Dig In: Delicious, Guest-Friendly Cocktail Reception Hors D’oeuvre

Photo: DW Photography
Photo: DW Photography

Nothing stokes the appetite like a wedding ceremony. All that pre-wedding preparation and gussying-up, all that pomp and circumstance, all that love being pledged and promised and celebrated. After sighing and smiling their way through your ceremony, you can bet your guests will be hungry. So give them what they need, Houston bride: sustenance, served up with special-occasion flair.

Remember, your cocktail reception hors d’oeuvre will be the first taste guests get of your wedding, and they need to set the right impression. Where presentation is concerned, elegance and artistry are de rigueur, but don’t overdo it—nobody wants to confront food they can’t identify or figure out how to insert into their mouths.

We suggest keeping things simple and delicious, with a focus on quality and handle-ability. As for cocktail reception hors d’oeuvre no-nos? They include messy items (save the Buffalo wings for a post-wedding poker night), bad-breath and heartburn inducers (raw onions do NOT make for pleasant close-quarters mingling), and a lack of choices for vegetarians or guests who observe religious food restrictions (maybe rethink that all-pork smorgasbord your fiancé fancies, Houston bride).

Here are some of our all-time favorite hors d’oeuvre items, any one of which your caterer is likely to be able to provide, along with unique signature specialties of their very own. Can’t decide just by browsing? That’s what tastings are for, Houston bride! Isn’t wedding-planning yummy?

•    Goat cheese tart with fig jam
•    Smoked salmon tartare on potato slices
•    Tuna tartare on crispy wontons
•    Tandoori or satay chicken skewers
•    Scallops wrapped in smoked bacon
•    Coconut shrimp
•    Stuffed mushroom caps
•    Crispy spring rolls
•    Baby lamb chops
•    Mini Beef Wellington
•    Mini crab cakes
•    Mini gourmet pizzas
•    Gourmet sliders
•    Assorted crostini (savory toasted crackers topped with cheese, vegetables or meat—make sure they’re not too crunchy or they’ll shatter when guests try to bite them!)

Signature Cocktails By Color

A couple of weeks ago, the Wedding Buzz, our must-have weekly e-newsletter, featured a recipe for a fabulous, bright red Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail. Well, seeing as how you brides went ga-ga for this refreshing “ruby sipper,” we thought we’d offer up some more fun ideas for yummy cocktails that can be color-coordinated with your reception palette.

Matching a signature cocktail to your wedding reception color scheme isn’t just a cool design touch, it’s also a smart choice for brides on a budget. At your cocktail reception, instead of offering a full premium bar (at a premium price to you—or whoever is footing your wedding bill), have waiters tray-pass one of these eye-catching drink choices, or a custom-designed, color-matched mix of your own invention. Give your signature cocktail a cute name—the “Mike and Lisa Love-tini” or the “Together Forever,” for instance—and dress up trays with hand-lettered signs letting guests know what they’re sipping.

Photo Courtesy of White on Rice Couple
Photo Courtesy of White on Rice Couple

Green Scene
We love the tropical look of the Green Flash Cocktail, which we found on this happy couple’s great blog, along with the recipe. Concocted by a bartender at Club Med Columbus Isle in the Bahamas, the drink gets its pretty green color and sweet-citrusy flavor from a combo of Blue Curacao, Peach Schnapps and orange juice.

Photo Courtesy of Blue Cocktails Blog
Photo Courtesy of Blue Cocktails Blog

True Blue
For a veritable library of blue-hued libations, you can’t do much better than the Blue Cocktails blog. Our favorite? The Blue Sapphire Martini, a tart, stylish blend of Bombay Sapphire, Cointreau, Blue Curacao and sour mix.

Photo Courtesy of Deep Glamour Blog
Photo Courtesy of Deep Glamour Blog

Purple Passion
We couldn’t believe our luck when we stumbled upon the oh-so-sophisticated Deep Glamour Cosmotini at the blog for which this jewel-toned gem of a cocktail is named. Check out the recipe, which includes purple-dyed tapioca pearls—a fabulous look for a wedding with a high-style, lounge-y vibe.

Photo Courtesy of Laylita.com
Photo Courtesy of Laylita.com

Well Red
More and more wedding palettes seem to feature the color red, whether it’s teamed with celadon or violet, tangerine or watermelon, black-and-white or gold. This lovely Valentine’s-Day-inspired fizzy cocktail from Laylita makes a gorgeous day or evening reception drink, and those blood orange garnishes? Perfection!

Hot Cake: Red Velvet

NYC Cake Decorators Wedding Cake Walk
NYC Cake Decorators Wedding Cake Walk

Wedding cake shapes and decoration styles come and go, but a moist, luscious, delicious cake is always in style. For pure cake yumminess it’s tough to beat red velvet. Despite its humble associations—church picnics, backyard gatherings, grandma’s house—this rosy-hued favorite dresses up gorgeously for weddings. Brides in the planning stages for autumn and winter weddings take note: What could be a lovelier addition to a seasonal reception than a cake the color of turning leaves?

Red velvet cake is an eternal Southern favorite that’s fast becoming a wedding star on the national stage. Part of its appeal is its inimitable flavor, which typically comes from a combination of cocoa powder, vanilla and buttermilk, all covered with a rich, sweet, ever-so-slightly tangy cream-cheese frosting. Then there’s the surprise and excitement (not to mention excellent photo op) of cutting through wedding-white frosting to reveal a brilliant ruby cake underneath (red velvet cake gets its sensational hue from nothing more complicated than a good dose of red food coloring).

We love the idea of a red velvet cake done up in formal black-and-white, or decorated with dewy red rose petals, for a more romantic look.

Talk to your wedding cake baker about other red velvet wedding cake ideas—Cupcake tower? Gift-box cake done up in red or silver “ribbon?” Red velvet overlay for the cake table?—and check out these images for more inspiring ideas.

Louisa Morris Cakes
Louisa Morris Cakes
Pink Cake Box
Pink Cake Box
Artsy Carmen
Artsy Carmen
Whisking on Pens & Needles
Whisking on Pens & Needles
Martha Stewart Weddings
Martha Stewart Weddings

Indian Wedding Trends Part II

The scene at House of Blues’ Foundation Room was, itself, a showcase of Indian wedding wonders, at the April 15 National Association of Catering Executives’ wedding trends luncheon. Guests got a traditional, and fragrant, Indian welcome, complete with sandalwood, rose water and kumkum (lime-treated turmeric powder), followed by plenty of time to peruse tables laid with ornate linens, spectacular mandaps (the traditional Indian-wedding canopy structure), and ornate brides’ and grooms’ outfits, all assembled in a space turned out in shades of copper, bronze, turquoise, pink and gold—magnificent!

(Photos by D. Jones Photography)

No Indian wedding would be complete without sweets and entertainment, and in these departments the NACE event did not disappoint. Guests dug into cardamom-infused wedding cake with fresh mango filling, refreshing lassi drinks and traditional Indian sweets, while enjoying live bhangra music (if bhangra doesn’t make you dance, nothing will!) and dhol drumming.

In the midst of all this spectacle and beauty, keynote speaker Radhika Day, publisher of Weddings in Houston, shared her input on hot, emerging and enduring Indian wedding trends. Here’s the scoop:

Groom’s Arrival:

The modern groom arrives in an expensive convertible, though the true traditionalist might still choose to arrive on a horse, or even an elephant or camel. At least one innovative groom arrived at his wedding on a Segway!


Reform Hindu—or arya samaj—weddings are very popular. Since many brides and grooms belong to different communities from India, the arya samaj ceremony serves to satisfy both sets of families. Also, both Hindus and non-Hindus can marry in this ceremony without converting. Convenient!


Couples today bring a mix of western and Indian elements to the wedding since many have grown up here in the U.S. Many couples are choosing to wear traditional attire for the ceremony and an ethnic outfit with a western twist for the reception.


There is a great deal of emphasis on the decor at upscale Indian weddings. Elaborate and colorful tents and backdrops that transport guests to the grandeur of a bygone era are not uncommon.


The modern Indian wedding has been greatly influenced by Bollywood and it’s not unusual for couples to bring in Indian entertainment groups to perform and get the crowds moving.  Live musicians such as dhol players at the baraat, and DJs, bands and professional dancers at the reception, are not uncommon.

Wedding Planners:

Every Indian family has older traditional relatives who actually guide the wedding couple on religious rituals and expectations. What couples need a planner for is to keep the crowds organized and to coordinate the many vendors involved in the wedding. Many young couples do not necessarily seek out an Indian wedding planner but look for someone who will help tie eastern and western elements together.


Often, the Indian wedding guest list includes a mix of Indian and non-Indian guests. Expect large, overflowing multi-cuisine buffets and multiple food stations with many dishes (yum!). Since the traditional Indian wedding involves so many events with the same guest list, most families like to vary the cuisine at the different events. A wedding cake—though not an Indian tradition—usually is part of the reception, and is served in addition to Indian desserts and sweets.  Often the cake flavors, fillings and decoration will have an Indian twist. And, for drinks, signature cocktails using mango or litchi are quite popular. Bottoms up!

Special thanks to Steve Lee, Ky Signature, Luxe Studios, Studio Capture, J. Cogliandro for allowing the use of their beautiful images in the Experience the Mystique of India presentation.

Indian Weddings Trends Part I

With Houston’s large, prominent, diverse Indian population, it’s no surprise that Houston’s Indian weddings are at the forefront of style and sophistication. On April 15, top wedding pros gathered in the Foundation Room at House of Blues downtown to show off the best and brightest (and I do mean brightest—the color palette is absolutely spectacular) in Indian wedding trends for the coming season. The event was the annual wedding trends luncheon, hosted by the Houston chapter of the National Association of Catering Executives, and it was a stunner. Of course, the talent lineup was top-notch—Darryl & Co., Events in Bloom, River Oaks Flower House, Susie’s Cakes & Confections, Who Made the Cake, Edible Designs by Jessie, Sari Sapne, A&A Video and many more—with Weddings in Houston publisher Radhika Day taking the stage as keynote speaker. wih-blogpost-3-pic-invite2

C0-chairs Summer Hutchens Colgin of For Your Memories and Jim Gray of The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, along with Juliana Wathen of Cosmo Cool Concepts, Jessica Choate of the Student Chapter of NACE and our very own Vik Da,y all helped make the event shine. Attendees included 215 of Houston’s finest wedding and event experts and the charming David Jones of D. Jones Photography and Mitch Daniels of MDI Video captured all the excitement for posterity.

So what did our wedding gurus reveal? I’ll get to the goodies in a second, but first I want to point out a couple of things. First, there’s no such thing as an Indian wedding, per se. India is a large country divided into numerous states and multiple faiths, each with its own specific customs, rituals and tastes. Here in the U.S., these are often simplified and blended, as brides and grooms from different Indian (and non-Indian) backgrounds meet, fall in love and tie the knot.

Second, you don’t have to be an Indian bride to admire—and participate in—these fabulous Indian wedding trends. Indian color schemes, flowers, cake designs, food and cocktail recipes—there’s so much to love, you can’t help but be inspired. If you find something that captures your fancy, non-Indian bride, go for it. Your wedding planner can help you incorporate just about any of these wonderful elements into your special day.

Ready to pull back the curtain? Check out Indian Weddings Trends Part II for the fun stuff!