If you love good food as much as I do, hiring a caterer for your wedding reception can be a fun and exciting task. If done well, your caterer can help relieve some of your reception planning angst AND they can set a good tone of the entire evening. If you make a poor choice, it could disastrous.
So, here are six questions that I find key when hiring a caterer for your reception.
- Is the quoted “per person” price the final price? Sometimes the quoted “per person” price is based on the number of wedding guests that you provide the caterer. If the number of your wedding guests drops dramatically, the “per person” price may increase to accommodate for the loss of expected revenue.
Also, the “per person” price may not include the following –
- Gratuity and/or service charge
- The price for the staffing (especially supervisors, station attendants and/or bartenders)
- The price for the table linens, napkins, china, stemware and/or glassware
Ask about the items above beforehand to ensure that you are aware of additional fees prior to the contract signature (or better yet, prior to your wedding day).
- Do you have all of the proper licenses and insurance? Your caterer (actually all of your wedding vendors) should have the proper insurance coverage required by your wedding reception venue. This insurance coverage should cover the service of their staff too.
Your caterer should also be licensed by the state. Make sure that they are licensed to serve alcohol in the state of your reception venue. If they aren’t, you may have to apply for a one-day banquet/event liquor license yourself.
- Are you a full service caterer or a limited service caterer? The price for limited service caterers may be substantially less than cost of a full service caterer, but there are various services that may not be included (and you WILL need 99% of those services for your wedding). Services such as staffing, tear down, and/or the rental of dining equipment.
- What is your ratio of wait staff to our wedding guests? Again, this is another question that could affect your budget and/or your overall wedding experience. To maintain a suitable level of customer service, the common rule of thumb is below:
- Plated Dinners: One server for every twelve (12) wedding guests
- Buffets: One server for every twenty-five (25) wedding guests
- Do you use fresh ingredients? Everything tastes better if it is made from scratch, so this is a question worth asking. A friend of mine told me a story about the hors d’oeuvres coming from one of the “big box” stores. She recognized them because we eat them all of the time at my house!
- Will I be able to taste the menu beforehand? I would venture to guess that 99% of professional caterers provide their clients with a menu tasting prior to their special day – but there is a 1% that does not. Here is my take – If you are shelling out a major chunk of your wedding budget for your wedding food, you should feel comfortable with your menu choices, the amount of sauce used on your entrée, and the amount of salt used on a side dish.
Bonus Questions –
- When is the final guarantee (or final head count) due? You want to schedule your invitation RSVPs at least ten days prior to this due date to ensure that your actual guest count is as close to your final guarantee as possible.
- What is the attire for your wait staff? Most wait staff wear will be dressed in the white shirt/black pants attire, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. You never know!
- May I contact your past clients? If you are unfamiliar with your caterer’s work, ask for a couple of references. Or better yet, check some of the reviews on-line too. The comments in the reviews are not “gospel” but you will get a sense of the caterer’s style and work ethic if you read enough of them.
- What is going to happen with the leftover food? Most caterers are more than happy to provide you with the leftovers from a buffet or food station. Just give them the heads up so that they can have the “to go” containers available. If you are headed out to your honeymoon immediately after your wedding, consider asking the caterer to donate the leftovers to the local homeless shelter.
For more details to help you book your wedding caterer, download our wedding planning guidebook with sizing charts, wedding planning calculators, and staffing guidelines.
You may also consider downloading our planning guidebook for your wedding day cuisine.
Love & Soul Always, Kay