8 tips for choosing a wedding caterer

Choosing a wedding caterer can be a challenge. After all, isn’t the food something that everyone’s looking forward to and will remember about your wedding? You need to be confident in your caterer and trust that they’ll not only be able to come up with delicious fare that works with your overall wedding theme, but also to help the meal portion of your wedding go off without a hitch. Here are 8 tips to choosing the perfect wedding caterer.


1. Ask How Far In Advance They Need You To Book

Caterers are busy and their schedules fill up quickly. To ensure that your chosen caterer will be available for your wedding, ask the caterers you interview how early they need you to book. There may be a couple caterers that are simply out of the running because they’re already booked on your wedding date.


2. Ask About the Price Per Head 

Most caterers want to know how many people will be attending your wedding, and will give you an approximate price per head based on your dish selections. For example, if you offer chicken and fish, you might have a lower cost per head than if you choose steak and shrimp. Ask your caterer about the price per head and how it varies depending on what kind of food you want served.


3. Ask About Dietary Options 

A lot of people these days have dietary restrictions, whether it be vegetarian, gluten free, or dairy free. Ask caterers how they handle dietary restrictions and what options they have available for different dietary needs. You want to book a caterer that is familiar with handling specific dietary requests.


4. Ask Your Caterer About Additional Options 

Many caterers can provide more than just the food for your wedding. Ask if they can provide the linens, tables, flatware, china, or if they offer bar services. A caterer that can take care of these things along with your food would free up some of your time to focus on other things.


5. Ask About Liquor Costs 

If you plan to have liquor at your wedding, ask your caterer. There are several different alcohol options, including a full service bar, a cash bar, beer and wine only, and more. You have the option to customize your bar service as much as you want, but you need to be aware of your options and how much each costs ahead of time.


6. Ask About Entertainment Recommendations 

If your caterer has relationships with many of the entertainers in the wedding reception industry, this could be a big benefit for you. Ask what DJ or live band your caterer recommends and check them out!


7. Ask About Serving Styles 

Most caterers offer 3 different serving styles — a full service meal, a buffet, and food stations. Inquire about each and find out what the cost per head is for each. If you had your heart set on a full service meal, but it’s way out of the budget, food stations might be a unique alternative.


8. Read Your Caterer’s References 

Check out your caterer’s online reviews, or ask your caterer to provide you with references from other brides. You definitely want to check out the work your caterer has done prior to your wedding.

Before you choose a caterer, you’ll want to sit down with several and ask about what kind of foods they offer, what their policies are, and more. Don’t be shy — ask lots of questions and compare the answers between each caterer!


Ask Your Caterer These Top 12 Questions 

1. Are You Licensed? 

You absolutely need to make sure that your caterer is licensed. This is non-negotiable.

2. Can I See a Sample Menu? 

Ask for a sample menu, or a copy of a menu they have done for a previous wedding. You want to get an idea of the variety of foods they offer and how they put them together to create a complete meal.

3. How Do You Work Around Food Allergies? 

Nothing is more frustrating than a vegetarian/vegan or a person with food allergies getting to a wedding reception and realizing that there’s basically nothing they can eat. Ask your caterer how they can prepare a meal so almost everyone can eat everything.

4. What Is Included in Your Fees? 

Know ahead of time what your caterer plans to include in the base price and what is going to cost extra.

5. Can I Schedule a Tasting? 

You definitely want to make sure you and your spouse like the food that you’re going to be serving. It should be delicious!

6. What Is Your Payment Schedule? 

Know ahead of time what kind of deposit your caterer requires, or if you have to pay in full before or after the wedding. Pay on time to keep your relationship with your caterer smooth.

7. Who Will Be At the Venue the Day of the Wedding? 

Ask how many people will be at the wedding and who they are. Ask for contact information to get in touch with them if you need to.

8. Do You Do Wedding Cakes or Can You Recommend a Baker? 

If you don’t already have a chosen baker, your caterer may be able to do your cake for you or point you in the right direction. This can make cake shopping a lot easier!

9. Do You Have a Kids Menu? 

Just like people with allergies, if you plan on having kids at your reception, you’ll need to accommodate little eaters. They probably won’t eat chicken cordon bleu or shrimp scampi, so ask if your caterer can make corndogs and macaroni and cheese instead.

10. What Happens to the Leftover Food? 

If there’s a lot of food leftover, your caterer may be able to give them to the servers. Depending on where your wedding is going to be located, it may be against the law to give leftovers to the guests or bridal party.

11. How Should I Tip the Staff? 

Ask how your caterer prefers to have gratuity done. Do they add it to the bill? Do they share one tip? Make sure you know how to tip them appropriately and then do so.

12. Where Will the Food Be Prepared? 

Know whether your food will be prepared at the venue, or off site and brought to the venue, or a mix of the two. There may be additional fees for equipment rentals at the venue if your caterer prepares food on-site.

Although it can seem overwhelming to consider how your wedding will be catered and to decide what foods you want served, remember that your caterer is experienced. You may not have ever done this before, but they have and they can guide you step by step through the process of having the perfect meal served at your reception. Just be sure to ask the right questions and stay in the know!