Booking the wedding catering “should” be one of the easier tasks of the wedding. Depending on the venue you have booked, the catering may already be included, in which case you don’t need to worry about it at all. In any case, follow these guidelines and you should be able to hack this task off your to-do list in no time.
Before we dive into the checklist, let’s just go over a few venue-caterer relationship guidelines:
- Your venue may already have an in-house caterer(this may restrict your culinary choices but eases the stress of having to book one yourself). Check if this is included in the price?
- Your venue may have a list of preferred caterers. This gives you something to work with. These caterers have usually worked in the venue before which should help things go smoothly.
- Your venue may have an agreement with a caterer and refuse to use anybody else(not always a bad thing depending on how good the caterer is). In this case the venue will probably organise this for you(make sure to get the caterers’ price list and check for any sneaky add-ons. You don’t want to get caught with a £60 orange juice bill…….I’m speaking from experience!)
- If your venue is not a purpose built wedding venue, their catering facilities may be limited. What equipment do/don’t they have?
Before you waste any time researching caterers(when they may already be included), first contact your venue and check what their catering arrangements are. This will save any unnecessary hassle.
Ok…..so now we’ve cleared up the venue stuff, let’s get into the checklist.
- Look up caterers that are available in the area your venue is situated in(a Google search will suffice, otherwise check a wedding directory)
- Ask your venue if they have worked with caterers that they would recommend. A recommendation is always better than booking a caterer blindly.
Questions to ask the caterer
- Let them know your budget and see if they can work with this. Don’t waste any time asking the following questions if it’s a no-go to start with.
- Ask what type of food they offer? Does it match your wedding theme? e.g. roast chicken with winter vegetables for a barn wedding. We have done a hack which helps you choose your wedding food quickly.
- Are there any customisation options? Can you make changes or are the menus fixed?
- Ask what other venues they have catered for? This gives you an idea of their reputation as well as styles and sizes of wedding they have previously provided services for.
- Ask for a rough cost for the number of guests you are having(emphasis on “rough” as there many factors which can impact the cost). This is handy to add into your wedding planning spreadsheet.
- How do they handle dietary requirements? E.g. vegetarian alternatives, gluten-free alternatives. If you have any guests that have these requirements, you will need to make sure the caterer provides an option for them….. otherwise they may be left chomping on an entire iceberg lettuce.
- Do they offer children’s options? What are they?
- Do they provide “full service”? This is often included in the price. Find out exactly what this covers as it will often include pre-ceremony drinks, canapés, waiting service, bar staff, cleanup etc. How many staff will they provide?
- Will they provide plates, cutlery, water jugs, chairs etc?
- Do they provide a fully-stocked bar or do you need to arrange your own alcohol?
- Will they provide wine during the meal? What is the cost for this?
- Ask about any add-on fees? Basically, anything not included in the basic price for providing the service. Like orange juice!
- Are you able to attend a tasting? You would probably want to sample the menu before the wedding so check if this is something they can offer. Many caterers won’t charge for this(or will offer it at a highly reduced rate).
- Are they licensed to serve alcohol?
- Are they insured?
Will you require evening food?
Most of your guests should be fairly full by the time the dancing is taking place but you may still want to consider an additional little snack. If you are having a cake, most of your guests will have a piece of this which should keep them going(the caterer should hopefully provide tea and coffee for this). If you have guests who are solely coming in the evening, offering a small snack could be a good idea.
Once you’ve decided on the caterer
- Check who will be overseeing the event on the day
- What are the arrangements on the day. Do they need somebody to meet them? What time?(It’s good to find out this info so you can add it to your day-of-timeline and arrange somebody to meet them)
Ok, so I said this “should” be one of the easier tasks of the wedding. I bet you’re thinking that it doesn’t look that easy. Why do I need to ask them so many questions??? Don’t worry. You probably won’t need to do this multiple times…..hopefully just once. Most venues try to make this process as simple as possible for you, which is why they create relationships with caterers and build a “preferred caterers” list. It’s unlikely they would strike up a relationship with a company they don’t trust/like so it’s normally a fairly safe bet to book one of these caterers.
If you feel rude asking a caterer so many questions, just say that you “Googled the questions you need to ask and you’re going to read them off the list”. That normally does the trick.
Follow this checklist and you should end up with spectacular food on your wedding day, beautifully presented with no nasty bills in the weeks following……….even if you have a guest who drinks an entire barrel-full of orange juice………not that i’m holding a grudge……I’m over it………seriously.