Wedding Planning: Questions for the Caterer

When your guests arrive at your wedding, they are, of course, there to share in your happiness… but they’ll probably be hungry, too! Having five star cuisine is one way to keep your guests in a good mood, but hiring a caterer goes beyond that. What are some important things to know before you hire a wedding caterer?

photo from MLive

You will need to meet with a potential caterer during the event-planning process.  He or she will help to make your big day a success, and you’ll want someone who is easy to work with and reliable. Some caterers only work in certain venues, so you will probably need to have selected a venue before you choose a caterer.

You also should consider asking for references from the caterer. If possible, it would be a good idea to preview another reception (at least the set-up portion) so that you can make sure that everything flows smoothly. Here are some key questions, from Knot for Life, that you should ask before you select a caterer. He or she should be willing to answer all questions openly.

Questions for the Caterer

The Cost

The first question is to get a general idea of cost. You should know an approximate number of people who will be there, keeping in mind that the caterer typically will add 10 percent to the number you give. Ask about the price for a buffet, a seated dinner, and for a bar if you want one.

Sample Menus

Once you have an idea of the cost, ask the caterer for sample menus that will fit in each price estimate. You need to be sure to speak to the caterer about special dietary restriction, such as vegetarian substitutions for some guests if needed.

Seating Arrangements

You and the caterer should be able to work together on the seating arrangements. Ask the caterer for her ideas about the seating with a chart if possible. The caterer should be able to give you an idea of the number of people who can fit comfortably in your venue with certain types of tables.

The Set-Up

While discussing the set-up, ask about whether the caterer provides tables, chairs, linens, and other items. If not, he can probably suggest places where you can get those items, and you need to coordinate those reservations as soon as possible.

Alcohol

The other major topic you will need to discuss is whether or not alcohol will be served. If you do not plan to have alcohol, let the caterer know, and the issue is over. If you do plan to serve alcohol, be sure that the caterer offers alcohol service and find out about how it works as far as pricing. There are a large number of options. You can offer a certain number of drinks per guests with a cash bar afterward. If you would like more control over how much your guests drink, set up a limit of bottles of champagne or drinks per guest. You need to be sure that the caterer has liability insurance to cover the alcohol sales and any other details related to the alcohol.

Payment Terms

There are some details you should take into account as well. Ask about the deposit and when the remainder of the payment is due. In addition you need to ask about whether tipping is acceptable if the caterer provides staff for bar or serving at tables. Also you should find out about how many staff members are included in the standard cost, and if you think there should be more staff members, then you need to ask about hiring additional people.

Final Costs

Find out when you will receive the final cost quote. You typically will not receive it until about 90 days before your wedding. Be prepared for rising costs, particularly if you have a large number of fruits or seafood where price tends to fluctuate. Ask about the payment of the final bill as well as the date when the caterer will need your final head count. You will need to set the RSVP date one week before the caterer needs the head count.

These major issues will help you to ensure that you and your caterer are on the same page with the plans for your wedding. The caterer plays an important parting your wedding day, so don’t make any decisions with which you don’t feel comfortable. If you feel comfortable with the caterer, you will have one less stressful part of your wedding day.

For more wedding planning tips, visit Knot for Life!