A cocktail reception is a great way to encourage guests to mingle and get to know each side of the family. Unfortunately, cocktail wedding receptions are not always budget-friendly.  Caterers charge a bit more for canapés due to the attention to detail needed for each piece, but that doesn’t mean your guests will be full by the end of the night.  If you can enlist extra hands from friends and family to help with plating, a DIY reception may be the way to go for a small party.  The following are some low cost nibbles that should delight a range of appetites, (and when presented properly) look elegant enough for a wedding.


These small rounds are the perfect canapé size and finger-food friendly when served aburi style with the sauce already within each morsel.  Create an impressive display by arranging the different colored bites on a large silver platter or on many small platters with staggered heights to create visual interest.  Since sushi can range in pricing from the very expensive to very reasonable, ordering platters from a local Asian supermarket might be a good place to start. Or, perhaps choose a favorite hole-in-the-wall gem that lacks in ambiance, but more than makes up for it in tasty take out.


Simply a fancy word for veggies and dip, presentation is key to elevating this token vegetable selection on the menu. Combine long, thin slices of colorful bell peppers, raw zucchini, carrots, celery, and cucumber vertically in individual shot glasses with a dollop of dip underneath. Consider using this amazing recipe for Green Goddess from aviewfromgreatisland.com. If you’re like me and would rather save the shot glasses for alcohol, put the vegetables in hollowed-out plum tomato “cups” instead. Hollowed-out baguette chunks cut on the diagonal are also a nice way to hold the colorful clusters. If you like the idea of cute cups or glasses, here are three that we’ve used before and love for various party nibbles: 5oz tumbler, great for punch or displaying bulky appetizers, 2oz square plastic mousse cups that are perfect for fun jello shots or small desserts, 3oz tall square cups that are great for parfaits, puddings, layered trifles, etc.

Chicken Drumettes

Always a crowd-pleaser, the only issue with chicken drumettes is that it’s synonymous with more casual parties like the weekend BBQ. If you know of (or can google) a good recipe, these are easy to cook in large batches without a great degree of difficulty.  Even easier, choose the heat-and-serve option by heating up frozen flavored drumettes and tossing them into the wing sauce of choice for additional depth.  Whether you choose to cook from scratch or cheat and use the store-bought version, bring the drumettes to “wedding level” by adding paper frills to the end of each one. Finishing off with small details like adding finely cut basil (for a Thai flavored sauce) or fresh lemon zest (for a lemon pepper flavored rub) can also bring these to a more gourmet level.


Similar to the chicken drumettes above, this is easy to make in large batches or even quicker to purchase frozen, heat and serve. It can also be made in advance from scratch (meatball-making party, anyone?) and frozen until needed.  Meatballs can be elegantly served on Asian spoons with sauce drizzled on top, in a mini ramekin, or on its own with a fancy pick and garnish of some micro greens.

Mini Skewers

Mini skewers are a great way to pay tribute to (or sometimes to compromise between) the bride and groom. There are countless combinations available for skewered food.  Beef cubes with brioche and chimichurri, or maybe teriyaki chicken breast with grilled pineapple. The trick here is to cut everything precisely for a uniformed look. For example, if choosing to do a skewer of watermelon, feta and basil, watermelon and feta chunks should be square – not slightly rectangular, or angled, or missing a corner. Foods with similar shapes look best on the same skewer. Here’s a great, inexpensive example of the bamboo skewers that are perfect for all types of foods!

The DIY process may seem tedious, but it definitely gives the opportunity for family bonding over the sharing of recipes, creative cooking, and time together. Cost-savings is just another bonus.