What Should Invitations Say About Food?

Dear Ms. Cards Etiquette,

My company is having a holiday party for our local business contacts and major clients. The party is during normal dinner time, but we won’t actually be serving a full dinner. There will definitely be enough appetizers to go around though. What should the invitations say? “Lots of Hors D’Oeuvres” or “Light Buffet Dinner” or something else …?


Admin Assistant Extraordinaire


Well, Admin, since you’re not exactly serving a dinner, buffet or otherwise, I’d forget that option right off the top. If you’re particularly worried about people running to get dinner beforehand, or making later dinner plans and leaving early, you could say something like, “a wide variety of hors d’oeuvres will be served,” but I don’t even think that’s necessary. Simply noting “hors d’oeuvres will be served” should be sufficient.

Assuming there will also be drinks served at the party, I think most people will assume that if you say “hors d’oeuvres will be served,” you are at least providing enough food to help balance out the drinks.

Generally, unless you specify “light hors d’oeuvres”, and schedule the party in the early afternoon or well after the dinner hour, people will arrive without having eaten, and will be quite delighted to see a generous assortment of finger foods available.

Many professionals are quite used to making do with what’s offered at a networking cocktail party, and will wait until a respectable time to leave if they feel the need to eat a light dinner later. Since it sounds like you’re providing enough “grazing” foods to more than satisfy, I think your biggest worry is already behind you!