FINDING the right caterer is crucial to your wedding day. Food and bar account for almost half of most wedding budget.
After selecting the reception venue, you should inquire about the catering options. If the venue provides catering, your work is done. Some venues, such as hotels, offer in-house catering but others give you a choice of allowing you to bring in your own food. If you have to provide your own catering, here is a step by step guide to hiring and working with a caterer.
Although you are selecting an outside caterer, you may still need to liaise with the venue operators. First, find out about any rules or guidelines which they may have regarding outside caterers such as the time allowed to come in, set up and breakdown. For outdoor venues, also consider the available facilities; sinks, kitchens, ovens, stoves as well as storage facilities. If not, these facilities may have to be rented and brought to the location. If you are planning your own wedding, it is recommended that you ask a friend to be at the reception venue to ensure the caterer is on time and there are no problems in setting up.
You may have several caterers in mind and wonder how to go about selecting the right one. Do not always settle for the cheapest option. Set up a face-to-face interview with each caterer to help determine the right choice for you. If possible, schedule food sampling as part of the interview.
Your final decision should be based on taste, presentation, creativity, cost and the willingness of the caterer to suit your needs. In the interview, be sure to discuss the following items as forgetting to do so could cause a catering faux pas on your big day.
- Do you have set menus or can I customise according to the theme and style of my event?
- Can you provide special menus such as vegetarian and diabetic meals? Is the food halal?
- How do you accommodate guests with food allergies?
- How long have you been in the catering business? (Ask them about their experience, background, and culinary education).
- How many weddings have you catered previously?
- Have you before catered to the number of guests I have invited?
- What is the largest event you have managed and how many guests were there?
- Are you familiar with my reception venue?
- Dress code for the servers - is it formal or casual?
- For the number of guest I have invited, how many servers will you provide? (1 server to every 8 – 10 guests is recommended)
- If more staff is required, what is the additional cost?
- How much time will you need to set-up and clean-up?
- Is a deposit required?
- If so what is the initial deposit and when is it due?
- When is final payment due?
- What does the price include; food, set-up, clean up, staff, cutlery, silverware, glassware etc?
- What is the extra cost if my event goes overtime?
- Can you provide contacts for the last two events you have catered?
Only and only after the interview, select the caterer that best suits your needs and budget! Request a contract or quotation and be sure to thoroughly read the terms and conditions. Ensure the contract or quotation lists the reception date, time, duration and location (including the name of the room, if necessary) of the wedding.
Other details outlined in the contract should include the selected meal plan, type of service (buffet, plated), number of staff provided, rental specifics and payment schedule. Take note of the deadline date to provide the final head count to the caterer. Inquire about the cancellation policy and whether your deposit is refundable if the wedding is cancelled.
And finally, remember to exchange contact numbers to ensure communication is always maintained prior to and on the day of the wedding.
-Written by Carla Mendez-Ambris
Marriage & Bliss Jan 2010 Issue
For a list of recommended caterers, click here to visit our Online Wedding Vendors Directory.