Wedding Planning 101: Catering


Hello lovely SA readers. Thanks for checking back for more Wedding Planning 101 tips! This week we’re sharing our planning knowledge regarding the biggest line item of your wedding budget, catering! It seems pretty simple, right? Figure out the food/beverage minimum, taste the food, set the menu. We only wish it was that easy. There is much more than meets the eye with catering that we would like to share with you.

Figuring out how much you are going to spend on catering is not a matter of picking out a number you can afford.  It has to be a number based on reality.  To determine this, it is crucial to know whether you are dealing with on or off-site catering as this results in different costs.  Off-site catering typically involves higher rental costs because every plate, fork, and sometimes even the oven have to be rented and brought into the venue. {Fortunately some caterers include some rentals at no additional cost.}  There can be catering fees charged by the venue {and passed along to the couple} and sometimes there are off-site catering fees which cover the hassle of having to truck everything to the venue.  With all this said, it is still sometimes cheaper to go with off-site catering, so don’t be deterred. It’s just important to know what you’ll be paying for and how many hidden charges there will be. Ask for a sample banquet event order to get the rundown on all the fees.  

Often times, couples assume the food and beverage minimum is what they will be paying.  Minimum is the key word there, as you will ALWAYS pay more than this!  Your menu selections and/or guest count can quickly bring you above these numbers.  And don’t forget to ask about staffing fees, linens, service charge and sales tax which will add roughly another 30% to your bill {that are not included in the minimum}!  Ask what the service charge covers; some couples assume this is a gratuity, but usually it is not.

Another consideration in setting your catering budget is to think about the style of service you want. Catering companies can cater {pun intended} to your wedding style. Are you having a swanky night-club feeling soiree? If so, it might be a good idea to go with passed heavy hors d’oeuvres or a variety of food stations, like a raw bar, a carving station, and other yummy and interested stops for your guests to make! Want a more casual party? If so, it might be a good idea to do buffet or family style. And for you foodies out there, why not venture beyond the salad, entree, cake tradition and offer multiple courses with wine pairings!  

Once you have decided on the budget, selected a caterer, and the style of service, it’s time for the fun part - the tasting! Some catering companies charge a small fee for your important wedding-day decision makers to all gather around and give the thumbs up or down on various items on the menu, so be sure to ask. This way, you get that unique and personalized menu you have always imagined for your reception.

There you have it. Although we wish planning the catering was as simple as attending a tasting and signing the check, we hope our tips help you have a more realistic idea of the catering planning process. Does this still sound like a foreign language to you? No problem. Our Style-Architects wedding planners are always happy to help!