Having a Raw Bar at Your Reception

Annie McNamara of Island Creek answers a sea of questions on the topic.

Photograph courtesy of Island Creek Oyster

Photograph courtesy of Island Creek Oyster

Having a raw bar at your wedding reception is the ultimate in decadence for your guests. Just imagine: a pile of shimmering ice lined with fresh lemons, shucker standing proudly behind, popping tasty bivalves from their shells and placing them gently on the bed of frosty shavings.

Here, Annie McNamara of Island Creek, one of Boston’s favorite oyster farms that hosts raw bars starting at around $800, answers a sea of questions as to whether it’s the right touch for your wedding celebration.

What should a couple take into consideration when deciding on whether a raw bar is a go?

They should consider the number of food options already available to guests, and what’s going on during the cocktail hour and reception. A raw bar is an easy option to add to an event because it can be included in addition to the caterer’s standard cocktail hour of hor d’oeuvres. Raw bars are also fun and engaging stations where guests can talk about local products and how oysters are grown. Shuckers behind the raw bar can be as engaging with guests as the bride and groom want them to be.

What does adding a raw bar bring to the reception experience?

A raw bar brings a creative and unique aspect to the food component of any wedding. It can become an engaging component of a cocktail hour because guests can walk up to the boat, grab a few oysters, and chat with the shucker—and other guests—about all things oysters.

What is on the typical raw bar?

Most people ask for oysters, cooked shrimp, and littleneck clams for a well-rounded raw bar. We also offer crab claws, lobster claws, ceviches, crudos, and even caviar.

Should a couple present only one type of oyster or do they typically have more than one variety?

If guests are interested in having more of a ‘tasting’ component at their event, we suggest offering a few different oyster varieties from throughout Cape Cod, based on their preferences and the oysters’ availability. It’s fun to have guests taste and learn about the subtle differences between different types of oysters.

What traditional sauces should sit sidecar?

We always suggest including a little of everything, especially when it comes to the traditional accompaniments of lemon, cocktail sauce, and mignonette. On Island Creek raw bars, our go-to offerings are lemons, champagne mignonette from Island Creek Oyster Bar, cocktail sauce, and Floyd and Fred’s Hot sauce, which is a favorite of the farm.

What is a good amount to order for the bar, so no guest is left wanting?

I would recommend about three oysters per person. It works pretty seamlessly for the people who are not interested in eating seafood, and those who will stand at the raw bar boat all night.

Are there any limitations in terms of having a raw bar—location, outside versus inside reception, etc.?

There are no limitations in terms of location, but it’s important to have your venue stock up on ice, so the product stays cool even on warmer days, and the presentation stays full.

Can a couple usually decorate a raw bar with flowers from their florist?

Couples can usually decorate the raw bar boat however they would like with flowers and other details, as long as it’s nothing permanent.


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