Planning appetisers for your party? Here is a quick cheatsheet, assembled by curating the best tips from party planners and veteran hosts, to help you handle some of the pesky questions.
Q1) How Much Do I Need?
This one is the most vital, and probably most tricky, question. Too much, and you are stuck with mounds of leftovers. Too little, and, god-oh-god, you are the cheapskate who didn’t feed the guests.
Luckily, we are here to help. Use the guidelines below to get a handle on the estimates.
- 3-5 pieces per person, 1-hr appetiser serving time, full-on meal planned post appetisers.
- 6-8 pieces per person, 1.5-2 hrs appetiser serving time, regular meal planned post appetisers.
- 8-10 pieces per person, 2-4 hours appetiser serving time, heavy hors d’oeuvres, light dinner
- 12-15 pieces per person, 4+ hour event, where appetisers are dinner replacement
- You would typically need lesser appetisers for an afternoon get together, as compared to a dinner event.
- If alcohol is going to be served, always plan appetisers on the higher side.
Q2) How Many Types of Appetisers Should I Serve?
The number of people you’re expecting is a key factor in determining how many different types of appetizers you should offer.
Don’t make the mistake of offering too many options with too small an amount of each. Do the maths.
Assume 20 people are attending, and you plan to serve them 5 pieces per head. You would need 100 pieces altogether. If you go in for any more than 5 types of appetisers you would not even be able to offer each guest a portion of each appetiser
So better to limit the variety of appetisers, especially for a smaller party, and ensure that there is enough for everyone.
Some basic rules:
- Party of 25-35 guests, 4 to 6 types of appetisers
- Parties of 50-60 guests, 6 to 9 types of appetisers
- Parties with over 60-75 guests, you can easily have 9 or more items
Q3) How Do I Stagger Out The Servings?
Yes, this one matters too. So here goes:
- Have the nibbles – chips, cheese platter, crudites, and the like – laid out before the guests arrive
- Once the majority of the guests are in, start serving the heavier snacks – kebabs, bruschettas, grills, and the like.
- Serve more in the first hour, and start thinning it out later, maybe just half the amount you served initially. Especially if you plan to serve dinner.
- If it is an appetiser-as-dinner or appetiser-followed-by-light-meal party, reserve the heavier snacks for the latter half of the party.
Q3) What should I serve?
The quintessential quandary! There are so many factors you have to consider – budget, novelty, difficulty, theme …
And while the specifics would vary from person to person, there is one key principle experts ask you to keep in mind – "balance."
If you know your guests' preferences, and the majority leans one way, planning is simple.
However, if the crowd is mixed, a good idea is to go with a 50:50 split. Also make sure that no one ingredient dominates so that people with food issues have a choice
For a party of about 30 people, a good plan would be 1 poultry, 1 meat, 1 seafood and 3 vegetarian appetisers.
And please remember vegetarian appetisers aren't just limited to crudites and deep-fried stuff.
This one obviously depends on the type of party.
If the dinner is the main event, you want to keep the appetisers limited to nibbles, maybe one heavy snack at the most.
If appetisers are the dinner, then you need to step up the carbs and meat/beans/potatoes. Think bread bowls, kathi-rolls, mini-quiches, pizza slices, chicken/lamb/fish/vegetable skewers …
Wow Factor:Convenience balance
Don’t, please don’t, fall into the “Wow Factor” trap. Sure, you want to serve cool stuff, but everything doesn't have to be a production. Figure out one or two wow-type appetisers and keep the rest of the appetisers simple. Preferably finger foods that can be pre-assembled and eaten with minimum fuss.