Congratulations on your engagement! The holidays are often a prime time to get engaged and share the good news with all of your friends and family. Now that the holiday buzz is behind us, we know you’re ready to get started planning your special day!
Food and catering typically comprise one of the largest portions of a wedding budget. When it comes to finding a caterer for your reception, as with all wedding vendors, it is important to make sure that the company is a good match for what you are looking for. Whether it is a local vendor that provides cuisine specific to your wedding theme (think Hawaiian luau or backyard wedding barbecue), or a full-service caterer equipped to help make your day seamless, asking the following questions can help to ensure your wedding food and reception will be unforgettable for you and your guests!
Do you specialize in a certain type of food or serving style?
Whether you’re looking for a certain serving style, or a specific cuisine to coordinate with your wedding theme, it’s important to find out how your caterer typically handles receptions. Now would also be a great time to ask if the menu proposals they provide are set, or if there’s the option for customization.
Can you make a family favorite recipe for our reception?
Have your heart set on serving Grandma’s famous dish at your wedding? Some companies may be willing and able to recreate the dish on a large scale for all of your wedding guests if you provide them with the recipe.
How are you able to accommodate for food allergies and/or religious preferences?
If you (or your guests) have food allergies, are vegetarian/vegan, or have specific food preferences, be sure to check with the company to see how they can meet your specific menu needs.
Have you worked at our wedding venue before?
Many venues will provide a list of preferred or exclusive caterers to choose from due to their familiarity with the location and its amenities. However, other locations may not have any restrictions, which can allow you to bring in whichever caterer you choose. Just make sure they have at least done a walk-through at the site to know how the kitchen is set up, where their staging area will be, and how the reception will be laid out, so there are no questions on the big day!
Alternatively, if you’re still on the hunt for the perfect wedding venue, your caterer may be able to point you in the direction of a location they’ve previously worked at that can accommodate your guest list and wedding theme.
Are you licensed and insured in the state of ___?
Some venues will require proof of insurance for outside vendors and/or a liquor license if there is going to be a bar. You will want to make note of this early and discuss this requirement with your caterer prior to booking.
Will someone be there to oversee the event?
On the day of the wedding it will be important that someone experienced is there to coordinate the event from set up to break down to ensure that everything runs as planned!
Can you breakdown the anticipated costs of our reception?
Though this question may be obvious, it’s a big one. It is crucial to determine what is included in the cost per person, any staffing and/or set up expenses, and whether or not equipment rentals, etc. are included. When discussing rentals, be sure to inquire about color options for linens and place settings, etc. in order to customize your order to match with your color scheme.
What are your payment policies for deposits, cancellations, overtime, and gratuity?
Figuring out the company’s payment methods and policies will help to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to securing your wedding date, and financial expectations on or before the day of the event.
Do you provide any additional services to help coordinate on the day of the wedding?
Catering companies vary greatly in terms of their additional services. Some are associated with restaurants and/or specific cuisines, and thus, provide food service only. On the other hand, other companies may act as full-service caterers who provide optional services such as event coordination, event design, and can assist with finding and booking other vendors, such as florists, DJ’s or bands, and novelty vendors such as photobooths or chocolate fountains.
Is the wedding cake included in our pricing package? Can we provide our own?
Some catering companies provide beautiful and delicious wedding cakes, which may be perfect for the bride who appreciates a good “one-stop shop.” Other brides may have a specific baker in mind, so be sure to clear this up with the caterer early on. If you are providing your own cake, make sure to ask whether or not there is a cake cutting fee, so there are no last minute surprises!
What is the usual ratio of staff to guests?
The answer to this question will likely vary among vendors depending on the size of the event, serving style being used, menu demands, equipment needs, etc. However, it is good to ask up front so you have an idea of what to expect on the day of and so you understand how the caterer works to ensure a smooth dining experience for all of your guests.
Is it possible to set up a food tasting?
Most companies provide some sort of tasting experience for their clients either prior to booking or prior to the event to finalize your menu choices. When arranging your tasting session, inquire as to how many food options will be available, if there are any associated costs, and how many guests can participate.
Can we provide our own alcohol? Is there a corking fee?
While everyone wants to have the perfect wedding reception with great food and drinks, it is also normal to be budget conscious. If venues and/or catering companies allow you to provide your own alcohol, stocking your own bar can be a great cost-saving solution. Just make sure to ask about any corking fees, etc. that may drive up the cost.
When do you need a final head count?
This will help you to determine when you need your RSVP’s so you have time to contact any stragglers, and submit your final numbers to the caterer in time for preparation for your event.
What happens to the leftovers?
Unfortunately many brides and grooms do not get the opportunity to enjoy as much of the delicious food they’ve planned with their caterer as they would like because they’re so busy mingling with their guests. Having the catering team package any leftovers for you and your new spouse is a great way to make sure you get to have your cake and eat it too!
Michael Evans is chef-owner of Helga’s Caterers, a family-owned, full-service catering company with over 35 years of experience in providing fine food and excellent service for all of your catering needs throughout the D.C. Metro Area.