How much food and drinks to serve at a party

How much food and drinks to serve at a party

Oh y’all… I just love a chart. I could not resist making this handy-dandy guide to how much food and drinks to serve at a party, because I know it’s an issue that comes up all the time when you’re entertaining! How many drinks should you serve? How many cupcakes should you buy if there are 20 people coming? How many appetizers do you need for a cocktail party? How many fruit platters do you need at a cookout? So many questions!

I found a few answers thanks to a little write-up in Real Simple magazine – that’s where I got the idea to make a chart, because the information was great, but I thought it would be much nicer in graphic format. (Everything’s better when you make it into a chart, don’t you think?) Then I googled and researched and compared to get the rest of the numbers. I hope this helps you out the next time you’re planning a party menu! : )

And now that you’re all set on food… check out my shop for personalized invitations, water labels, party printables, and lots more to make your party fabulous!

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  1. 1
    Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 5:03 pm
    Shelley says:
    Brilliant! Only you could make something so practical so pretty. :) Such a cute guide! :)
    • 1.1
      Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 8:56 pm
      Heather says:
      Thanks Shelley!! ♥
  2. 2
    Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 5:55 pm
    Ann in PA says:
    Thanks! This is a great resource.
    • 2.1
      Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 8:58 pm
      Heather says:
      You're so welcome Ann! : )
  3. 3
    Thursday, September 20th, 2012 at 8:47 pm
    Lisa @hooplapalooza says:
    Oh I am so LOVIN' this! :) Thanks Heather!
  4. 4
    Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 4:51 am
    Vika says:
    Thank U very much for this post! I read your blog every day and very enjoy it. U rock!
    • 4.1
      Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 10:16 am
      Heather says:
      Thanks Vika!! That just makes my day : )
  5. 5
    Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 8:56 am
    Margot Madison says:
    This is a wonderful idea. Thanks so much for making helpful information so beautiful!
  6. 6
    Friday, September 21st, 2012 at 1:47 pm
    Julie Anne Rhodes says:
    This is such an awesome chart! Sometimes I cook for private parties and clients always ask me about serving portions. Thanks for sharing :)
    • 6.1
      Saturday, September 22nd, 2012 at 12:22 pm
      Heather says:
      Thanks for the vote of confidence Julie Anne!! I really appreciate that, coming from a pro like you! : )
  7. 7
    Monday, September 24th, 2012 at 12:34 pm
    Carrie says:
    This is a lovely & useful chart! I have one question though. How many different kinds of appetizers should one offer? We are having 50 people before a meal, so 300 pieces total, but how many appetizers would be best? I want to have a variety, because not everybody likes everything.
    • 7.1
      Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 9:47 pm
      Heather says:
      That's a good question Carrie! I googled a bit and saw the average recommendation is about 8 different appetizers for a party that size. Hope this helps!
  8. 8
    Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
    Donna O'Neil says:
    This is Fantastic! I am a catering manager at a corporate account and sometimes I forget how many servings for a party or reception since I mostly do breakfast and lunch catering.
  9. 9
    Sunday, October 7th, 2012 at 12:16 am
    kellie says:
    completely and totally agree, everything's better in a chart. and i LOVE this one. thank you!!
    ps i found you via pinterest :)
    • 9.1
      Monday, October 8th, 2012 at 1:33 pm
      Heather says:
      Hooray Pinterest!! Thanks Kellie! : )
  10. 10
    Sunday, October 28th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
    Jamie Haddan says:
    I love this chart..Thank you. We are planning my daughters wedding and are having both pulled pork and fried chicken. I know this list for sandwiches, but with having both how much of each would you suggest for 300 people?
    • 10.1
      Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 at 8:44 am
      Heather says:
      Hi Jamie! Here is a different blog post that might help:
  11. 11
    Tuesday, November 6th, 2012 at 6:26 am
    Hawaii Wedding Planner says:
    This simple and easy to follow chart will make planning any bridal shower/engagement party a breeze!! Thanks for sharing, Love it!!
  12. 12
    Friday, December 28th, 2012 at 2:33 am
    Lorraine says:
    Thanks for breaking it down to servings to expect per guest. I feel a little nervous when having a party or get together that I am not serving enough or that I am going overboard and buying to much and it will be wasted. So I don't enjoy myself as much as I should or could.. Thanks:)
    • 12.1
      Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 at 6:43 pm
      Heather says:
      You're so welcome Lorraine! I totally hear you - it's pretty nerve wracking to plan. I don't know which is worse, wasting money by buying too much, or running out from buying too little! It's hard to get it just right!
  13. 13
    Sunday, January 20th, 2013 at 10:13 pm
    Elaine says:
    love this!!
    • 13.1
      Monday, January 21st, 2013 at 8:59 am
      Heather says:
      Thanks Elaine!! : )
  14. 14
    Monday, January 28th, 2013 at 6:49 am
    Athina says:
    I was wondering if this was for a certain length of time? For example a 2 hour party vs a 4 hour party?
    • 14.1
      Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 at 9:36 pm
      Heather says:
      That's a good question, Athina! The drinks on the list are already scaled per hour, and I think that the amount of food is appropriate for a shorter or longer party. You have to figure that people are eating about a meal's worth of food at your party. The difference between 2 and 4 hours doesn't matter much because the average person won't need to eat more than one meal in 4 hours.

      That said, if you happen to know your particular guest list may need more or less food, you can always adjust.

      I hope this helps! : )
  15. 15
    Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 1:41 am
    Leonie says:
    awesome chart! its so cute and pretty! ^_^ i was stressing out about how much food/drinks i should get for my bday party coming up but you saved my day! :) one question though, my party is going to go for the whole day so how much more food/drinks should i get??? (roughly 20 teenagers/young adults if that helps) thanks! ^_^
    • 15.1
      Monday, February 11th, 2013 at 9:46 am
      Heather says:
      Hi Leonie! If your guests will be there over the span of two meals (like lunch and dinner) then I'd double what's shown in the chart. : )
  16. 16
    Thursday, February 21st, 2013 at 1:24 pm
    Annette {This Simple Mom} says:
    What if the party was an open house held during non-meal time hours? Any thoughts on that?
    • 16.1
      Thursday, February 21st, 2013 at 7:28 pm
      Heather says:
      Whew, that's specific!! ; ) I would think you could follow the same guidelines, maybe a little less if you expect that guests will be stopping by briefly. But if it's an open house PARTY, like "come party with us at any time between these hours," then I'd definitely just serve a regular amount of food.
  17. 17
    Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 at 6:31 pm
    Julie says:
    Thank you so much so helpful!!
  18. 18
    Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 at 11:07 am
    Chandraisgreat says:
    You have just helped me sooo much with my wedding you have no idea! thanks for the great chart!!
    • 18.1
      Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 8:24 am
      Heather says:
      That's so nice!! Thanks Chandra! : )
  19. 19
    Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 at 10:59 am
    Patty Virginia says:
    this is so important to have on hand when planning a gathering. Great idea! Pinned. Thanks for sharing.
    • 19.1
      Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
      Heather says:
      Hi Patty! You're very welcome. Thanks for Pinning! : )
  20. 20
    Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 at 3:18 pm
    Brenda @ SweetSimpleStuff says:
    This is truly valuable! Thank you for doing all the hard work for us ;) Saw this over on Craft Gossip.
    • 20.1
      Thursday, June 27th, 2013 at 10:11 am
      Heather says:
      Thank you Brenda!! Thanks for letting me know where you saw it, too - that's really good to know! : )
  21. 21
    Monday, July 1st, 2013 at 7:14 pm
    Samantha says:
    I love this chart so much! I use it all the time. I wanted to thank you for the great resource, and let you know I posted a link to your blog (and this chart) on my blog Thank you for sharing!!
    • 21.1
      Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 at 11:35 am
      Heather says:
      Hi Samantha! I'm so glad you love it! I'm so glad to hear that's it's helping people with their parties. : )
  22. 22
    Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 at 10:19 am
    Michelle says:
    What a fantastic chart! I have just printed out to use for my next party as I either make too much or not enough!
    • 22.1
      Wednesday, July 24th, 2013 at 10:52 am
      Heather says:
      Hi Michelle! Thank you so much! I know exactly what you mean, it's so hard to predict how much food to make. I hope the chart helps! : )
  23. 23
    Thursday, September 19th, 2013 at 10:53 am
    Gloria says:
    Great help. I needed the information.
    • 23.1
      Thursday, September 19th, 2013 at 11:22 am
      Heather says:
      Hi Gloria! I'm glad this post helped you! : )
  24. 24
    Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 at 10:33 am
    Marquita Black says:
    What type of "signs" could be use at a party to relate the 1yo theme and also a cute note to eat only 1 piece of pizza/1 sandwich, etc.?
    • 24.1
      Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 at 10:59 am
      Heather says:
      Hi Marquita! You can see a bunch of signs that might work here. Any of them can be customized for a 1-year-old's party. You could use these place cards as tiny "take 1" notes. Hope that helps! : )
  25. 25
    Monday, November 4th, 2013 at 10:01 am
    Christine says:
    Great info thanks!
    • 25.1
      Monday, November 4th, 2013 at 11:38 am
      Heather says:
      You're welcome, Christine! : )
  26. 26
    Saturday, April 26th, 2014 at 11:02 pm
    Dawn says:
    Great chart! I want to frame it and hang it in my kitchen. Thank you!
  27. 27
    Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 at 11:11 pm
    Colbee says:
    I love this chart and reference it all the time! I do have one question, though. I am planning a Bridal shower between meal times, and am planning on serving snacks rather than a full meal. Would the before a meal appetizer suggestion be a good estimate of how much I would need for that time?
    • 27.1
      Thursday, June 5th, 2014 at 9:29 am
      Heather says:
      Hi Colbee! You might want to err on the side of caution and use the "no main course" appetizers option. Too much food is less of a problem than too little. Let me know if you have any other questions! : )
  28. 28
    Monday, June 9th, 2014 at 10:05 am
    Cay Moore says:
    Thanks for a lovely, informative chart!
    • 28.1
      Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 at 11:09 am
      Heather says:
      You're welcome, Cay! : )
  29. 29
    Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 at 4:36 pm
    Ingrid says:
    Awesome blog, very helpful and insightful. Thank you.
    • 29.1
      Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 at 5:34 pm
      Heather says:
      Hi Ingrid! That's kind of you to say. I'm glad I could help! : )
  30. 30
    Monday, October 27th, 2014 at 5:07 am
    maya says:
    thank you for this and helpful and lovely post!
    is this right for a kids' party too?
    I have a party for 30+ kids & been wondering about the amounts.
    • 30.1
      Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 at 3:40 pm
      Heather says:
      Hi Maya! You may be able to slightly reduce the recommended amounts for things like sandwiches, side dishes, etc. But I wouldn't cut back on any dessert items. Hope that helps! : )


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