How to Plan a Reception With Finger Food for 200 People

by Kendall Olsen

Items you will need

  • 3 cheese, cracker and smoked salmon trays, 24 inches in diameter
  • 3 grilled and chilled vegetable trays, 24 inches in diameter
  • 3 fruit trays with dip, 24 inches in diameter
  • 4 to 5 dips and spreads, 1 gallon each, served with 600 crackers and breads
  • 400 chicken wings in chafing dishes
  • 400 chicken tenders or nuggets in chafing dishes
  • 300 chilled shrimp on ice
  • 200 crab-stuffed mushrooms
  • 6 trays of cold finger foods of your choice, 25 servings each
  • 10 trays of hot finger foods of your choice, 25 servings each

Planning a reception for hundreds of people can be a difficult task. It's even trickier when you opt to feed a crowd with labor-intensive finger foods, rather than relatively simple and filling sit-down entrees. Whether it's a wedding reception or a community event, you'll need to organize a large number of details and a significant quantity of food preparation if you're going to bring it off successfully.

First Things First

The first thing to do when planning a finger foods reception is to verify the number of guests. Determine the number of adults and children before ordering or confirming food with the caterer or venue.

Also, determine the length of the reception and the number of hours that food will be served. Because finger foods are being served in lieu of a meal, allow guests to nosh for about two-and-a-half to three hours.

Provide Variety, and Keep Them Coming

The types of finger food available to guests will also help determine how much to serve. A combination of both "light" and "heavy" appetizers should be served to meet the tastes of all guests.

Plan to serve about eight to 10 finger foods per adult guest, four to five per child, and be sure to supplement the finger foods with three large fruit trays, three cheese and smoked salmon trays, and three vegetable trays. This will help fill guests up while keeping expenses to a minimum.

Remember that keeping dishes fresh will make the food taste best; therefore, the suggested servings should be rotated through the reception rather than be served at once.

Combine Fixed Tables and Tray Service

Finger foods can be served on buffets and platters, by waiters on trays, or a combination of both. For the ideal food setup, put vegetable, fruit and cheese trays in various spots around the reception hall. Set up a small buffet with chilled shrimp cocktail, dips and spreads with crudites, chicken tenders or nuggets with a variety of sauces, chicken wings with accompanying sauces and dressings, and chafing dishes filled with stuffed mushrooms.

In addition to small buffets and tables, you can use waiters to serve hot, cold, and specialty finger foods on prepared trays. Keeping foods flowing throughout a reception will reduce the expense because guests won't be filling their own plates with appetizers constantly.

Suggested Servings

Served finger foods can include miniature crab cakes, miniature quiches, fried artichoke hearts, toasted ravioli, taquitos, hot and cold canapes, spiced polenta bites, stuffed olives, coconut shrimp, beef satay or chicken teriyaki skewers, finger sandwiches, rumaki, miniature savory cheesecakes, and small filled puff pastries.

Wedding cake or cupcakes will help round out the meal; dessert finger foods for receptions include cookies and bite-sized cupcakes and candy set on buffet tables once the savory foods have been removed.

About the Author

Kendall Olsen has been writing for more than 20 years She is a University of Missouri-St. Louis Gateway Writing Project Fellow and has published instructional materials with the McDonald Publishing Company. Olsen holds an Ed.S. in educational technology, an M.Ed. in secondary English curriculum and instruction, a B.S. in elementary education and a B.A. in art history.