how many guests, degree of formality, average age of guest, theme, if any, or ambiance wanted. After I've made it perfectly clear that all this planning is to "provide them with exactly what they're looking for", I throw in "Did you have a budget in mind?'. Because, of course, it can't be tailor made for them if the price is wrong! I act as if this is for their benefit - which it is! I've found that if I present it this way they are relieved and assured that I really am trying to help solve their problems. But the few times I tried the same question up front they acted very defense, as if I were being too nosy or something. Of course the problem is that you may spent a bit more time on the phone with someone whose budget is just not "do-able", but it's a LOT less time than making up a menu that they just can't afford. Once I had a groom call about 2 weeks before a wedding (red alert!) needing a hd buffet for 250. When I asked the budget question, he confessed that they had already contracted another caterer (at $6 pp)for jambalaya (only), but had reconsidered and were afraid that all the guests might not enjoy it. The other caterer had required a 1/3 deposit - nonrefunable - so could I do this for $4? I laughed, very nicely, and pointed out that " you couldn't bring them to Burger King for that!". (yes, I actually said it! My husband was in the room at the time & he almost died!) After a second of silence, the groom said "Wow, you're right! I never looked at it like that!". I reassured him, with his budget, his first choice (jambalaya) was his best (and only) choice and that his guests would love it. And I saved myself a LOT of work for nothing. The "punch line" was a few days later the groom called back to thank me for my honesty and assured me if ever they need a "good" caterer they would call me!
The Saucy Cajun
p.s. Maybe this couple should call those $6 jambalaya caterers!
Joined Dec 2, 2000
How funny..
I ask all those questions that you reommend and many times like you said, people are defensive, say that $$$ is not an issue etc etc..
I asked that question about 1 month ago and I thought this woman was going to reach in the phone and bite my head off.
She is a local big shot Doctor, who called and ordered a la carte stuff.. Since she exclaimed that $$ was not an issue she ordered
Jumbo shrimp for 50 .. 4-5 per person, chicken fingers for the kids, fruit platter with a dipping sauce salad, salmon and bourbon pork chops, mashed potatoes, veggies, 3 types of desserts including Derby pie.. different types of bars
She was from the South and her husband from the NW.. so we were going to do a combo thing for the renewal of their wedding vows.
And lets not forget the kids menu for 17 kids ranging from 1 to 12.
I did a menu with money not being an issue.
And would you believe it,,She only wanted to spend $1000 (for the whole party) and she was sorry but she was going to look elsewhere

Now how do you explain that???
It's a catch 22..
Very frustrating.
Joined Mar 6, 2001
It is a catch 22, no doubt. Real estate sale people and car sales people also ask their prospective clients about price range. I think as consumers we all become defensive about that question because sometimes people use it against us to get us into a price range we don't want to be in.

But I know some people are really good at this question. The good ones are amazing...I bet there are tons of books on sales techniques that cover that specific questioning (budgets). It's all apart of being a successful business owner... I'm certain you'll be quick to master this Danielle.
Joined Apr 1, 2002
Well first of all Danielle, I can tell you what "that is all about". The women is a @#$%^&* but they're more out there. First of all, NEVER believe price is not an issue! I don't care what they say. What they'll do is tell you that , call 5 other caterers, and THEN deciede what they want to pay. Know the going rate in your area, and if you're higher, be ready to justify it. I have three pretty much "pat" menus (change with the season) with different prices that I send first. (NO ONE has ever used one of these menus!) I always stress that these first menus are just a suggestion.I have a cover letter that I send with it that explains the you can pick different things from each, drop items ,or add other items not listed, and the price will reflect this. This way you don't paint yourself into a corner.I had a groom call a while back who told me price was no problem. When pressed "So, are you thinking about the $30 range?" ($25 is average for my area) he said yes. I sent him the 3 menus (priced high, med., and low for this area ALL UNDER $30) When I called him back he said exactly what I knew he would. "The other caterers want $18"." This was exactly where my "low" menu was. He saw that my prices where not "too high", but that I could offer a higher end alternative. I asked him his "dream menu" and then really got to work. I did a few small changes except for the chicken fingers he wanted. You'd be surprized how "do-able" most people's dream is! This is the grilled pizza station wedding I talked about before on this thread. I gave him more than he asked for , so he had no problem paying more. I guess the bottom line is, don't believe them! They don't know what they want to pay when they first call. Also, W. DeBord is really right about sales books. I think a lot of creative peolple have a problem with sales. We want our creations to be greeted with open arms and praised to the high heavens! :bounce: This is especially true when we have done this type of work in the past only for family & friends. They can't believe that you made it look "just like in a magazine!!!". The public thinks it better look (& taste) like is in a magazine and you have to sell them on the fact that you can do this! I go to the library at least twice a year and get an armload of sales books. I climb in a bubblebath after everyone is asleep and read. (I'm a night person) I do this every night for at least a week until my brain just sort 'ta gets washed with the rest of me! I HATE SALES! This is the only way I morph myself into a salesperson! But, after one of my "brain washings" I find great things coming out of my mouth! I sometimes feel like "Who said that? It couldn't have been me!" Silly method, but it sure works for me!
The Saucy Cajun
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I love the ones that want YOU, but won't give you a menu or a price......so you come up with different menus priced out built to the number of people anticipated and they start taking items off or wanting the same price for 20 people when they initially said 75. Since I lump labor and food together it is a nightmare.
wanting Filet on a burger budget.
Joined Dec 2, 2000
The thing is Iam a great salesperson.. but like you said they call others, compare and think about going to Costco and doing it themselves.
There is a reason why I pick and choose my clients.. And this is it..
I just got great news... I did a probono thing during school and I gave my services away for a raffle.. Well I offered my services again and the same woman bought me for $500. (dinner for 2 on me.. and the school will give me $100 to buy the food)
She is having me do a party at her home.. sit down dinner for as much at it takes for 25 doctors. my choice of food and she'll pay me whatever..
It's a dream come true..
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