Guest Author - Beth Helmstetter
Searching for the perfect caterer for your wedding & reception? Before you choose, make sure you like the answers to the following questions.
1. How much will I spend?
An experienced caterer should be able to give you a rough per person estimate for food and beverage expenses on your wedding day. Before even meeting the caterer face to face, it is appropriate to ask this question via phone. You do not want to waste yourís or the catererís time by interviewing someone who is not in your budget.
2. Can we bring in our own alcohol?
If legal in your state, many caterers will allow you to provide the wine and champagne, only charging a corkage fee to open these items. If your caterer is willing to provide this service, this can save hundreds of dollars.
3. Can we do a tasting?
Many caterers will honor your request for a tasting, but you will have to ask. Very few companies will offer up this service, but most are happy to accommodate once a contract has been signed guaranteeing your commitment to hiring them for the big day. Use the tasting to let the chef know what you like and donít like about his recipes. While you should always trust the expert and be respectful, feel free to let the chef know if you do not want garlic in anything or if you would prefer he use a little less salt here and there.
4. Will you accommodate special requests such as vegetarian needs, allergies, etc.
No matter what, the answer should be yes to this question. You are not dealing with a professional catering company if they are not willing to service special dietary needs.
5. Do you make wedding cakes? If so, do you require us to utilize your services for the cake?
If you are not picky about your wedding cake and your caterer provides this service, great! If the cake is important to you, chances are you will be happier hiring someone who specializes in this service. If you do decide to hire a separate cake baker, find out if your caterer will serve another personís food and if so, what the cutting fee would be to do so.
6. Are there any additional gratuities or service fees that are not outlined on your menu?
Know these fees up front. Most caterers will charge a 15 to 21 percent gratuity on top of your menu prices. In addition, many will also charge miscellaneous fees such as chef fees for carving stations or other items that are prepared in front of the guest. Others may include servers in their pricing, but charge you if you want to add a bartender or valet. If there are many of these miscellaneous charges, donít be shy to ask for a breakdown of the costs so you are not shocked when the final bill arrives.
7. When is my final count due?
Keep this date on your calendar and adhere to it. Most caterers will always let you go up in guest count after this date, but you cannot go down. Make sure you do not get stuck paying for meals you do not need by meeting all of your caterers deadlines.
8. What will your staff wear?
Unless otherwise requested, most caterers provide a staff in standard black and/or white uniforms. If you would like your servers to be wearing something more festive and fun, make sure to leave room in your budget to pay for this attire.
9. What is your staff to guest ratio?
The staff to guest ratio will tell you how many people each server will be tending to during dinner. If you are hoping for a well-serviced plated meal, expect the number to be 15 guests or less to one server. Any more than this and the service could be compromised. On the other hand, for a buffet, one server per every 30 to 40 guests is standard.
10. What equipment do you require?
Some caterers will require you to rent flatware, glasses, plates and even chaffing dishes. If this is the case with your preferred caterer, make sure you are budgeting accordingly for these items. Also, find out if your caterer or your reception venue will be responsible for providing the tables, chairs and linens. You do not want details like this to slip through the cracks.