Comfort Foods for a Winter Wedding Cocktail Hour

A pair of cocktails at a winter wedding reception setting.

As long as I can remember, summer has been considered the official “wedding season.” But these days, more and more couples are embracing the colder half of the year for their nuptials; in fact, October (a month that’s squarely in the middle of fall) has become the most popular time to tie the knot!

There are loads of benefits to getting married in the fall or winter— cheaper venue and vendor rates, gorgeous décor from Mother Nature, the list goes on—but one of my favorite benefits is the wide range of comfort foods you get to offer your guests. Now that winter is fast-approaching, let’s take a look at some of the warm, home-y dishes your guests can enjoy at a winter wedding cocktail hour.

Soup Shooters

Soup is a classic winter meal—arguably the perfect winter meal. It’s warm, it’s rich, and it sticks to your bones! Who wouldn’t want a dish like that on a chilly winter evening? Well, it seems that many couples (and their caterers) are on the same page, as hors d’oeuvre-style soup has become a popular fixture on many winter wedding menus.

But how do you make soup an hors d’oeuvre? Easy: shrink down your serving size! A little shooter-sized cup of butternut squash or tomato soup (maybe with a grilled cheese finger sandwich for dipping) is easy to carry around and sip while you mingle with your guests. This is also a great option if you’re planning on a long break between cocktails and dinner, as it will keep your guests feeling full a little longer.

Mac & Cheese Bites

A close-up view of macaroni and cheese bites as an appetizer at a winter wedding.

Macaroni and cheese is one of those foods you can enjoy all year long. It’s a must-have dish at 4th of July barbeques, Thanksgiving dinner, or your average Tuesday night—but the middle of winter is when this dish can truly shine! A serving of gourmet mac and cheese can warm you up and make you feel like a kid again—and when it’s really good mac & cheese, a bite or two is all you need.

Mini mac & cheese bites are a great way to give your guests a tasty treat that packs a lot of flavor into a small package. You can provide small plates (with one or two bites worth) or serve them breaded and fried into small balls.

DIY Poutine Bar

If there’s one country out there that truly knows comfort food, it’s Canada. The people of the Great White North spend so much time battling the bitter cold that they’ve developed more than a few comfort foods to warm their souls. Of course, no Canadian comfort food is quite as popular or as snackable as poutine.

Poutine is a very simple dish: start with a handful of French fries and top them with gravy, cheese curds, and any other toppings that catch your eye! Because it’s so easy to make and so customizable (not to mention delicious), it’s easy to set up a DIY poutine bar in your cocktail lounge and let your guests get a little experimental.

Baked Brie

Baked brie for a winter wedding cocktai hour.

So far, we’ve talked about foods that are a bit…shall we say, carb-heavy? Obviously, so many filling treats can cause your guests to fill up on hors d’oeuvres before the reception even begins—so if you want some lighter fare, consider offering some baked brie cheese.

A wheel of baked brie is decadent, tasty, and easily spreadable, which makes it a great choice for your cocktail hour’s hors d’oeuvre spread. Set up an elegant cheese board with fruit, nuts, a few kinds of crackers and a couple of jam spreads, and you’ll have a simple appetizer that will keep your guests coming back for more! However, this light appetizer won’t leave everyone feeling stuffed before you even serve the salad.

Hot (and Boozy) Beverages

You can’t have a cocktail hour without any cocktails! While some of your guests may enjoy sipping on a chilled martini or glass of wine in the midst of winter, others may want their drinks to keep them warm. So, why not provide a little of both? Sure, provide classic cocktails for those who want them, but make your signature drink something more seasonal.

Cooking up a large batch of mulled wine, hot buttered rum, or spiked hot chocolate is a great way to enjoy an adult beverage and sip on something hot. (Just make sure that any kids in attendance don’t get their hands on your grown-up hot cocoa!)

If you’re getting married in the winter, feel free to get creative with your cocktail hour menu! Transform your favorite comfort foods into your dream appetizers, or experiment with something entirely new. Your guests will be surprised and delighted by this break from the norm—and trust me, they’ll certainly appreciate a warm bite to eat on a cold winter night.

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