The Average Wedding Catering Cost, Based on Data From Real Couples

Here's how much to save for your wedding.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Feb 22, 2024

Whether you're hosting a casual brunch celebration or a five-course dinner, the catering options are endless and can certainly add up. That's why it's a good idea to have an estimate of the average wedding catering cost, so you know what to expect when you begin your search on The Knot Marketplace. Guests will remember an emotional vow exchange and a wild time on the dance floor, but they'll never stop talking about a delicious wedding menu. So while you're in the process of finding your dream wedding caterer, use this article, which gathered data from The Knot 2023 Real Weddings Study that surveyed nearly 10,000 newlyweds, to answer all your questions. Learn what's included in catering packages, what aspects impact the overall cost and how the average has changed over the years.

In this article:

Average Wedding Catering Cost

So, how much does wedding catering cost? According to The Knot 2023 Real Weddings Study, the average price was $85 per person. There wasn't a big difference in the average cost when the wedding guest count came into play. For weddings with one to 50 guests, the average catering cost was $85 per person. For weddings with 51 to 100 guests, the average was $84 per person. Couples with over 100 loved ones on their guest list spent $86 per person on average.

Many couples deem food (and more specifically, professional catering) a worthy expense. 62% of couples said food and beverage were the most important to them during the wedding planning process (that's why doing a menu tasting with your caterer is so essential). 75% of married couples wanted their guests to be taken care of and have a good time, so spending more on creating a memorable food and beverage experience helps achieve that goal.

What Is Included in the Wedding Catering Price?

Numerous things can be included in a wedding catering package. Food, beverages (this could be alcoholic or non-alcoholic selections) and waitstaff are customary for just about every catering vendor. What's required of the waitstaff varies—they can be involved in setting up, tending the bar, clearing tables and much more. Whether or not you have menu tastings and a custom or fixed menu impacts the final price as well. Rentals like dinnerware, tables and chairs, can be in the total wedding catering price too. Having staff help with a champagne toast or cake-cutting ceremony are typically add-ons. If you're wondering if vendor meals are in catering packages, the answer is yes. Usually, the catering company takes care of its staff, but other on-site vendors like the photographer, videographer and DJ will require a hot meal.

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You may also see additional fees on your catering package related to health and safety. Food safety has already been a priority for wedding caterers, and couples are making sure their guests' safety comes first too. Our study found that couples were more likely to take health and safety guidelines into account when deciding on a caterer versus deciding on other vendors. In fact, 10% of couples said it was the most important feature to consider when choosing which caterer to contact.

Remember to take note of what you want out of your wedding food and beverage experience so that when you speak with your caterer, you'll be on the same page once the package is finalized.

Wedding Catering Cost Considerations

The average wedding catering cost varies widely across the country. Catering prices differ based on the number of guests you invite, the wedding venue you've chosen, the type of celebration you're having and the food service options you choose. Read below to see how different aspects of a wedding impact the wedding catering bill.

Hometown vs. Destination

Guests tend to spend more on catering per guest if they're hosting a domestic or international destination wedding vs. a hometown event. For domestic and international destination weddings, the average catering price was $102 per person, while for hometown celebrations, it was $81.

Guests With Restrictive Diets

More and more to-be-weds are leaning into making their wedding menus inclusive, with 61% of those surveyed saying they accommodated guests with restrictive diets—a steady increase on previous years. This includes gluten-free desserts to entire vegan menus.

The Sweet Stuff

In 2023, desserts were in (and long may it last). According to our study, 64% of couples provided guests with a dessert other than wedding cake, and 50% had an entire bar or table devoted to sweet treats. Think: cookies, pies and all that good stuff. If you want to wow your guests with a showstopping dessert table, make sure to factor that cost into your overall food budget.

Interactive Food Experiences

12% of couples had an interactive food experience, like a make-your-own taco bar or a fun food station, and 4% had a food truck. All of these Insta-worthy installments affect the price of your wedding food—and thus the national average.

Locally Sourced Products

Almost one out of four couples (24%) reported incorporating locally sourced products such as craft beer, produce or regional oysters (even Jennifer Lawrence did this at her Rhode Island nuptials). Not only is it a great way to pay homage to your wedding's location, but you'll also make your wedding more eco-friendly since going local lowers your carbon emission output.

Incorporating Food Based on One's Background or Culture

Couples also incorporated their backgrounds into their wedding menus, with 14% of couples honoring their hometowns or their respective cultures through the menu. Our respondents reported serving everything from samosas to Philly cheesesteaks.

Late-Night Snacks

If you're calculating the price of your wedding catering, you'll want to consider late-night snacks—a popular wedding food trend in recent years. If you decide to have an after-party, your guests will appreciate this surprise. Options can include anything from mini burgers to chicken and waffles. Check with your catering company and see their pricing. Late-night grub was popular in 2023, as 26% of couples served snacks after hours.

Catering Rentals

Rentals like linens, cutlery sets, dishes, and service may bring the overall price of wedding catering up, so be sure to talk to your vendor about what their wedding catering packages include. Be sure to factor in the gratuity so you have a clear idea of how much your wedding catering will cost.

How Has the Cost of Wedding Catering Changed Over the Years?

The average catering cost for a wedding increased from $75 per person to $85 per person between 2022 and 2023. There are several reasons for the $10 jump, such as supply chain issues and inflation costs. The wedding industry hasn't been immune from those worldwide issues, with knock-on effects like rising food costs and staffing shortages. Your best bet is to be as flexible as possible with your wedding menu and trust your caterer to ensure your event runs smoothly.

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