They say wedding/event planners are the worst guests because they criticize everything. I’ve gone to so many events and weddings where I shake my head at the rookie mistakes I see. So I thought I’d start sharing some of these things I see, in hopes that people learn from them. Here goes my first one!

I helped at a fundraiser recently that brought in a lot of high-calibre guests (many guests spent well over $1000 on silent auction items). Guests came dressed in high heels and rocked some blingin’ outfits. At cocktail hour they had an assortment of beers to taste, a delicious oyster bar and, to my disappointment, platters of takeout sushi.

I’m quite a fan of sushi, don’t get me wrong. I love salmon anything, enjoy pretty much any roll and will constantly crave having sushi for meals. In fact, the sushi served was delicious. But when it comes to an event, especially at cocktail hour, sushi is not a good option!

Upon arrival, guests filtered through registration, a room for silent auction items and had an option to venture out to the (freezing cold!) outdoor patio where the sushi was. They were the large circular platters that you can order from just about anywhere. Next to the platters were a pile of napkins and half a dozen takeout chopsticks in the wrapper.

About 150 high-end guests ventured to the one sushi table and were puzzled as to how to eat it.

…Do they pick it up with their fingers and shove it into their mouths?
…Do they take the chopsticks with them and eat it from their paper napkins?
…Do they just hover over the table and double dip with the same pair of chopsticks?
…And what do they do with the other things they were already carrying – the cup of beer or glass of wine in hand or purse?

Sushi is great at a sit-down restaurant where you can take your time to eat. You can pour your soy sauce and mix your wasabi in. You can pick up the pieces of sushi you want from the shared platter and place it on your plate before eating. You can order your own rolls so that you are the only one eating it. If you are skilled, you can also bite a piece of sushi in half (without it falling apart) so that you don’t have to have a mouth-full of it at a time.

When it comes to cocktails before an event, guests like to mingle and have a bite to eat. Guests usually arrive at cocktail hour ready to eat too. They don’t want to get their fingers too dirty and they should be able to eat the hors d’oeuvres with one hand, so their other hand can carry their drink. To eat the sushi from a platter from one table, guests end up hovering over the table and it is a bit of a scramble to eat it. When it is free-for-all like this, those who don’t wander out to the patio end up missing out and those who are really hungry will eat more than their share. Also not all guests will be able to use chopsticks well enough to pick up sushi and will use their fingers to pick the pieces up (classy!).

Not to mention, there is only one way to eat sushi in that kind of circumstance.. by stuffing the whole thing in your mouth. Flattering right?

There are a plethora of other appropriate finger foods that are easy to serve and eat at cocktail hour that I won’t go into detail here. But if you must serve sushi at cocktail hour, an appropriate way to serve it would be to include small plates and an option to use chopsticks and forks (and enough for all the guests so no one has to use fingers!). Make sure to include a few pairs of tongs so guests can use those to pick them up easily. An even better way to serve it would be with wait staff who pass out the hors d’oeuvres, allowing a steady pace of the food to come out throughout cocktail hour and serving them to all guests around the cocktail area.

Sushi is delicious and you can definitely serve it if you have done your part to make it easy for guests to eat it. But if you plan on buying take out and don’t have time to do any other preparation, you are better off buying other pastries and finger foods.

Hmmm, now I’m craving sushi…

Rebecca Chan is a Toronto event designer and event planner. If you have a brand activation, media launch event, design project, trade show or a special event, connect with her today to see how we can collaborate on your next project.