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Hosting an All Appetizers/Heavy Hors d’oeuvres Event

Although used interchangeably, did you know that technically there is a difference between hors d’oeuvres and appetizers? Bite sized foods served before a meal that are hot or cold are considered hors d’oeuvres. They are to be eaten before dinner, not filling to interfere enjoying the meal, and tend to be savory. Think nuts, crudité, fruits and cheeses. Alternatively, appetizers are supposed to be served at the table before the meal as a starter. Although small portion sizes, they are meant to be complimentary to the meal like salads and soups. But in today’s world, all that goes out the window. Call them hors d’oeuvres or call them appetizers, they stand on their own at an event and have stopped being just a starter.

On trend are the “All Appetizers” or “Heavy Hors d’oeuvres” parties. These cocktail party style events allow for more mingling, interaction and movement. Are you down with it? Messina’s Catering and Events shares tips on how to throw a successful Appetizer Only event.

Variety of Appetizers

All Appetizer parties serve as an adventurous tasting event, enabling guests to try an assortment of delicacies. Therefore, variety and presentation are key. Think of selections as a five-course meal, without all the fuss but with all of the fun. Include equal protein heavy options, along with starches, veggies and fruits along with hot and cold items. A progressive style dinner is essentially created based on the timing of passed hors d’oeuvres. You have many choices, so utilize factors like when the event occurs, your budget, headcount, and style to determine your selections. Your caterer can also help with selections while featuring their culinary style. (Simonsezit)


As your guests socialize, include a variety of passed hors d’oeuvres. Miniaturized versions of most any meal favorite can be done and are delicious. Include soup shooters, antipasto skewers, shrimp cocktail, oysters and bacon wrapped scallops. Selections like Messina’s Mini Beef Wellington Bites, Warm Miniature Muffuletta Sandwiches, Duck on Endive and Salmon Mousse Deviled Eggs are perfect heartier and substantial options. End with desserts like mini crème brûlée, and assorted dessert shooters.


We all know that guests tend to congregate around the bar and food table, so utilize areas throughout your venue to have presentation displays. This is where selections like Messina’s Charcuterie Display featuring assorted olives, okra, spicy green beans, pepperoncini, gerkins, artichoke hearts, Genoa, capocollo, pepperoni, salsiccia and assorted sausages including chorizo, smoked, andouille, alligator are perfect – and spectacular. Fruit, cheese and tapenade make for ideal nibblers as well.

Appetizers Stations

Small plates and tapas have been a trend that many love and work beautifully in an All Appetizer event. Guests can personalize their plate and interact as they move their way through a taco, quesadilla or nacho bar. ( Moving away from buffets, chef attended stations provide a fun, visual component to the all appetizer party as well. Whether the final plating of a dish or actively tossing pasta at a custom pasta bar, a chef attendant enhances the overall excitement.


A good rule of thumb when working with your caterer on just how many hors d’oeuvres to choose is as follows: for 10 – 12 guests a minimum of 5 selections, 25 guests a minimum of 9 selections and for 50 guests, a minimum of 13 selections. Now, how many of each selection should be served? Your caterer will guide you as timing is key. For an event during mealtime, plan on 12-15 total pieces per guest so that they’re appetite is satisfied. If the event occurs between standard mealtimes, allocate 8 – 10 pieces per person for nibbling. Finally, for longer parties lasting longer than 4 hours, allocate 2 additional pieces per person, per hour.



To keep guests moving and mingling, keep in mind the actual space of your venue. If hosting at your home, utilize indoor and outdoor spaces (weather permitting) to keep a flow going. Ensure that your caterer has the adequate space needed for heating and prepping. At a venue, use the space at hand to place stations and bars in different areas so that guests can make their way from one end to another. It will keep your guests moving, tasting, and enjoying themselves. Messina’s Catering and Events offers an extensive menu of hors d’oeuvres, appetizers, displays and chef stations that are perfect for your All Appetizer party, whether at home or at one of our beautiful venues. We work to ensure that your event is top notch and are proud to have been recognized in the New Orleans area as a 2020 top wedding caterer by The Knot and newly named one of only four Preferred Caterers at the brand new prestigious Sazerac House.


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