Congratulations! You’re engaged, and you’re ready to begin planning your wedding celebration. Choosing the right caterer will be one of the most important decisions you’ll make in wedding planning, and these tips will help you get the most out of your meetings with potential caterers.
If you’re like most couples, you’re probably hoping for a detailed price proposal from each potential caterer as soon as possible. To make this happen, prepare for your catering appointments by making a few decisions on your own in advance.
1. Select Your Wedding Venue
In order for any caterer to prepare an accurate price quote for you, they’ll need to know where your reception will take place. Wedding venues are very different from one another when it comes to logistics, space, and many other factors.
If you’re newly engaged and you really haven’t shopped wedding venues yet, hold off on interviewing caterers until you’ve narrowed down the search to two or three venues.
Some venues provide table linens; some venues require the caterer to provide them. Some venues handle the bar and alcohol service; other venues expect the caterer to provide glassware and bartenders. These details can make a big difference in the catering quotes you’ll receive.
Also, many wedding venues require you to choose a caterer from the venue’s preferred vendor list. You want to avoid wasting your time interviewing caterers who aren’t approved by your venue, so shop venues first.
2. Estimate Your Guest Count
Catering costs are based on the number of guests you’re expecting, so make sure you have a solid estimate of how many guests will attend your wedding before you meet with potential caterers.
Don’t just assume your list will amount to a certain number of guests. You may be surprised how many people are on your guest list once you actually list them all!
Make a guest list in spreadsheet form and discuss it with your fiancée to be sure you’re on the same page, before you begin hiring vendors. The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a caterer who fits your budget with an estimate for 150 guests, only to discover later that your guest list is much larger and you’ve blown the budget.
3. Share Your Budget
Determine your catering budget before you contact caterers, and let them know your budget during your first conversation. You don’t want to spend time meeting in person with caterers who are not a fit for your budget. Also, caterers are experts and can be really creative with options when they know your budget. Let them do their best work for you by giving them real information.
Breaking down your total wedding budget into vendor categories like catering, venue, invitations, entertainment, design, and more can be a daunting task. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, hire a wedding planner to help you budget properly. Avoiding a big misstep that will put you over budget is well worth the cost of a professional planner.
4. Consider Menu Styles
Before interviewing potential caterers, talk with your fiancée and any other decision makers (like Mom and Dad) about the type of menu you want served at your reception. Seated served dinners, traditional buffet dinners, and food stations menus are all different and each style has its pros and cons.
You’ll save time by being on the same page with your fiancée and family prior to gathering catering proposals, so you don’t waste a lot of time debating the options during your catering appointment.
5. Personalize Your Menu
The most memorable wedding menus include elements that are really tailored and personalized for the couple. Talk with your fiancée about personal touches you would like to include in your menu, and ask potential caterers if they can accommodate them.
Can the caterer offer a great Maryland crab cake station to honor the Groom’s home state? Are they willing to recreate your Grandmother’s cookie recipe to add to the dessert table?
You want to know early on how flexible a caterer can be to accommodate your special requests, so bring up these ideas at your first meeting. Also discuss any dietary restrictions you’ll want them to accommodate, like food allergies or vegan guests.
By taking some time to prepare for your meetings with the caterers you’re considering, you’ll make the most of your time and you’ll get to know each caterer’s style well enough to choose the right fit. Happy planning!