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There are many moving parts that make an event memorable. Your guests will be breathtakingly amazed by your attire, decor, floral, lightseven the outdoor or indoor venue. Besides catching up with other guests, your guests will spend a good part of their time eating, making show-stopping cuisine probably the top consideration as you plan. This is the first in a series of blogs that will break down the event menu for you, course by delicious course.

Gentle note: At this writing, event planners are still working within the mitigation guidelines required to navigate the ongoing pandemic; however, we have faith that there’s an end in sight, and that a new “new normal” is on the horizon. So we’re writing these “tour” blogs to span both realities.

Photo by Sarah Rachel Photography

Hors d’oeuvres get the party started

Let’s start at the beginning with the course that sets the tone for the rest of the event’s cuisine: the hors d’oeuvres. They’re the perfect accompaniments to before-dinner drinks, taking the edge off hunger during the cocktail hour without ruining appetites. They’re convenient, too, as they’re designed to be eaten by hand with minimal use of cutlery.Hors d’oeuvres are irresistible one-bite delights that can be passed or displayed on a station — and they will be passed again, once precautions are lifted. Instead, look for small plate samplers at stations. Each guest may enjoy a few hors d’oeuvres from each station! A stationary display works much the same way: Guests choose their favorites, which are plated for them, as their eyes feast on the visual display.

Photo by Samantha Jay Photography

Hors d’oeuvres can be your most creative course

Use your imagination — it’s likely within reach! Those passed or plated quick bites can be pretty much anything the chef can miniaturize, including something you weren’t able to offer on the dinner menu, a favorite food or even an ethnic specialty. Consider going seasonal to highlight what’s farm-fresh and to echo your decor and attire choices. Spring picks might be a citrus chicken tostados or caprese dumplings; in summer, watermelon and tomato skewers or tuna tartar mini-tacos; in fall, butternut squash polenta cakes or homemade potato tots; and in winter, goat cheese cakes or grilled beef satay. Can’t decide? Select all-season favorites, such as jumbo shrimp cocktail, grilled cubes of beef, crispy sesame chicken bites or mini ratatouille tarts. A fun option is including pairings with mini cocktails, like spiked sweet tea and chicken and waffle skewers, or margarita rojas and shrimp tacos.Pro tip: Arrange for something for everyone to keep guests happy and impressed. Design a sampling that includes chicken, beef, fish and vegetarian/vegan options. Ask your guests and inform your caterer early on if there are any dietary restrictions, such a shellfish allergy or gluten intolerance. There’s much tempting fare to offer, no matter what the special request may be!

Photo by Krista Brackin Photography

Showcase your hors d’oeuvres in style

Stationary displays and stations add real visual appeal to your event, and they tend to be budget-friendly since they present several bites to your guests at one time. A fun display could include a vegetable trio, antipasto skewers, short rib rangoon, lemon-basil hummus, and cheese and charcuterie with all the fixings. Stations get their depth of flavor from a few themed choices, plus their unique toppings, sides and sauces. Flatbread pizzas, sliders and hot soup shooters are joined by stations that add whimsy, like french fry bars, popcorn bars and — in the city suburbs — a Philly snack-pack!

Catering is for all of life’s special events

Cuisine is one important piece of the special-event puzzle. Look for a caterer that’s prepared to help you create the celebration that you and yours will cherish for years to come. Your checklist should include:

Weddings are certainly signature events! But you should expect the same level of service for milestone events, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, sweet 16 parties, galas and black-tie affairs, graduation parties, fundraisers, rehearsal dinners, showers and more.We know that 2020 made life stressful, especially for those who had to postpone the big day. We’re here for you to put your plans in motion in 2021 and beyond. We’re in this together! Schedule a consultation with one of our event managers when you’re ready to find your place or to reschedule your special event. 


Robert Ryan Catering & Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a 5-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couples’ Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news, and recipes from our executive chef.

Nina Malone

Featured photo by Melissa Kelly Photography