Tricks and Advice to Finding Your Foodie Soulmate
To the foodies among us, it is seen as the most important part of the wedding reception. The meal. If we're being honest, its one of the reasons we all love weddings so much. A well catered meal can be the highlight of a reception, but how do you go about selecting a caterer? The options are limitless, and they all sound so good.
Simply put, here are a few things you need to keep in mind when choosing your caterer.
Do Your Research, Be a Food Snob
Everyone hates a food snob—the one who sends their food back to the restaurant kitchen if it isn't cooked to a perfect medium rare, or the one who holds up the line at the grocery store asking the clerk if their produce is organic and GMO free. This is one time when it is permissible to be a complete and utter food snob. Maybe don't send your food back when meeting with prospective caterers, but make sure that you do plenty of research on what they offer, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
So where do you start? When you first sit down to compile a list of potential caterers, especially if you are from a larger urban area, the list can be intimidating. Don't be overwhelmed, and don't try to contact every caterer in the city with three or more stars on Yelp. First, you need to consider the style and formality of your event. What works for a small barn wedding may be completely different than what is served at a black tie event at the city center. A more elegant setting calls for more elegant cuisine—while honey smoked ham and mashed potatoes may be perfectly acceptable (and delicious) for a casual outdoor event, consider upgrading to a broiled salmon and potato croquette for a formal occasion. Narrow your catering options down based on their cooking style and whether or not it matches the vibe you are trying to portray at your wedding.
You will also need to consider the logistics of your reception dinner. Do you have the space to accommodate a buffet and the line that will inevitably form as a result? If not, do you have the extra money it will take to pay a catering staff to serve your meal to guests in their seats? If you are interested in a buffet, check with your caterer to see if they have all of the equipment necessary to serve one—buffet tables, chafing dishes, drink dispensers, etc. If you are considering the latter, make sure your caterer has enough people on staff to adequately serve all of your guests.
Check for Inclusions, Get Your Money's Worth
If you're going to commit to paying over $2,000 for a meal, you better be getting your money's worth. Catering prices are almost always set as a price per plate. Ask your caterer exactly what is included in that price; otherwise, you may find yourself paying for additional inclusions later. Does the per plate price just include the entree, or does it also include dessert? This is something to consider when buying a wedding cake as well. If dessert is included with your catering package, you may be able to save money and order a smaller wedding cake, which is also usually priced by the slice. Big bonus if your caterer provides plates, cups, napkins, and other serving utensils. Oftentimes, your caterer may work through a rental company (like us!) to provide these items for you and build them into the per plate cost. If not, make sure you factor the additional cost into your food budget.
If you plan on having a tasting with your caterer before booking, make sure you are aware of any extra costs or hidden fees. A lot of caterers will include this in their package, but if you are wanting to test multiple caterers before booking, there may be a small fee. Depending on how many caterers you intend to try out, this can quickly add up. Likewise, some caterers may charge extra for specialty items on their menu. If you have your eye on a particular dish, make sure you get a price on that specific meal rather than an average per plate cost because they may differ. Make sure you notify your caterer of any special allergies or dietary restrictions because this may play into the cost as well.
Lastly, make sure you understand what your caterer's policies and inclusions are regarding alcohol. Some caterers offer a full service bar as part of their repertoire, while others stick to the traditional three course meal. It is oftentimes cheaper in the long run to bundle your food and alcohol services for the wedding, but check with your caterer to see how their bar services will affect the overall pricing. Take note! Depending on what type of alcohol you plan on serving, your caterer may need to obtain a special liquor license. Most caterers with bar services included will already have one, but it doesn't hurt to double check.
Meet Your Caterer, Taste the Food
My father in law always says, "Never put your future in someone else's hands." No matter how many positive reviews they have or how many recommendations you've gotten from other brides, always make sure to taste the food yourself before confirming with a caterer. Everyone has different preferences, especially when it comes to food, and no matter how trustworthy these recommendations may be, not all taste buds are created equal.
On top of that, you want to make sure that your caterer shares your vision for what you expect for the wedding meal. While this could, theoretically, be accomplished over a series of phone calls, it is best to meet face to face to walk through all of the intricate details you may have planned for the day, like how many guests they will be feeding, the table set up, and the venue layout. Oftentimes, caterers will request to have a site visit for any venue they may not be familiar with, in order to get a better idea of the floor plan that their catering crew will be navigating on the night of the wedding.
Lastly, remember the common good.
While it is your day and your preference reigns supreme, keep in mind the rest of your guests. If your favorite dish is notoriously controversial, maybe save it for a post-wedding brunch with close friends and stick to one of the traditional favorites for the large wedding crowd. Us picky eaters would greatly appreciate it!
In all reality, you will more than likely be so busy chatting it up with your wedding party and your new husband at the head table, that dinner will be the last thing on your mind, but make sure you remember to eat! It sounds silly, but all the hustle and bustle of the day can take a toll once the adrenaline wears off, especially if you aren't taking care of your body.
After all of the work you are putting into finding a caterer, you owe yourself a good meal. Congratulations, and eat up!