What To Expect When ‘Cocktail Buffet’ Is On The Invitation



Boy does the time fly! We are blushing at how long it has been since our last etiquette post, graciously contributed by Lady Virginia. It was our plan to do a at least a few posts centered around occasions we are all invited to, and the protocol one might expect upon receiving an invitation – or better yet, hosting one yourself! If you don’t recall, Lady Virginia was a featured guest at an event we hosted in January. The event was Entertaining with Ease and proved to be a fun as well as successful one, providing customers with visuals of various settings and the corresponding invitation to expect for each.

*Royal Copenhagen’s Blue Fluted Place Setting available at Bering’s

To make up for lost time, we are excited to share some very helpful information on what to expect the next time you are invited to an occasion with a cocktail buffet. It also happens to be helpful information to file away for hosting a party with a cocktail buffet!

*Michael Aram serving pieces available at Bering’s


Being prepared is the best way to be, so enjoy our post on what to expect upon receiving an invitation to a party with a ‘cocktail buffet’ noted in the bottom right-hand corner.

A cocktail buffet is a cocktail party with food that constitutes a full meal. A cocktail reception is the most formal version and can be a black tie event in honor of a person or event. For this blog post, the images we have to share would be used for a more casual party with a cocktail buffet.

*Juliska’s Country Estate Blue Delft plates, Caspari napkins, Orrefors crystal bowl available at Bering’s

The cocktail buffet or reception can start at 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m., which is later than the traditional cocktail hour and generally lasts at least two to three hours. These can be come and go events and the invitation will state the start and end time. Due to the time being later and the event lasting longer, the guests will know that this will include enough food for a full meal.

beatriz ball 3 qt casserole
*Beatriz Ball 3 qt casserole available at Bering’s

The food is served buffet style and will offer a full array of items including a salad, host dish and a selection of desserts. Since guests will be coming and going at different times, the buffet table must be replenished as needed so that the later arriving guests don’t feel they are getting the left overs. The food can be finger food but generally there will be at least a plate and fork. Drinks can be passed by the host, served by catering staff or placed on a table for guests to serve themselves.

*William Yeoward Wisteria Cake Dome available at Bering’s


Sample Menu

Roast carving station

Chicken kabobs

Tossed green salad

Stuffed mushrooms

Seasonal vegetables in butter

Rice pilaf

Mashed potatoes

Deviled eggs

Individual quiche

Cheese and fruit plate

Assorted individual desserts


Small tables can be placed around so that guests can mingle and visit with more people. Some will choose to stand, others will sit and others will sit down and place their cocktail and plate on a coffee table.

*Custom invitations, serving pieces and furniture available at Bering’s
*Barware essentials from Simon Pearce, William Yeoward, Waterford, Reed & Barton and more available at Bering’s
*Serving pieces to love from Annieglass available at Bering’s

The plates are placed on or near the buffet table to signal the starting point. Utensils and napkins can be placed with the plates or at the opposite end of the buffet so guests don’t have to balance them while trying to serve their plates.

Here is what you can expect the invitation to look like:

Invitation Wording

Invitations for an event like this can range from very formal to light-hearted and fun. Most often you will only mention the buffet as corner copy.

Sample Invitation for a cocktail buffetHappier party going is sure to happen when you know what to expect the next time you are invited to a party with ‘cocktail buffet’ noted in the right hand corner of the invitation. A little preparation and know-how equals fun times for all. And be sure to visit either Bering’s location for all of your fine stationery, paper goods, tabletop pieces and grilling needs, to ensure you are set for party perfection!

And don’t forget to express your gratitude to the hostess for inviting you to the party. It is always the polite thing to do. Be sure to take a few minutes and let the hostess know what a great time you had with a hand-written thank you card. There is simply nothing better than receiving a hand-written note!

*Personalized stationery from Bering’s Stationery available at either Houston, Texas store location


*Another note of thanks to Lady Virginia for contributing to this wonderful blog post!

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