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What to Know When Hiring a Caterer

Expert tips for a memorable catering experience

Ask any wedding attendee what they remember and enjoyed most about a wedding, and chances are they will talk about the fun they had and the food they ate. As a couple, your priority is saying your vows and cherishing every moment of the day, but your guest’s experience should be highly considered when planning.

Catering is such an important part of the wedding, but the decision process can be time-consuming and costly as you consider feeding and refreshing your guests with libations. No matter the type of food you choose to serve, you’ll want to do your research and have all your questions answered. To simplify your decision-making process, we’ve outlined the steps to secure a caterer and the questions you should ask.

Photo courtesy of Josh McLawhorn Photography


Like all things wedding-related, you’ll want to have a budget before scheduling meetings with caterers. It’s wise to research the cost of the average wedding in your area and the services you want included. For example, a five-course seated meal with a custom menu will look different from a standard buffet. Having a budget in place can help your caterer work within your price range.

Start the Search

Before you look at caterers, you should know your event date and venue. Start by asking your venue if they provide catering or have a list of preferred vendors. If there’s a caterer you’ve had your eye on, ensure your venue accepts outside vendors. Outside of your vendor, you can consult your planner, Google caterers in the area or other couples who have been married in the area.

Photo courtesy of Alena Bakutis Photography

Schedule Tastings or a Meeting

Many caterers do not offer a tasting until after you’ve booked with them, or they offer a tasting at a cost. Either way, it’s worth asking. If the caterer you’re considering is a restaurant, consider dining there beforehand for a glimpse of what they offer. Whether in person, over the phone or on Zoom, once you’ve narrowed down a list, reach out about scheduling a meeting. This way, you can get a feel for the team and ask them questions. If you feel they are a good fit, don’t hesitate too long before booking, as many caterers limit the number of events they take in a weekend or day and fill their schedules quickly.

Share Your Vision

A key part of the catering process is collaboration. Share with your caterer what you envision, whether you keep it simple yet dependable with a chicken, steak and vegetarian/dietary-restriction option or want a menu that emphasizes your favorite foods or cultural influences.

Photo courtesy of Black & Hue Photography

Questions to Ask

Do you have availability on our wedding date?

Have you catered to this venue?

Do you have an up-to-date catering license and liability insurance?

Outside of the food, what services do you provide?

Do you have customer reviews/photos I can view?

What practices do you have in place for food safety?

Will you be able to honor our budget?

What additional fees will be included?

Do you have established menus, or can we customize one?

What do your food options include? Cocktail hour bites, main course, desserts, beverages?

What are your most popular dishes?

Is the cost per plate or a bulk fee?

What styles do you offer? Plated, buffet, family-style?

Can you accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions?

When will you need a final headcount?

What do you do with leftovers?

Are beverages included? Are bartending services an option?

Do you provide linens, table settings, flatware, glassware?

Do you provide on-site servers?

Is there a deposit, and when is it due?

What is your cancellation policy?

Are gratuities included?

How is payment handled?

Feature image courtesy of Black & Hue Photography

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