Your caterer may be your most expensive element of your wedding, so choosing one is no easy task. A lot of money is on the table and you want to be sure your guests will love it. But how do you know when you have the right one?
Assuming your venue does not come with a caterer, you can still ask your venue for recommendations. These will be caterers that have worked with your venue and will therefore know all of the particulars of what is or isn’t allowed. But don’t just ask your venue – ask any other wedding professionals you’ve already booked. And if one or two names pop up a lot that is probably a good place to start.
As always, asking friends is a great way to find any wedding professional. I’m willing to bet someone you know has been to a wedding in the last year and will have plenty to say about the reception – hopefully it is all good but even if it isn’t that can be helpful too.
I can’t say this enough – check out reviews (like on weddingwire.com) of the caterers you are interested in. Reading their testimonials is fine, but who is going to post bad ones? I know I’m not (not that I’ve ever received one). Reviews give you an opportunity to see what former couples really think. But remember to be cautious – look for specifics as to why they were so wonderful instead of vague gushing. I’m not suggesting every over the top wonderful review is a plant but there on some unscrupulous people out there.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to the magical top three, it is time to schedule your tastings. I would schedule them as close together as possible – at least within the same week. This way each tasting will be fresh in your mind.
Ask them each to make similar dishes so you are comparing apples to apples. It may not be fair to compare a filet mignon with brisket. Depending on how many things you can taste, I would ask for a beef, chicken, and fish dish. Or ask for their specialty.
Be clear what your budget is. I like to ask for three price ranges…say your top budget per person is $30. Ask what $20 and $25 will get you. You might find little difference between them and could save a lot of money.
Make sure you understand what is included – is it paper plates or china? Plastic or silver? Are beverages included (like tea)? If it is a buffet, are tables included? Draping? How many servers?
If paper and plastic is only included, can they provide upgrades? How much?
Ask about a cake cutting fee. Some caterers can charge as much as the cake itself to slice and serve it (a reasonable fee is $1.50 per slice).
If you are planning on serving cocktails, ask your caterer if they can provide bartenders for you.
Don’t neglect cocktail hour – be sure to get some quotes on passed hors d’oeuvres.
And as always, LOVE your professionals!