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What guest wouldn’t love a well-stocked popcorn bar filled with sweet and salty treats? This easy buffet idea is a delicious addition to laidback corporate events, big family gatherings and fuss-free wedding receptions.

Flavorful Popcorn

Plain popcorn serves as the base of your popcorn buffet. You can stick with plain or buttered popcorn, or spice things up with a cheddar-flavored option, caramel corn or kettle corn. To serve your guests, you can use a popcorn machine, serve pre-popped corn in containers or have small bags or boxes already filled and ready for guests to add toppings.

The Classic Popcorn Machine

This popcorn bar idea fits right in with movie-themed parties or vintage event décor. Classic red and white popcorn machines are great for family events or company picnics. Freshly popped popcorn tastes better than the pre-popped alternative. However, you’ll be limited to a single flavor and the smell of corn popping can be overwhelming in smaller event spaces.

Serve Yourself Containers

To eliminate the need for a popcorn machine, set out large containers of popcorn and let guests fill their own containers to snack on throughout the event or take home. Guests will be able to mix and match different flavors of popcorn and toppings. This serving strategy will likely leave a mess, no matter how careful your guests are. As long as your caterer knows to keep an eye on the popcorn bar, a few stray pieces of popcorn aren’t a big deal.

Pre-Filled Bags or Boxes

You can still offer guests multiple flavors, as long as there are signs nearby that point out what’s inside each container. This option makes for fewer messes than scooping. You’ll also be able to better estimate how much popcorn will be used, so you won’t run out or have gallons left over.

If you’re choosing a pre-popped option, make sure your serving containers have lids that keep out as much air as possible. When popcorn absorbs moisture from the air, it loses its crunch. When ordering popcorn from a local or online retailer, choose a delayed shipping or pickup date. Otherwise, the popcorn on your popcorn bar will be popped earlier than necessary and not be as fresh as possible.

Add In Ideas for Your Popcorn Bar

A popcorn buffet is so much fun for guests because of all the extra add ins and seasonings they have to choose from. Kids will go crazy, and even adults will love creating a custom mix of salty and sweet.

Start with shakers filled with spices and seasonings. Many popcorn companies make their own seasonings and you can easily recreate them with spices. Ranch, white cheddar, cinnamon and sugar, barbecue, garlic parmesan, chili lime, and sour cream and onion are all popular options. To ensure seasonings stick, include spray butter or olive oil on your popcorn buffet.

The most important popcorn bar ideas are bigger add ins. Mini chocolate chips in milk, white and dark varieties, mixed nuts, caramel candies, cookie pieces and peanut butter chips are all delicious options. Include sprinkles so kids can add a little color to their creations.

Each of your toppings, as well as your popcorn flavors themselves, should have a label.

Popcorn Wedding Favors

The popcorn bar at your wedding reception can easily double as wedding favors for your guests. Instead of parchment paper cones or classic red and white popcorn boxes, choose containers with secure lids so guests can take home their popcorn creations.

Customized brown paper bags are simple but fit in perfectly with outdoor wedding décor. Mason jars are another secure option for popcorn wedding favors. Because of the smaller mouth on the jar, these are a good option if you plan on filling smaller containers with pre-popped corn, rather than having large, serve yourself baskets or a popcorn machine.

For a less rustic wedding, patterned oyster pails (also known as Chinese takeout boxes) that match your décor are a good option.