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Written by Lynsey Last updated: February 12, 2012
Choosing the right caterer to manage your wedding food is one of the most important decisions in your wedding planning.
Photo courtesy of The Stratford Manor
Food glorious food… the wedding meal is an important part of your wedding day, and something you and your guests will remember. The key is to find the caterer who will create the perfect menu, at the right price for you.
You need to seriously consider a professional caterer if your guest list exceeds 20. You might not enjoy yourself if you’re running around worrying about dirty dishes and whether or not everyone has had enough to eat. If you look after the catering yourself, hire staff to serve and clear up. It’s money well spent. It’s probably best not to accept invited guests’ offers to help. They are meant to be celebrating with you. Ask friends for recommendations of someone who will suit your needs and your pocket.
The catering and refreshments will very much depend on the venue and type of reception you’ve decided on. Many venues recommend caterers, or may even insist that you use a particular one. However, for the marquee in the garden local restaurants, bakers, off-licences and even supermarkets will be more than willing to quote.
Once you’ve found your ideal venue, the couple and/or the bride’s parents, should make an appointment with the person in charge to discuss dates, times, the number of guests and the exact prices of things – specifically the cost of the meal, which is usually the biggest expense in the budget.
Your caterer will need to know the date, time of reception, number of guests, level of hospitality you wish to provide and your limit on charges per head to supply you with ideas and quotations. Costs are usually quoted per ‘head’ (guest). Always ask for quotes and confirmation of everything in writing – and file your copies carefully.
It’s important to give yourself enough time to get estimates and compare catering services, facilities and costs if necessary. Remember that caterers tend to get booked up months in advance.
A personal recommendation, or your own experience of a caterer’s work is always the best guide. If the caterer runs a restaurant or hotel, sample a meal on the premises before making your decision. Many hotels will let you sample their suggested wedding menus, for free or at a reduced price, once you’ve booked with them.
Once you’ve decided on a caterer, it’s time to confirm dates, times and details with a written contract. Include a breakdown of charges for food, drinks, corkage, staff, delivery, travel expenses, equipment hire, service charges, etc. Insurance is also important.
Avoid having to pay for wasted meals by finalising numbers with the caterers just before the wedding, especially if there are late cancellations.
Bear in mind that, as well as the catering staff, you may also need someone to open the door and take coats, people to look after the coats, a toastmaster to announce guests and run the proceedings, waiters and waitresses to hand round food and drink, and someone to help with any young guests.
When interviewing caterers you need to ask: