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12 Tips for Selecting A Caterer

By Rebecca Padgett

The meal you serve at your wedding is important for many reasons. It’s a time to gather and talk. It’s fuel for the dance floor. It’s a moment for the happy couple to catch their breath. It’s often one of the aspects that guests remember and talk about. For these reasons and more, you should select your caterer with care. Follow these tips to ensure your wedding day includes a delicious dining experience. 

1. Decide on a Budget

Just like any other aspect of your wedding, you should discuss the budget you have in mind for catering. It would help to do some research on what caterers typically charge. The price will also depend on how many guests and what dining option you prefer.

 2. Check With Your Venue 

Some venues require you to use their in-house caterer or have a list of preferred vendors. If this isn’t the case, then start doing your research on caterers in the area that are within your budget and appeal to your palate. 

 3. Guest Number

Your number might not be finalized, and that’s just fine, but it’s helpful to have an estimate of how many you anticipate before meeting with your potential caterer. Something else you might want to consider is how important the meal is to you. If you specifically want to have an impressive meal shared with your friends and family, you might want to consider a smaller guest list.

Photo courtesy of Andrew’s Catering

4. Discuss Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

If you, your spouse or any friends and family members have dietary restrictions or allergies, you should consult with the catering company to see how they cater to dietary restrictions and allergies. Ask how they cater to guests? What are their options for including specific menus? How do they ensure no cross contamination? Do they offer options that are vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, etc.? 

5. Style

There are a few different styles of enjoying food with your guests. A seated meal is where waiters serve your guests and everyone dines at once. This is an option that guests will appreciate and make them feel special, but paying for a wait staff is often extra. Family-style is similar, in which waiters bring out dishes to be passed among the tables. Buffets are popular because they allow guests to select what they want — they are a bit more informal, and there is not the cost of additional servers. In recent years, food trucks have become fun options as they allow guests to select from multiple options and mix and match food styles. You also can select to-go cocktail style — where instead of a meal, guests serve themselves from appetizer stations or are served hors d’oeuvres from waiters. 

6. Ingredients

Inquire with your caterer how their food is sourced. Do they connect with local suppliers? Do they invest in organic products? Do they feature seasonal ingredients? How do they ensure that their food is fresh and of the highest quality? When serving your valued guests, you only want to invest in the best.

Photo by Aislinn Kate Photography

 7. Avoid Risky Foods

It might be in everyone’s best interest to avoid foods that could potentially cause an upset stomach, such as raw meat, unpasteurized dairy or exotic products. If raw oysters or sushi is a must for your wedding, ensure that your caterer specializes in those foods and is highly experienced in preparing and serving them.

8. Make It Personal 

Love Italian? A Southern couple? Is paella your favorite meal to cook together? Let your food tell your love story. The meal you select should reflect your tastes as a couple. It should be a meal you enjoy eating and will remember fondly for the rest of your life. Stay true to you, whether that’s fish tacos or filet mignon. 

 9. Consider Guests

To the same account, consider your guests by picking something that the majority would enjoy eating. It’s best to avoid anything too spicy or heavy, or if you do serve these, provide alternate options. A protein, vegetables, a carb — and of course something sweet — is the way to go when selecting a well-rounded wedding meal. 

Photo by Wildlight Films

 10.  Presentation

We eat with our eyes first, and that’s why presentation matters. Ask the caterer to see photos of weddings they have done before. This will give you a good idea of how they present and plate food. 

 11. Portions

Make sure you have enough food. There is nothing worse than running out of food. When you give your caterer your guest number, be sure to account for the possibility of extra guests. It’s better to pay for more than not have enough food on hand to feed your guests. 

 12. Dine with Them

If you can and it’s in your budget, schedule a tasting. First, consult with them to see if this is an option. If they offer tastings, the caterer can often give you a taste of the dishes you might want at your wedding. If the caterer is a restaurant, have a date night and dine with them to get the full menu and service experience. 

Josh Mclawhorn Photography

 Questions to Ask Your Caterer 

Can we see photos of your food and presentations?

Do you do tastings?

Do you provide linens and napkins? Serving ware? What cost is associated with these items? 

What is the recommended server ratio?

Will the food be made on site or brought? 

How do you keep it warm?

How does your staff balance multiple events on the same day?

Where does your food come from?

Do you provide bartending services? 

Are beverages included in the food cost? If so, what?

What is your cancellation policy?

What additional charges are there? 

When do you need a final count?

Can we change our menu? If so, until when?

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