Michelle Obama is celebrating her 50th birthday. Hard to believe she’s 50, she sure doesn’t look it. Her party invitation stated it was Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert, and specified to wear comfortable shoes, eat before you arrive and practice your dance moves.
There has been some controversy in the press about the invitation specifying that the invitees should eat before they arrive. It has raised a good point about how you communicate the kind of food you are serving so that guests know if they will be fed a meal or just snacks.
It seems hosts are trying to get clever by using different terms for what they are serving. It used to be that invitations stated only a few things to communicate the meal type – dinner, buffet dinner, heavy hors d’oeuvres and light hors d’oeuvres. I probably don’t need to explain what dinner is. A buffet dinner is typically a larger variety of food served from a table at which you help yourself throughout the evening. Heavy hors d’oeuvres are substantial appetizers, enough to make a meal – things like chicken satays, stuffed mushrooms, salads, mini quiche, meatballs, etc. Light hors d’oeuvres on the other hand are light appetizers that aren’t substantial enough to make a meal – chips and dip, cheese and crackers, bruschetta, nuts, crudité, etc. They are what Ms. Obama called snacks.
I wish people would go back to specifying what they are serving by using the terms I used above. If hosts were consistent, guests would eventually come to understand what is being served and whether to eat before the event or not.
As a guest, if the invitation doesn’t state what’s being served I consider the time of the event and make assumptions based on that. But even that doesn’t always help. I just attended a function that took place from 6:30 to 9:00 PM at someone’s home. The event description made no mention of the food. I assumed because it was taking place over the dinner hour and was a longer event there would be heavy appetizers. Nope, there were snacks, and having not eaten before I left home I was quite hungry when I departed the event.
If you’re hosting a party over the dinner hour – say anytime between 6:00 and 9:00 PM, you really should serve either dinner or heavy hors d’oeuvres. Anything in the happy hour time – 3:00 to 6:00 PM allows you to get away with offering light hors d’oeuvres.
Given the confusion over party food, I can see why Ms. Obama specified on the invitation to eat before you arrive. But, I’d like for people to not have to do that. Instead, let’s start using the correct terms for what’s being served and pay attention to the timing of the event.
And guests, when in doubt, eat before you arrive. That way you won’t starve if snacks are served during the dinner hour.
What say you? Do you feel confused about what the party food monikers mean? Have you ever assumed a substantial meal would be served only to discover chips and dip? What would help you to know what to expect food wise? Should the host suggest you eat before you arrive so there is no doubt?