How to Plan a Raw Bar for Your Wedding

Oysters on ice.

Raw bars are a decadent and luxurious addition to your wedding reception for both you and your guests to enjoy—but it can be intimidating to plan one for your event and you may find yourself not sure where to start. Luckily, we’re here with a guide that will help you plan a perfect raw bar to wow guests and elevate your cocktail hour or reception.

What Is a Raw Bar?

If you love seafood, then you’ll definitely want to know what a raw bar is and consider it for your celebration. These bars offer a selection of chilled, fresh seafood. The food is prepared very simply, allowing the sweet and briny flavor to shine through. This food is set up on a beautiful display of ice and is garnished with lemon wedges, cocktail sauce, and mignonette for guests to use to dress the seafood—most commonly raw, freshly shucked oysters on the half shell.

What’s Included In a Raw Bar?

A tray of caviar at a raw bar.

A well-rounded raw bar includes a range of seafood items. The beauty of these is that you can really mix and match what’s included. Common items include oysters, cooked shrimp, littleneck clams, crab claws, lobster claws, ceviche, crudos, and caviar. As mentioned above, oysters are the most common offering when it comes to raw bars. There are so many types of oysters out there that you can certainly fill your entire raw bar with only this type of seafood. It’s fun to include oysters sourced from different places, for instance, Cape Cod oysters, Maine oysters, or whatever type are your favorite to throw back.

How Much Food Do You Need?

An assortment of oysters and shrimp at a wedding reception raw bar.

Many couples debate how many pieces they need in their raw bar to satiate all their guests. Your raw bar will likely be a hot commodity at your event, so you want to ensure you have enough for everyone to enjoy! Three oysters per person is the general rule of thumb. Not everyone at your event will enjoy oysters or seafood, so this is a solid number to account for some people eating more than three pieces and others eating none.

Where Should a Raw Bar Be Displayed?

A raw bar with oysters at a wedding reception.

You may be wondering where to even setup a raw bar at your event. It’s a versatile add-on, which makes it easy to tailor to your preferences. You can have this set up outside or inside. The most important thing is that your venue has an abundance of ice for it, especially if you’re having the bar set up outside on a warm day. Ice also helps the presentation of the raw bar to stay looking full, even after guests have been grazing on it.

How Can You Decorate a Raw Bar?

Some couples may want to make their raw bar even more amazing by decorating it for their event. This is definitely an option, and you can go about it in many ways. While beautiful flowers make a simple and easy decor element, why not lean into the nautical theme? If you can source a small row boat or other vessel that’s beach-y in nature, it will make the perfect house for tons of ice and all your seafood. Feel free to get creative with this aspect of your catering—it’ll wow guests and add more fun to this aspect of your wedding!

Adding a raw bar to your reception or cocktail hour option is a nice touch that brings your event to the next level and helps you vary the food options you’re offering guests. Plus, it’s a fun thing to do—and it’s hard to beat that!

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