Calculating the Quantity of Hors d'Oeuvres

Understanding how much food to order for your guests can be tricky, so dig out your calculators or flip your math switch on; it’s time to calculate!

As a general rule of thumb, estimate higher. It is better to have a few leftovers than it is to have to explain why you ran out to a multitude of hungry, tired guests. Estimating a larger guest number gives you a cushion for your second cousin or high school classmate to show up even though he or she forgets to send in their RSVP.

Typically, you should plan for three to four bites/appetizers per person if a full dinner is to be served, or four to five times that number to “replace” the amount of food a dinner would provide. And don’t forget variety. It is easy to remember the quantity, but no one wants to eat shrimp for two hours. Spice it up and add some alternative flavor combinations when you’re ordering the appetizers!

What does that number look like in a real scenario? We’re glad you asked.

Each of those numbers corresponds to one hour, so if you have a two-hour recession between the ceremony and reception, you’ve invited 125 guests, and you are planning on having a full dinner, you should order 750 bites/appetizers = 125 guests x 3 bites/per person x 2 hours.

When adding variety, for parties with more than 75 guests, you can easily get away with nine or more different items without overdoing it. Generally for receptions with less than 50 guests, a handful (3-5 items) should be plenty.

Written by Sarah Richards