10 Things You Should Always Ask a Wedding Caterer Before Booking Them
Once you've found your dream wedding venue, it's time to finalize all the other details that make up your special day, including hiring a wedding caterer. Given that food and drink plays a big role in how your guests enjoy themselves at your wedding reception—and will account for a good chunk of your budget—it's not a decision to take lightly. When you're researching potential caterers, remember: Not only should the food be delicious and plated beautifully, but your ideal wedding caterer must also tick a few other important boxes.
To help make the interviewing process a little bit simpler, we've created a list of questions to ask a wedding caterer before booking them to ensure you've covered all of your bases.
1. Are you available on our wedding date?
Your first question should always be whether your wedding date is available. After that, Andrea Correale, founder of Elegant Affairs in New York, advises asking if your wedding will be the only event on their calendar that day. Being the only event on that day means you'll get a more personalized service and experience.
2. Tell us about your wedding catering experience.
As with any wedding vendor, it's important to work with someone who knows what they're doing and will deliver on their promises. Don't be afraid to ask about their past experience. How many weddings have they catered? Have they catered events at your wedding venue? This is definitely a plus as they'll already be familiar with how things flow at the venue. Because you can't get a feel for their style by reading a menu, Correale also recommends asking to see photos of their entrees and plating to ensure it meets your expectations and style.
3. What types of meal service do you offer?
Whether it's a traditional plated dinner, family-style affair, casual buffet or cocktail event with just hors d'oeuvres, the meal service you decide on for your wedding reception will largely influence the overall vibe of the celebration. It's important to know if a caterer can accommodate a meal service style that matches your vision.
4. Do you provide all of the rentals?
In addition to delicious food, you'll also need all the necessary rentals to complete the dining experience. That includes tables, chairs, tablecloths, plates, flatware and glassware. Some wedding venues will provide these things. If your wedding venue doesn't, ask the wedding caterer if they provide them or can coordinate rentals as part of their package. If they will, Correale suggests asking about the style of these rentals to ensure it complements your wedding's aesthetic. If those items aren't to your liking, ask if there's an option to upgrade.
5. What's included in your package and what costs extra?
Transparency is key when booking any wedding vendor. Correale warns that there can often be additional fees or upgrade charges which can throw off your wedding budget. For this reason, ensure you're crystal clear on what you're getting as part of their package and if there will be any additional charges added to the invoice beyond what's stated in the proposal. For instance, appetizers, certain brands of alcohol, bar service, vendor meals, a champagne toast, a wedding cake and a cake cutting might cost extra.
6. Do you offer menu tastings?
Being able to taste and experience the wedding caterer's work firsthand might be the thing that seals the deal for you. This is why menu tastings are important. It's an opportunity to see the portion sizes and plating style, ask follow-up questions and offer feedback. Be sure to ask if there are any differences between the tasting meal and what will be served at your reception. There could be an additional fee for a menu tasting, Correale says, and they can be pricey, so make sure you check upfront. The same goes for wedding cake tastings.
7. Tell us about your catering staff and servers.
The wedding caterer's staff and servers are an important part of the package, as they'll be engaging with your guests throughout the reception. Important questions to ask include whether their staff has been properly trained and what they will wear on your wedding day. Correale also recommends asking about their server and bartender to guest ratio to ensure your guests are well taken care of during the reception.
8. How will the food be prepared on the wedding day?
Depending on the wedding caterer, the food might be prepared off-site and brought in or they may cook everything on-site before serving. For the latter, the wedding caterer may have specific water, power and resource requirements, so be sure to cover this during your interview.
9. Are menus fixed or can we create a custom menu?
You and your partner may have a particular vision in mind for your reception dinner, in which case this question is important. Most catering companies will happily make adjustments based on your style and preferences, such as allowing guests to choose their entrees, providing children's meals or having different food choices for guests with allergies or dietary restrictions. If they're not open to making your desired adjustments, they might not be the best caterer for you.
10. Do you have licenses and liability insurance?
The legal side of wedding planning isn't the most fun aspect, but it's vital that you cover it. Ask the wedding caterer if they have the proper catering license to be able to cater at your wedding venue, as well as liability insurance. If they'll be serving alcohol at your wedding, double-check that they have a liquor license, too.