Festivities Catering & Special Events is here to share 15 answers to the toughest catering questions when it comes to your wedding day.
As caterers with a special focus on weddings, we get a lot of the same questions from newly engaged couples. This is mainly because this is many of our couples’ very first experiences in looking for and hiring a caterer. If this is you, bride and groom, you are definitely not alone!
If and when this is the case, the most important thing we can do to help our clients feel comfortable communicating with a professional caterer is to educate. Many times becoming familiar with the ins and outs of our industry eases their worries and lowers their stress levels. In fact, our couples have told us that before working with a professional caterer, they had no idea the range of services a caterer could provide and that it’s considerably less scary and daunting to plan a wedding after you talk with your vendors and catering professionals.
To help ease some of your fears and give you a head start, we are sharing our most commonly asked wedding catering questions with you here.
1. Will the price per person include everything I need (i.e. rentals, china, staff…)? When it comes to prices, each caterer is different. Some offer prepackaged wedding options—of which you must choose one—and they usually charge extra for any alterations or additions to your chosen package as needed. And, in most cases, the service staff is not included in the price per person. Other caterers let you custom create your own wedding reception, providing input and suggestions as they learn your tastes and visions. You must always remember, however, that comparing a wedding package and a customized proposal is like comparing apples to oranges. No two proposals are the same. For example, not all caterers include place settings, china or even cake service in their quote. You must take all expenses into consideration before making your decision in order to avoid those hidden costs.
2. Can you do centerpieces and décor? You might be surprised at how much your caterer can handle, and handle quite well for that matter. For example, we have an entire team that works with décor, taking our clients’ visions and turning them into beautiful centerpieces, tablescapes and more. At the very least, full-service caterers will have relationships with florists and other vendors to help coordinate all of your décor and rentals for your special day. This will make it much easier for you since you’ll only have to deal with one vendor—your caterer—and sign just one check.
3. What types of dinner service do you offer? Again, this one will range from caterer to caterer. The most common wedding dinner services include formal plated, casual buffet and action stations. No matter what you choose, there are pros and cons to each type. If you choose a wedding package, you won’t have a say in the service style (unless you ask for a package alteration). If you create your wedding from scratch, your caterer will have more options for you based on your visions. You can even combine several dinner service styles together to make sure your reception is exactly what you want it to be.
4. How can we make our reception unique? There are so many ways to personalize your reception. Your venue is one of the biggest ways to custom-fit your wedding vision to make it a reality, and it will go hand-in-hand with your décor, too. These two items can really set the stage to a special, visual and emotional experience. Your menu and dinner service is also a perfect way to personalize your wedding. Instead of offering passed hors d’oeuvres, try a sushi bar. Instead of a formal plated dinner, try themed buffets and action stations serving food from around the world. Your bar service is also an easily customizable piece of your reception. Will you have a signature cocktail? Will you have servers passing out champagne or wine? Will you have expert bartenders mixing top shelf liquor or serving microbrews? We love helping our couples come up with creative ideas to personalize the most important day of their lives.
5. Who coordinates all of our vendors on our wedding day? This one is so important. If you didn’t hire a professional wedding planner, then all of the logistical and operational responsibilities usually fall on the caterer’s plate. Regardless, your catering coordinator should definitely be present on the day of your wedding to help with details large and small. It is important that you have the best team present so that you can feel comfortable getting your hair done and dress on, taking photos and getting to and from the venue instead of worrying about deliveries and setting up centerpieces and place cards.
6. What are our biggest expenses? Catering is one of the largest expenses at any wedding. Venue costs are also one of the highest. When you set your budget, take that into consideration. There are some venues, such as The Bristol Hotel, that incorporate venue and catering costs jointly, which sometimes helps ease confusion and budget questions. As for the catering portion, your entrées and bar services are typically the most expensive portion of that cost.
7. What can you do with a $100 per person budget? When you create your budget, coming up with a per person number is a great tool for caterers to use when beginning the planning process. You must remember, though, that service charges and bar packages are sometimes separate from the per person cost. Wait staff is so incredibly important on your wedding day that we never recommend reducing the amount of servers to accommodate more food. If you are experiencing budget constraints, we recommend procuring lower costing menu items as opposed to lowering cost on labor. As for a $100 per person budget, that might include passed and stationary hors d’oeuvres, a two-entrée plated dinner—including the rented china and tableware—table wine and a sweets table with cake and coffee service. Wait staff would most likely be a bit extra and bar service would cost more as well.
8. What are your prices? This question is one of the toughest to answer without further information from the client. We can work with small or very large parties, casual beach receptions or formal black tie extravaganzas, and the answer would differ largely. Before asking your prospective caterers for their prices, give them something with which to work, such as the venues your looking into, the guest count, how formal you want your reception to be and what kind of food service you’re contemplating. It’s ok if you don’t have all of those answers set in stone, but even the tiniest of ideas in your head about your wedding day will help caterers give you a more accurate basic quote.
9. Can we customize our menu and can I taste the food beforehand? If your caterer works with wedding packages, this might be a little trickier, but yes, you can customize your own menu, and you should! It’s best to taste your food before you commit to it, though, which is why we recommend incorporating a tasting into your decision process, which is something we love to provide to our wedding clients.
10. What kind of bar packages do you offer? This is a huge question, and rightly so. Your bar services are nearly as important as your food. Some caterers provide bartenders and bar service for their clients. You can talk with your caterer about the level of service that matches your reception when you answer questions like: Do you want a champagne toast? Do you want a specialty cocktail? What types of wines do you like? Do you prefer standard beer or microbrews? Between all of the different types and brands of alcohol and sodas, your ability to customize your bar is quite endless.
11. Where can we cut costs? Like we mentioned before, we never recommend cutting labor costs. You can try to save some expenses, though, on your cuts of meat, the number of entrees you offer (though never cut out your vegetarian options), the amount of variety you offer at the bar, the number of wine brands you choose to have on the table, champagne toasts, dessert and on simplifying décor. You can also choose to have a more casual buffet as opposed to a plated dinner.
12. How many wait staff members will I need? This will vary depending on your food service style and your guest count, but if you’re doing a formal seated dinner, you should have at least one server per table of 8 to
13. How does your wait staff dress? This question doesn’t always happen up front, but it should—the wait staff’s dress should be professional, discrete and neither overpowering nor underwhelming. If they have on casual attire at a formal reception, that is unacceptable. Keep in mind, though, that if the wait staff is dressed formally, even for a non-formal reception, then they are still appropriately dressed.
14. When do I need to solidify a final guest count? You’ll need a rough estimate as soon as possible to help make the quoted price as accurate as it can be, but some caterers allow longer for final guest counts. For example, you can add up to 10% more guests in the 72-hours prior to your reception date with Festivities Catering.
15. Do you have any references with whom I can speak? If you’re on the fence about your catering decision, hear what past clients have to say. Plus, when you contact a former client, you can ask a few questions of your own.