There are so many options when it comes to the type or style of food you want to serve at your wedding. I’ve discussed those options in a previous blog, Catering Ideas For Every Style Wedding. In this blog, lets talk about how to find that perfect caterer that fits your needs and budget and has great tasting food! Here’s a list of what you need to do…
- After booking your venue the next step is booking your caterer. This will be your most expensive part of the wedding budget and most important. In San Antonio, I recommend 8-12 months out to ensure you get the caterer you desire. You’ll want to contact 4-5 caterers and ask them initial questions to make sure they even offer the type or style of food you are wanting. Some of those initial questions might be:
1. Can you accommodate vegetarians or gluten free guests?
2. We want a special dish served, can you accommodate that?
3. Do you help with the set up of the table and chairs?
4. Do you travel outside of your local area?
5. Do you offer other services such as bartending, linens, china, etc.?
You’ll contact each one and ask these initial questions and be sure to write everything down. They will start to all run together so be sure to take good notes. Also, give the caterer a chance to ask questions as well. They’ll want your basic information such as wedding date, amount of guests and venue location. During this fact finding conversation the caterer should tell you what their charges cover. If not, ask. For example, the company might not cover alcohol or cake.
- As you are taking notes be sure to also make personal reaction notes of each caterer and the feeling you received from each of them. If they were courteous, excited to work with you and kind. At this time you may be able to cross a couple of the caterers off your list. But, please be sure to write an email to those you didn’t choose thanking them for the time they spent speaking with you. You don’t want to leave them guessing and wondering.
- Once you have narrowed down your list to 2-3 caterers it is time to go in for an appointment and ask more detailed questions about the menu and services you will want. Here are what you will need to talk about:
Will you have a buffet, sit down, food stations or passed hors d’oeuvres only?
What you can get within your budget.
The types of food you are wanting and those that they specialize in.
Extra services such as bartending, late night snack, specialty tables such as ice cream, chocolate, coffee, or dessert bar.
After this meeting, the caterer should prepare you an initial proposal and cost estimate. It doesn’t mean you have to stick with what they are proposing or the food they list but is just merely an idea of what to expect to pay. If there are a couple of caterers that fall within your budget and you like what you have seen so far, then it is time to make my favorite appointment with them….the taste testing!
- Caterers that I have dealt with will usually offer the client a private taste testing at their establishment giving them options of the type of food they want to serve. I have also seen caterers have open houses where more clients come in and try an assortment of different types of food. One of my couples did this and then scheduled a private taste testing with her family (and me) to try foods they liked at the open house plus a few others that the family wanted to try. There were 6 of us! At this taste testing, this is where you’ll narrow down the food decisions for your cocktail hour, dinner and any after dinner snacks or special tables.
- The caterer will then present the couple with a revised proposal based on the food and service that was chosen. This proposal should outline all the details of what they will be providing. This could include linens, dinnerware, cake, setting up of table and chairs, bartending, rental items, staff, and more! It is important to review all the details of the proposal and make sure you understand all fees.
What they charge for service fees.
What their delivery, set up, clean up fees are.
How many staff you are getting charged for.
What the tax is.
Do they charge you to cut and serve the cake?
What is the deposit required?
- The last step is choosing your caterer. In the proposal, it should clarify the payment structure and serve as the contract with an agreement page. There is still opportunities to make changes. I have had couples make changes up to 1-2 weeks prior to the wedding (even though the caterer probably frowns upon this). One important piece of advice…always tell the caterer a lower number for your guest count because you can always go up in the count later on but you can’t go down without having to pay the same amount. They normally need a final count 10 business days before the wedding date. After this day, if you need to lower the guest count you will still have to pay for the amount of guests you told them at 10 days prior.
If you need help planning your wedding I can help. I know great caterers in the San Antonio area and would love to share my knowledge with you. Please contact Trudy Scott at 210-595-9263 or Trudy@RoyaltyEventsPlanning.com.