At dinners, banquets and the like, appetizers may be served prior to a meal. This is especially common at weddings, when it takes time for the wedding party and guests to get to a reception after the marriage has taken place.
Hors d’oeuvres may also be served at long parties that occur after a regular meal time. A mid-afternoon party where there is no intent to serve dinner, or an evening party that occurs after dinner, may also feature them so that guests can have the opportunity to snack. They’re an especially good idea when guests are consuming alcohol, since they help to cut down on alcohol absorption. Additionally, many restaurants feature a range of finger foods that are ordered just prior to a meal as a first course.
A simple plate of cheese and crackers, chopped vegetables (called crudités) served with dip, or sliced or small fruits can all be considered appetizers. Other popular options include canapés, finger sandwiches, crab cakes or crab puffs, small sausages that can be eaten in a bite or two, and any type of dumplings such as dim sum. The goal is to make the food easy to handle with just a napkin, and easy to eat in one to two bites. This way guests can continue to visit, dance, chat or mingle without needing to be encumbered by plates.