This Is the Average Cost of Wedding Catering

Here's how much you should expect to pay for your wedding day food.
maddy sims the knot associate editor
by
Maddy Sims
maddy sims the knot associate editor
Maddy Sims
Associate Editor
  • Maddy writes for The Knot, with a specialty in beauty, sustainability, mental health and inclusivity.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Maddy wrote for several different publications, including Insider, Bustle, Real Simple and Apartment Therapy.
  • Maddy has a Bachelor's degree in magazine journalism and a Master's degree in health, science and environmental reporting (both of which are from Northwestern's Medill School ...
Updated Feb 28, 2022

Guests will remember an emotional set of vows and a wild dance floor, but oftentimes, they'll also remember a delicious wedding menu too. Whether you're hosting a casual brunch celebration, a restaurant-style soirée or a five-course dinner, the catering options are endless (and can certainly add up). So that you have a general idea of what to anticipate, here's the average wedding catering cost, according to an internal study.

So, how much does wedding catering cost? According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average cost of wedding catering was $75 per person. However, many couples deem food (and professional catering) a worthy expense. Fifty-seven percent of couples listed food and beverage as the most important priority while wedding planning (that's why doing a menu tasting with your caterer is so essential). And as couples are prioritizing the guest experience, they're spending more creating a memorable food and beverage experience.

Keep in mind that this number, however, is a national average. The amount couples spend on their wedding day food 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. For example, guests tend to spend more on catering per guest if they're hosting a destination wedding vs. a hometown event ($92 per person vs. $72 per person). Your meal's serving style will also factor into your total catering price: Sit-down meals are known to cost more than family-style or buffet-style service, though this isn't always the case.

More and more to-be-weds are leaning into making their wedding menus inclusive, with 57% of those surveyed saying they included gluten-free or vegan options—a major increase from previous years. Others who wed last year used their food as a form of guest entertainment. Eleven percent of couples had an interactive food experience, like a make-your-own nacho bar or a fun food station, and 4% wheeled in a food truck. All of these Insta-worthy installments affect the price of your wedding food—and thus the national average.

To-be-weds are also using their wedding food as a way to personalize their wedding. One out of four couples 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, you'll also make your wedding more eco-friendly since going local cuts down on carbon emissions. 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.

And of course, if you're calculating the price of your wedding catering, you'll want to consider late-night snacks. If you decide to have an after-party, your guests will appreciate this surprise. Options include anything from mini burgers to pizza to breakfast food. Check with your catering company and see their pricing. Late-night grub was popular last year, as a fourth of all couples served snacks after hours.

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. Psst: be sure to factor in the gratuity so that you have a clear idea of how much your wedding catering is going to cost.

You may also see some additional fees and charges on your catering package related to health and safety. Food safety has already been a priority for wedding caterers, but now it's even more important in the wake of the COVID pandemic. According to our study, 27% of couples adjusted how they served food to ensure guest safety, such as serving a plated meal as opposed to buffet-style service, or providing individual hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour. Forty percent required waitstaff and other on-site vendors to wear masks.

Catering costs may also see increases this year due to supply chain issues. From staffing shortages to rising food costs, the wedding industry isn't immune from those worldwide issues. Your best bet is to be as flexible as possible with your wedding menu, and trust your caterer to ensure your event runs without a hitch.

For the most part, you can make your own rules when it comes to wedding food (simply ensure you have enough to feed your guests of course). The grub at your nuptials should reflect your unique story. Whether that's your favorite pizza, a well-cooked steak or a vegetarian menu is totally up to you. If you're seeking catering inspiration, look to details of your love story like where you had your first kiss or what your go-to date night food is. Once you have an idea of what you'd like, contact potential caterers to see their pricing. And if you need extra help with your wedding spend, check out The Knot Wedding Budget Tool. Remember: sharing a special meal with all of your loved ones on your big day makes it all worth it.

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