Wedding Catering Advice from a Pro
Wedding Catering 101
Choosing and working with a caterer for you big day can be exciting but also confusing. For many brides, this is their first experience working with a professional caterer and it can prove to be daunting. Check out a few of my no-fail tips below for working with wedding caterers.
Do pay attention to your venues rules and regulations. Some venues are full service and will prohibit outside catering, requiring that you use their chef for your catering as well as meet food and beverage minimums (think hotels, private clubs and restaurants). Other venues may allow outside caterers but ask that you pick for a list of approved companies. If you have a favorite caterer in town and are set on using their services for your wedding, it might be a good idea to ask what venues they would recommend for your search.
Do ask for a custom menu. Most culinary people are very creative and itching to try the newest trend. In catering, custom does not necessarily increase your food costs but may instead save you money as the culinary staff will know great alternatives to save you money as well as what is in season. Food always tastes better in season and can play into your wedding theme or vision.
Don’t run out of food. Listen to your caterer… we do know what we are talking about when we say that your menu is not offering enough variety or you’re the amount of food is too low for the number of guests. Professional caterers will always have extra food in case a few extra guests show up but you need to make sure that your menu is substantial enough for the number of guests and meal period of the event. Serving cheese and fruit over the dinner hour will force hungry guests to leave you wedding in such of something to eat.
Don’t take leftovers. I was asked to box up leftover food from buffets and food displays a lot. Sorry but no can do... TN State Law prohibits caterers from boxing up food that has been on a buffet. Keep in mind that the food you want me to wrap up has been touched and breathed on by every guest at your wedding while growing bacteria under heat laps and outside of refrigeration. Caterers don’t want you to get sick, that’s why they can’t let you take any food to-go.
Insider's Tip: Don’t expect the caterer to give you extra food, not set out on the buffet either. All caterers bring extra food, just in case but these “leftovers” are not necessarily included in your food bill. Most catering contracts are for a set amount of time for a certain number of people. It is incorrect to assume that these extras not consumed within these parameters are yours to take.
Do trust the Chef. What are his or her signature dishes? What would they recommend based on your wedding vision and budget? After all, you have hired a professional... use their years of experience to help you determine what menu will work well with the style of your wedding and budget. Leaving a few elements up to the chef will ensure that the food served at your event will taste amazing.
Don’t assume your caterer is your wedding planner. The primary job of the caterer is food set-up and service. While many are more than willing to answer questions related to timeline, help set out favors or direct lost guests to the bathroom, the caterer’s attention should be on the food and service staff. Hire a wedding planner or put a friend in charge of all the little things. If you need help during the even to move a table or light candles, make sure the caterer has staff to spare and will be set up on time. This will ensure your guests will be well taken care of and your food will be great!
Do be realistic with your budget. A catering bill is usually the first really big purchase during wedding planning and the large number can induce sticker shock. Remember, food costs for your reception will often consume a third of your overall budget and relies heavily on guest count. Food in large quantities adds up quickly as does the staff to pull everything together. Just because they buy in bulk does not mean the food is significantly cheaper than a grocery store (they buy in bulk, too). Taxes and service fees are also costly, tacking on nearly 30% to menu prices. It is important to be mindful of this when determining the style of wedding and food that will be expected by your guests.
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