Hors d’oeuvres are those delicious little bite-sized foods that play a large role in events, yet they can be one of the hardest elements to plan for.

Not to be confused with appetizers which are served as a first course at the table, hors d’oeuvres are finger foods served before a meal or as a standalone at a reception. These small bites are great for guests to enjoy while socializing and exploring.

Much time and consideration goes in to determining how much to order and how many types to serve. Follow these great tips to help make your event a success:


  • Young individuals eat more than an older crowd
  • Guests eat more at a casual than formal event


  • Guests eat more in the first 90 minutes
  • After 2 hours consumption picks up again, especially if the hors d’oeuvres are replacing dinner

Number of pieces per guest

  • 5-7 before a light meal
  • 3-4 before a full meal
  • 10-12 for a 2 hour party
  • 20 if they are replacing dinner

Number of different types of hors d’oeuvres

  • 25 guests: a variety of 5-6
  • 25-50: a variety of 9-10
  • >50: 10 or more different varieties


Caterers are a great resource to turn to in determining the appropriate serving standards for your hors d’oeuvres.  If you question their recommendations and numbers, don’t be afraid to discuss it with them.

Caterers usually plan for a percentage over your final count, so ask your caterer what they propose. If you have a group of light eaters, plan accordingly. Caterers are the experts at serving food, but you are ultimately responsible for the success of the event so you need to be confident and comfortable with what you order.  Once you establish a relationship with your “go-to caterers” the process of predicting how much food to order will become second hand.

Hors d’oeuvres are also a fun way to expand the theme of your event.  For example, if your event theme leans more toward the whimsical, don’t be afraid to extend that theme to your hors d’ oeuvres.  Rather than serving a nicely cut-straight-edged finger sandwich, ask the caterer to make the sandwiches in unique shapes and varying sizes.  Vegetables can be made into various animals and shapes that will add variety and uniqueness to a simple vegetable tray.

Penguin Hors d’ouevres – made using black olives, cream cheese, and carrots

If you have an Island themed party, you may choose appetizers that reflect a tropical cuisine.  If you are hosting a Vegas night, petit fours, or cheese squares made to look like dice would be a hit.  Just about any theme you choose could have a unique selection of food that would be a refreshing change to the standard fare that is often seen at events.