How to Find the Right Caterer
Find a wedding caterer that suits your needs, style, and budget by following these steps to hiring and working with wedding caterers.
If your reception site is the exclusive caterer, which is often the case with hotels and country clubs, feel free to skip this article and cross this item from your checklist. If not, don’t panic – just read our advice on finding and hiring a caterer below.
Do Your Research
Plan ahead, and aim to start meeting with caterers as soon as you decide on your reception location, about 12 months before the big day. Imagine your ideal reception in terms of the meal, service, courses, theme, desserts, alcohol, and any other food requirements. Then compile a list of potential caterers who meet this vision.
Ask your reception site for a list of recommendations; they can put you in touch with trusted professionals who have first-hand knowledge of the facility. All of the reception sites on LittleWhiteBook.com have a list of preferred professionals, or visit our local caterers search for a comprehensive list of recommended caterers in your area. Contact friends or colleagues who have been recently married or even other wedding vendors for recommendations.
Meet and Greet
Once you have a list of a few recommended caterers, set up face-to-face interviews to determine the right choice for you. Try to schedule a tasting as part of the interview. Your final decision should be based on taste, presentation, creativity, cost, and the willingness of the caterer to suit your needs. Remember, the caterer should accommodate your vision, so choose someone who is open to your ideas.
Ask the Right Questions
During your consultation, ask the caterer to compose an outline highlighting the cost per person, menu selections, service options, and any additional fees that could be incurred. Come prepared with a list of questions you need answered, including:
- How long have you been in the business?
- Do you specialize in a particular type of food and service?
- Are you familiar with the reception site?
- What is your average price range? Is it an all-inclusive flat rate or is the cost determined by the type of food and service?
- Do you provide rental equipment, such as linens and dinnerware? Ask to see samples.
- What is the ratio of waitstaff to guests? (One server for every eight to ten guests is recommended.)
- Where will the food be prepared? Will it be fresh or frozen ingredients?
- Do you also provide wedding cakes and/or alcohol? How will you be charged?
- Are you available on the day of my wedding? Do you have any other events scheduled for the same day or time? (If so, having a similar menu will help to cut down on cost.)
- Could I get a list of references of your previous clients?
Sign On the Dotted Line
Before signing a contract, read the terms carefully to verify the agreed-upon details. Be prepared to submit a 50% non-refundable deposit at the time of the signing, and make sure the contract includes the final balance amount and due date, as well as the cancellation and refund policy. The contract should also include the caterer’s contact information, the reception date, time, duration, and location (including the exact name of the room, if necessary). Other details that should be outlined on the contract are the meal plan, type of service and staff provided, the cake, liquor, and rental specifics.