Food and drinks are a big part of what makes a good wedding, great. Picking a caterer that can please all of your guests, whether you have 30 or 300, is no easy task. Here are a few tips to help make the process easier:
Having your wedding over a weekend? The odds that your number 1 pick for a caterer will be available are slim. Planning early will help you secure that your top choice is available. As a rule of thumb, pick your caterer 8-12 months before the wedding dated. Talk to your friends for recommendations and search websites like Yelp.
Create a Budget
The food and drinks you have at your wedding is going to depend a lot on your budget. You should be able to find a caterer that can provide a buffet for as a little as $20/plate. Adding hors d’oeuvres reception with the buffet will cost $30-$70/ plate. Adding alcohol and an open bar is significantly going to raise the cost. Another jump in cost will be seen if you provide top-shelf or higher quality alcohol. The average price that parties spend on caterers for food, drinks and food service is $80-100 per person.
For example you might skip the open bar and have cash only bar if your family aren’t big drinkers. Some caterers add a 15-25% gratuity to their bill and some leave tipping up to the customer’s discretion. Have an idea for how much you can spend and tell the caterer up front so that you aren’t tempted by options that are out of your price range. It’s okay to shop around at a few different places to find the best option for your budget. Remember that you are allowed to negotiate to a certain point, you’re the buyer and the caterer wants your business.
Meet with Caterer
After you have called multiple places and called the caterer’s references to get another perspective, it’s now time to meet with caterers. It’s common that caterers will set up a tasting so you can tailor your menu to your liking. Ask the caterer to show you their “book,” which should contain photographs and give you a good idea of their style. When meeting with the caterer keep these questions in mind:
- Do you provide the wedding cake? Is there a cost associated with buying one from a bakery, such as a “cutting fee”?
- Is there a corkage fee or any other fees associated with serving alcohol?
- Are things like linens, utensils, barware, tables and chairs provided? If you are not having the wedding at a reception hall, you’ll need to have these things provided.
- When is the balance due and what is the cancellation policy?
- When is the final head count required?
- Is there a separate set-up and clean-up fee?
- Are there any other fees that are not included?
As you can see, added fees for all of the little things may start to add up. A $55 base for food and drinks seems like a good deal before a caterer adds on all of the extras. Be careful before signing the contract because you probably won’t get your deposit back if you decide to go with someone else.
Go with your gut. How professional was the catering company? How about the references? Did you like the food and plate display? Can you afford it? After all of these considerations are made it should be clear which company you want to go with. The amount of homework you put into finding a caterer before hand is the best thing you can to do help make the process go smoothly. Bon appétit.
Author Bio: Tim Stout has many years experience helping brides plan their special days. He currently works for Advantage Bridal, a leader in wedding accessories including bridesmaid tank tops and wedding shoes. Click here to see our wedding accessories.