As a Wedding Guest, how important would you say food is to you? Nine times out of ten, the answer is “SO Important!”. As you continue through your wedding planning process, consider, prepare and budget for food and catering to be one of the most expensive services you hire. When Justin and I got married, the venue we hired included a caterer. One less service to hire and so many minor details we didn’t have to worry over. To help, I’ve created a list of 10 things to consider when hiring your Wedding Caterer.
If you and your fiancé haven’t already nailed down a budget, now’s the time. Start by breaking down your budget by vendor; your three largest costs will likely be the venue, the food, and the photography. When hosting a Wedding, you’re basically taking your guests out to a 3-course-meal – it’s not a cheap date! I recommend budgeting about $100 a person for food and alcohol.
If you’re already panicking, there are ways to cut costs. For example, Justin and I are HUGE breakfast people. The idea of serving breakfast items was the dream, so we mentioned it with each catering service we spoke with. Now, some tried to tell us that they could not accommodate this. We told them they weren’t the venue for us. This is YOUR Wedding, stand up for your wants because there will be people willing to make your dreams come true.
Consider that Brunch costs less than a 3-course meal, and so does serving buffet-style over plated meals. Another way to trim your budget? Shop seasonal; create a menu that fits the time of year you’re getting married in so your wedding caterer won’t be searching the ends of the earth for ingredients.
Something else to consider is in regard to the guest list. Are you inviting children to your wedding? When interviewing wedding caterers, discuss having discounted meals for children under 12 years of age. Children naturally do not eat as much as full-grown adults – and if they do, they’re likely more into the dessert bar than entrées. Speaking of discounts, you may have meals to cover for your vendors. If your photographer is spending the day with you, you’ll want to feed them. Your DJ and Officiant are 2 other vendors who are likely to be joining in on your reception meal. It doesn’t hurt ask about a discounted vendor plate!
Tip: Don’t forget the cake! Is this something they can include or will you need to hire a separate cake maker?
Imagine your guests as they enter the reception hall, arm in arm in their tuxedos and floor-length dresses and waiting for them are champagne flutes or signature cocktails. When hiring a wedding caterer, think about the theme and dress-code of the event you’re hosting. A more formal event would see servers coming around with appetizers and drinks. A cocktail or more casual-style reception might see a serve-yourself buffet or bar.
Think about the kind of party you want to throw. A theme doesn’t have to mean “Under the Sea”, “Lumberjack” or “Red and White” details; it can be garden-esque, dressed to the nines, or backyard barbecue. Whichever way you choose to go, talk to your potential wedding caterers and make sure they can cater to your needs. Do they have enough staff to cater your event? What about bartenders, etc.? If not, this is another cost you’ll have to budget for.
Tip: You want someone who knows their food. The theme and style you want will translate into cuisine. Do some research with your fiancé. Read the reviews both positive and negative, and go from there!
I am a HUGE advocate of your wedding being about YOU and your fiancé and what you guys want. Screw everyone else – it’s your day! BUT, when it comes to food, your guests matter. Thus, know the allergies, intolerances, and any other dietary restrictions of invited guests. If you’re inviting them, they need to be able to eat something substantial. For our wedding, we used our RSVP to communicate.
This goes for drinks, too! We had guests who didn’t drink alcohol, alongside guests who couldn’t drink alcohol. Mimosa Hour would have been awful for them if we hadn’t served alternate options.
We’ve covered the big things, but how about the details? Here are some final thoughts you may to want to ask your potential wedding caterers.
Do they supply the fixings?
If your venue doesn’t supply dishware, glassware or flatware, it’s worth asking the wedding caterer if they can supply them. Don’t forget the linens; tablecloths are not just for the guest tables. Linens can be used to dress buffet tables, guest book, gifts and signing tables.
Are you serving alcohol?
If the answer is yes, you’ll need a liquor license if your venue or caterer doesn’t already have one. Ask about corkage fees if you’re supplying your own alcohol; this goes for the wedding caterer and the venue. When it comes to booze, don’t forget your wedding day timeline. You don’t want guests having their glasses taken away mid-drink because your license has expired. Discuss how long it will take to setup and prepare all of the meals for the day. Then, create a rough timeline to see when your catering staff will need to arrive and when it’s acceptable for them to begin tear-down.
How many weddings have they catered?
Don’t be afraid to ask for references from previous clients. Online reviews are great; speaking with someone about their experience over the phone, or in person can give you peace of mind if you’re on the fence.
Are they working more than one event that day?
If they are working more than one event that day, it’s not a deal breaker BUT, your wedding needs to be a priority. Iron out details with the timeline to make sure there are no questions left up in the air.
Are there hidden fees?
There’s always something so ASK! Service charges add up and they add up quickly if you aren’t expecting them. Are they a true full-service wedding caterer? If they aren’t setting up your tables, chairs, linens, providing waitstaff and bartenders, serving the food and cleaning up the dining area, packing leftovers and taking out the garbage at the end of the night…who is? Get your money’s worth, ask about everything and see what they’ll include for free and what they’ll include at discounted rates with all of the business you’re giving them.
My final piece of advice is actually a question…I cannot stress enough how important it is to discuss this with all your vendors. What is your BACK-UP PLAN? For wedding caterers, is there a chef that can step in if necessary, do they have additional waitstaff and bartenders? If not, consider hiring a team that does. Back-up plans can make or break the day! They can literally be the reason you don’t get married. Work out the kinks now, BEFORE you hire your vendors. You’ll thank yourself later!
xx The Grateful Brunette
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