The best part, for me, of being a guest at a wedding? Other than celebrating the big day with the happy couple of course is, the food. I can never seem to get enough. A good caterer can make or break the wedding reception so here are a few great tips offered up by Bride Magazine that are tried and true. There are three important sections to this post along with a valuable work sheet at the end that you can down load and take with you on your quest for the perfect caterer. Oh one last thing… did I mention I am a great wedding guest? Bon Appetite!!!
Book your reception site before hiring a caterer. Keep in mind that many banquet halls have exclusive (or “preferred”) relationships with in-house caterers, which may limit your ability to work with an outside company. Check before you interview outsiders.
Plan to set up your menu at least six months in advance. If you’re marrying during peak wedding season (June-October) you may have to order it even sooner, especially if you want a big-name caterer.
Seek out referrals
Ask friends and family for recommendations, and talk to brides in your area. Once you find a caterer you like, speak to satisfied brides and ask for references before you sign a contract.
If having a large number of people at your reception is important to you, scale back on the refreshments. On the other hand, if gourmet food is a priority, then keep your guest list to a manageable size or restrict your bar offerings to wine and beer.
Buffet or banquet
Do you want a five-course dinner menu with individual wine pairings? Or is a barbeque buffet more in keeping with your wedding theme? Consider your personal style to determine what will work best for you.
Are there dietary needs (vegetarian, kosher) to consider? Make sure your caterer has experience preparing these types of dishes.
Set the scene
Bring in photos of your dress, reception site, and flowers—anything that will give your prospective caterer a better sense of the type of reception you have in mind.
If the caterer is offering a complimentary sampling, be sure to clear the number of people you can bring beforehand.
How to save money
Opt for a wedding brunch or luncheon reception instead of dinner, which is typically much more expensive.
Skip the full meal and celebrate with tasty refreshments instead—an option that works best for a celebration after a 2 p.m. ceremony (not dinnertime). Or host an afternoon tea or a late afternoon/early-evening cocktail reception.
If you have your heart set on a seated meal, cut back the number of courses from five to three.
Ask guests to select their meal preferences on the RSVP cards so caterers can plan ahead, or choose a pasta or protein dish that you think has the broadest appeal.
Keep the menu simple and focus on quality ingredients. Ask your caterer to use in-season produce from local farms.
Order an inexpensive kids’ menu for the children’s table at your reception. Chances are they’d much rather have a cheeseburger and fries than foie gras, anyway.
See if your caterer will let you bring your own liquor. (Be sure to ask about corkage fees.)
Limit your bar offerings to wine and beer. Liquor (especially premium bands) can add a wallop to your bar tab.
Keep your guest list to a manageable number.
What to include in your contract
- The date, time, length and location (include specific room or hall) of the reception.
- The date by which you need to supply the caterer with a final headcount.
- Type of food service (buffet, cocktail reception, seated meal).
- Your approved menu and courses.
- Alcohol arrangements: Does your caterer have a liquor license? Can you supply your own wine? Will there be a corkage fee? What brands and vintages will they be serving? Can you return unopened bottles? Will there be an open bar? (If so, specify the hours.)
- Server specifics, including staff-to-guest ratio and dress code.
- The cost of renting equipment, silverware, glassware and linens.
- Arrangements for feeding other wedding vendors (photographer, band, planner).
- The name of the banquet manager who will be overseeing the reception.
- Price quotes for food and maximums on unforeseen menu expenditures; cancellation and overtime fees; deposit and refund policies; payment schedule; extra fees including gratuities and sales tax; and the total estimated cost.
What to Ask…
Choosing the right vendor comes down to asking the right questions.
Click for a printable worksheet to take to your appointments.