Cocktail Reception

Menu: Bold American Catering

Menu design: Peter Kruty Editions

1) Some guests arrive absolutely famished and need a plate of food pronto, while others stay busy mixing and mingling. That's why it's important to have passed hors d'oeuvres circulating–having small bites within reach lets chatty guests continue to socialize without going hungry.

2) A good cocktail–reception menu includes hors d'oeuvres for everyone–red meat, seafood, poultry, and vegetarian fare. Offer a minimum of eight to 12 different types.

3) Unexpected details grab guests' attention. This station will be manned by an attendant dressed in old–fashioned soda jerk garb who will scoop the popcorn into kitschy striped bags. Not every station should be as splashy as this one—a little novelty goes a long way.

4) The nostalgic comfort–food trend is still going strong. But a macaroni and cheese station tricked out with "grown–up" toppings is more gourmet (and substantial) than the usual mini ramekins of mac 'n cheese.

5) Offer three to five types of passed desserts (more if your sweet tooth is anything like ours). Serve these sweets right after you cut the wedding cake; this way, guests have lots of dessert options and won't have to crowd around the cake table, angling for a second slice.

TIP: Make it clear that you're having a cocktail reception so that no one expects a formal sit–down meal. Having the event at 8 p.m. or later is key; so is including the words "cocktail reception" or "cocktails and hors d'oeuvres" somewhere on your invitation.

TIP: Keep in mind that a cocktail reception is indeed the ideal context in which to offer a signature drink–but please don't give yours a goofy name. When in doubt, go with a classic, like a Martini (with gin, please), a Sidecar, a Kir Royale, or a Gimlet.

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