Hiring the Right Catering Service for Your Wedding
A major part of your wedding day is the celebration after the nuptials. You want to give your friends and family a feast that will keep them in a celebratory mood for several hours. Eating is a part of any celebration and when the food is good, the party is good. Part of your wedding planning duties includes choosing a caterer who will feed your guests some of the best food they have ever had.
You need to decide what kind of food service you will have at the wedding:
Buffet: food is set up and guests choose what they want. You choose whether or not servers dish up the food or guests serve themselves.
Seated: Formal receptions are similar to a restaurant experience. Guests choose their meals ahead of time and are served a plate that typically includes a main course and several sides.
Cocktail: Guests are served a variety of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. This is a very casual option typically used at mid-day and late-night weddings.
Station: Similar to a buffet, but numerous “stations” of food i.e. fajitas, fish, mashed potato bar, are set up for your guests to build their own meals. This is a casual setting, but a step up from the buffet style.
Before you flip open the phonebook and randomly call catering companies, there are some things you need to know first.
1. Ask around first. Ask friends who have recently been married or had another event catered. Once you have been given a few names, get on Google and do some research. Check with the BBB to see if there are any complaints as well. You need a company that is licensed to work in your state.
2. Once you have narrowed it down to 3 names, ask the catering companies for referrals. They should be able to supply you with the names and numbers of recent customers who are willing to talk with you. During this phase you will also want to check with the venue you have reserved to make sure your choice of caterer is in line with their rules. Some hotels and other venues will only allow specific catering companies to cater events in their buildings. Ask about any permits that will be needed and if so, who needs to get them.
3. If you are satisfied with what you discover it is time to talk finances. You can do this over the phone to make things easier. Tell the caterer your budget and the number of people you expect and hear what they have to offer. Caterers will typically take care of renting all of the linens, tableware and etc…, which should be included in the estimate. Don’t automatically jump at the cheapest estimate. You get what you pay for!
4. Make appointments with each caterer to sample proposed menus. These taste tests are usually free of charge. If you have special menu requests i.e. vegetarian or specific restrictions, this needs to communicated up front. If you expect a large number of children at the wedding, ask your caterer about children’s meals. These are usually cheaper than the adult meals.
5. Once you have chosen a caterer it is time to sign the contract. There should always be a contract. Things to look for in your contract are as follows;
Every component of the meal to be served
Number of guests to be served
Where will the leftover food go (request a to-go box for you and the groom because you will likely not get a chance to eat during the reception.)
Who will provide linens and tableware
What time will the catering company arrive to set up
Dietary restrictions listed
Number of children’s meals
The number of wait staff that will be serving your guests
For buffets, how many duplicate tables will be set up—more than 50 guests requires at least 2 like tables going at a time
Ensure tips are factored in to total cost so you are not surprised at the end of the night
Overtime wages are addressed
6. Pay your deposit, which is usually half of the total bill with the final payment due at the reception or when the caterers are packing up for the night. Follow-up with your caterer a month prior to the wedding if your guest list has expanded make sure that is communicated properly and an addendum is made to your contract.
7. On the day of the wedding, your caterer should take care of everything while you relax and enjoy your special day.