Catering for your wedding is going to be one of the biggest, if not THE biggest allocation of your wedding budget. It is an aspect of your celebration that will leave a lasting impression with your guests and will be remarked upon for many years to come. This is particularly important for the parents of the Bride and Groom, as decisions with the caterer will reflect on them as well.
So how do you choose a caterer? Aren’t they all the same? What’s the average price?
These are just a few of the frequently asked questions couples ask us when planning their big day.
Choosing the right caterer
The right caterer for you depends on a number of factors. The best advice we can give you is to ask around. Family member and friends who have attended recent wedding functions are great sources of information about caterers, as are reception and function centres.
Some venues allow for different caterers, so they might be able to offer some guidance in selecting the right caterer for your wedding needs.
With all the caterers available in recent years, there’s a vast difference in levels of food and service. Unless you personally know the caterer or have experienced the quality of their food and service, you may want to reconsider going with a caterer you have no knowledge of.
Cheaper is not necessarily better
One of the factors that will influence your decision in hiring the right caterer will be cost. The average price of a quality 8 course banquet begins at approximately $80 per person, so go with what you are comfortable with and what you can afford.
Be sceptical of caterers who offer much lower prices. These caterers, in their attempt to cut costs, adversely affect the quality of their food. This may include serving smaller portions, using imitation ingredients, or even using ingredients of questionable quality.
For example, using frozen shellfish will reduce overheads but the sacrifice in quality will definitely be noticed by the guests. As the old adage goes, this is a once in a lifetime affair. So at the end of the day, decide on what you are comfortable with, as well as what you can afford.
Aside from the food, another important feature you should enquire about with your caterer is the level of service. What’s it like? Are the staff friendly and courteous? Are they well trained?
Do they meet your expectations? Service is undoubtedly an important aspect that will leave a lasting impression on your guests.
Booking your caterer
It’s important that you book your caterer early and ensure you lock in a date as early as possible. There’s a noticeable trend of couples booking very early in advance, even up to two years for some couples. Parents and date consultants can play a major role in determining the date of your wedding and popular days will be booked out quite early. So forward planning is essential.
When meeting with your caterer, enquire about what is included in their packages. Inquiries you might like to ask include:
- How much does the package cost per person?
- What is included in the package?
- Are there any complimentary extras?
- Are there any extra costs that I should be aware of?
- What’s featured on the menu / What kind of food and drink is on offer?
- What are your options for vegetarians and people with dietary requirements?
- Do you offer a kids menu?
- Can we sample the dishes on the menu?
- Do you have a liquor license?
- Can we incorporate our own theme into the wedding?
- What are your cancellation policies?
- How much is the deposit and when is it due?
The nature of some weddings might mean that confirming the attendance of some of your guests almost impossible. Without a confirmed RSVP, an approximate number is as accurate as you can expect. There will always be guests who cannot attend at the last minute due to extraneous reasons, or perhaps you may receive extra unanticipated guests. So how do you accommodate these issues? Speak with your caterer to know exactly what their policy is.
As difficult as this may be, getting as close as possible to a true number is important for both parties. Couples don’t want to be perceived as not adequately accommodating for their guests, nor do they want empty tables at their wedding banquet. Overestimating numbers can be quite costly, while underestimating may cause embarrassment and could be perceived as poor planning. Additionally, large numbers of unanticipated guests will cause a shortage of resources with food and staff, and consequently reduce the level of service. Depending on the caterer, this may be subjected to penalties. Most caterers will offer some flexibility with regards to numbers, requiring one week’s notice for final confirmation of guests.
When booking a caterer, it’s important to consider the dietary needs of some guests. Some guests may be vegetarian, while others may have allergies to shellfish. Your caterer will be more than happy to provide for such needs, so long as they have been notified in advance. Many caterers also offer the option of having a menu designed specifically for children as well. The advantage to a menu specifically for children is that it cuts down your catering bill. However, this may be done with the provision that they are seated together at their own table. Check what the requirements are with your caterer.
Also, always ensure you sign a contract and pay a deposit with your venue and caterer. This ensures your date is booked and confirmed. Relying on verbal confirmations may result in confusion and possible disagreements if there is any miscommunication between parties. Stay in close contact with your caterer regularly via phone or email, as their experience and advice can be quite invaluable. Make sure that your contract includes an itemised list of what is included, extras that you may require such as drinks, any special dietary requirement needed, the date and venue of the wedding and any other services that you specifically requested.
Remember, you only get one chance of making a good impression with your wedding. The right caterer will make it more that just a night of food and drinks, but will leave you with a wonderful night filled with lifelong memories.
Now that you’ve been well equipped with what you’re looking for, good luck in your search for the right caterer!