As we continue our Catering 101 series, let's talk about choosing the right wedding caterer. Every couple wants their wedding day to be just perfect. Because it's a (hopefully!) once in a lifetime event, tremendous time, care and money is put into the big day. When planning your wedding reception, a large part of the cost will go to food and beverages. Therefore, it's very important that you select the right caterer.
Once you have decided on a reception facility, it's very possible that they will provide the food themselves. However, if they don't, then it's up to the bride and groom to choose their wedding caterer.
Begin with the reception facility itself. Undoubtedly they will have list of wedding caterers that they normally work with. Additionally, you should seek advice and recommendations from newlywed couples that have been married recently in the area. Once you have compiled a list of 10 choices, you can begin narrowing down your selections.
Call and set an appointment for an interview with the first four or five caterers on your list. When setting the appointment on the phone, be sure to ask if your wedding date is available. If it's not, you can immediately cross the name of your list without wasting anyone's time. (best way to do this: use WeddingRequest.com! -ed.)
Ask if it's possible to get a sampling during the interview. Most established caterers are more than happy to offer you a taste of their food. This will allow you to check both the presentation and the quality of some potential menu items.
When you arrive at the caterer interview, have a budget in mind and stick to it. If you find out that a sit down dinner is too expensive for how much you can afford, ask the caterer for other options, such as a buffet dinner or appetizers only reception.
Check out these 17 questions to ask your caterer. Probably the most important is "Are they full service?" You want to ask if dishes, silverware and linens are included, as well as set up, servers, coffee service, carving stations, cake cutting, bar service, clean up and anything else you may need.
If you like the demeanor and the initial impression of the caterer's food and pricing, ask for a quote in writing. Let the wedding caterer know that you would like a low, mid and high end price quote for X amount of people. Don't be bullied into signing any contract while meeting with the caterer. You want to be able to do a cost comparison with other vendors to negotiate the best price and service available.
It's not inappropriate to ask the caterer for a few recent brides to contact for references. Call or email the references to find out if the couples considered the caterer's work acceptable or outstanding. Ask if they had any problems or unforeseen costs arise when dealing with the caterer.
Once you have interviewed and narrowed down your list of caterers to three or four great options, the bride and groom should compare the price quotes to find the best possible deal. If you are leaning toward a particular caterer but they are a little out of your price range, be honest and let them know. The caterer may be able to work with you and make a compromise. There are plenty of ways to cut your catering bill such as eliminating seafood, cutting down on appetizers or reducing your guest list. Try to work with the caterer and get the best price available before making your final decision.