Your wedding caterer is one of the main vendors on your special day.  If you choose wisely, your guests will come home raving about the food served at your wedding.  Or, without the proper precautions, your guests might leave in discussions of the horrible rubber chicken they had for dinner.  To prevent this all to common wedding fiasco, be sure to read through this guide to help you select the best wedding caterer for your budget. 

Where To Find Your Caterer

Ask Your Current Vendors

Although a caterer is one of the most important vendors for your wedding, you will not need to sign one until six months before your wedding date.  By this time, you should certainly have already booked a photographer and a reception location.  Ask both of these vendors if they have any recommendations for caterers.  Oftentimes, reception venues have preferred caterers, and sometime receptions venues only allow a select few caterers to serve in their location. 

Ask Recently Married Family And Friends

If many of your friends and family have recently gotten married in your area, be sure to ask them about their catering.  Did they like the company they worked with, or would they recommend someone else?  Be sure to ask how they would have improved the working relationship with their caterer (as well as other vendors).  These recommendations will help you narrow down or enlarge the list of potential caterers. 

Wedding Shows

Another great place to meet caterers is at wedding shows, where you will also have the added benefit of taste testing their food.  Be sure to bring some questions to ask any potential caterers.  Hopefully, you will feel comfortable interacting with the caterers at these shows.  If you do not find anyone you like, move on, and try to find someone else. 

The Internet

When starting your wedding planning journey, the internet is always a good place to find what is available in your area.  Some caterers will publish their pricing and menu options.  Use this as a baseline when searching for other options.  Also, when you get a recommendation from a vendor, a family member, or friend, look that company up online before you meet with them.   Research this company and come with some informed questions to an interview. 

Questions To Ask Potential Caterers

Are you approved to work at our reception location?

As mentioned above, some reception locations only allow an approved list of caterers.  Make sure that any potential caterers are on that list.  Even if your reception location does not have an approved list, it is always beneficial if your caterer has worked at that location before.  Familiarity with the kitchen and the venue layout will help dinner run much more smoothly. 

What are your most popular menu items?

When you eventually have a tasting with your caterer, you should pick one of the most popular menu items to sample.  This should be a safe menu item that most of your guests will enjoy.

What are your vegetarian options?

Most caterers have a number of specialty menu options.  Make sure that these are available and understand if there are any extra costs involved. 

Do you serve custom meals?

Custom menu items will dramatically increase the price of your meals, but if you must have Aunt Ethel’s Beef Tip recipe served for dinner, many caterers should be able to accommodate your request. 

Does it cost more for a plated or buffet style meal? 

This answer will vary from caterer to caterer.  Some say that more food is needed for a buffet, and therefore the buffet costs more.  Others will need to use more manpower for a plated meal, and thus the plated meal will cost more.  Keep in mind all the elderly guests you will have at your wedding when deciding between a buffet or plated meal.  For these guests’ convenience, you may want to strongly consider a plated dinner. 

Can you serve the alcohol at our reception?  If so, can you operate a bar?

Make sure that any potential caterer will be able to serve wine and champagne while dinner is being served.  If you want a bar at your wedding, you must understand the costs involved with any potential caterer. 

What are all the costs typically associated with a reception of this size?

Caterers can structure their pricing very differently.  Usually, the two main costs will be for the food itself and for the manpower used to serve and clean up the food.  Make sure there are not any other fees to plan for. 

Do you provide all the dinnerware? 

Sometimes this is provided by the reception venue, and sometime the caterer will supply it.  Again, make sure the party responsible for the dinnerware is clearly define, and make sure you understand all the costs involved. 

Can we see examples of other weddings you have cooked for?

All caterers should be more than happy to offer examples of their great work.  Make sure the presentation and visual quality of the food is up to your standards. 

Will you set the tables with centerpieces and decorations as we specify? 

Be sure to understand how your reception will be set up.  Oftentimes this will be handled by the reception location. 

How much are children’s meals?

All caterers will offer some type of discount for children’s meals.  If you have a lot of children attending your wedding, variations in pricing on youth meals could make one more or less expensive than another. 

Will you be in charge of clean up?

At the end of your reception as the bride and groom, clean up will be the last thing on your mind.  Ask if your caterer will clean up the reception hall and at what cost.  This could be a very bad situation if cleaning is not completed at your reception venue. 

Will you cater at any other weddings on my wedding day?

If a caterer cooks for more than one wedding in a day, you need to make sure they have the capacity and experience to give you the best service possible. 

Is gratuity included in the final contract price?

This is a minor issue, but you must understand if gratuity is included in the final contract.  If it is not included, then you might be surprised with a little extra bill after your wedding. 

In addition to your wedding caterer, here is a quick list of all the other vendors you must book for your wedding day: