You deserve the best caterer for your party or wedding reception. Food and entertainment are the two most important parts of hosting the party of the year. The food has to be great and the entertainment spectacular. The size of the catering company has nothing to do with the taste of its food nor the quality of service. Small mom and pop caterers may be the perfect fit for your special occasion.

Here are some tips to help you choose the best caterer:

As you visit different hotels and reception halls, one of the questions you need to ask is whether they insist on using their own in-house caterer, or if you have the freedom to choose whomever you prefer. Many hotels and reception halls will not allow an outside caterer on the property since much of their profit comes from in-house catering.

If the place you are considering does insist on their own in-house caterer, then review the menu to see if it is what you really want to serve to your guests and if the price is reasonable. If the menu does seem to be acceptable, then make an appointment for a taste test of the exact foods that the caterer would serve to your guests. Some caterers have a standard group of samples that are different from what they would serve your guests. Refuse to do business with someone who will not prepare the exact meal and appetizers for you to taste. You need to know what your guests will be eating.

Request a written quote from two or three catering companies that you have taste tested and thoroughly enjoyed the food. Remember, the food has to be great if you want your guests talking about your party for months to come.

When examining the quotes make sure that every food item is listed and in the correct quantities, that the caterer is not reserving the right to substitute different foods, that the prices are acceptable, that the date and time of the special event are correct, and that there are no hidden fees.

Read the cancellation policy in case you need to change the date or completely cancel the event. Remember that the caterer works for you so get a contract that is agreeable to you.

Get a copy of the reception hall's and the caterer's certificate of liability insurance or you could be stuck paying for all injuries and illness. There will be electrical cords running across the floor to keep the food hot in the warming trays and these are trip hazards. There is the possibility of someone having an allergic reaction or some other problem with the food and deciding to sue in court for medical expenses. Call the insurance company and verify that the policy is paid through the date of your wedding reception or party.

Check with the Better Business Bureau to see how many complaints customers have filed against the caterer and whether these complaints were resolved. Complaints that have been resolved are a sign that management does care about their reputation. Any company that has been in business for a long time is bound to have an occasional complaint filed against them --- mistakes do happen. However, if there are an unusual number of complaints then they may be cutting corners on service or quality of the food.