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How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Caterer

Let's be honest here, people come to weddings ready to celebrate your love...but also to eat!

The food that you serve at your wedding is one of the things that your guests will be sure to remember. While choosing a caterer can be one of the toughest decisions you make, it can also be the most fun (& delicious)! This isn't something that you'll want to rush into, so make sure that you do your homework and take your time to choose the right vendor for your needs.

As is true with choosing most of your vendors, you will need to have a good idea of what your catering budget will be. If your budget it pretty tight, here are some ideas for how you can cut some costs:

  • Book with a special rate: Some vendors might offer discounts on their services during certain times of the year, or might offer a special rate to couples who visit them at a wedding expo or an open house event. If you're interested in a certain caterer, look around and see if they'll be at any events in the future that you could attend to receive a potential discount.

  • Opt for budget-friendly foods: Strategic menu selections can ultimately help you save the most money on your catering bill. Choosing entrees like chicken, pork, pasta, or BBQ over the much pricier steak and lobster options can help save you a lot of money. Rest assured that a great caterer can turn any menu into a standout meal!

  • Skip the plated dinner service: Many caterers will offer different styles of service options for you to choose from, and some services are much more budget-friendly than others. With a plated dinner service, the catering staff will pre-plate every meal for each guest. This option can be one of the more expensive ones because it will require more staff and potentially more plates and silverware. Also, depending on your menu, you might need to have guests choose their dinner entree ahead of time (which could mean extra costs for guest place cards with their menu preference noted on it). Family-style service is similar to a plated service, but the entrees will be served in larger platers and placed on the tables for guests to share and serve themselves. This option will be slightly cheaper than a plated service because you shouldn't need as many staff members and guests will only need one plate if your cool with having an entree and salad served together. This service style does make for really pretty tables! Pro-tip: Since you'll need room in the middle of your tables for the food to be set down, you can also save a bit of money of your centerpieces from your florist! An easy way to ensure that you'll be saving money is to opt for buffet-style dinner service. This style of service will allow you to not need as many staff members, ultimately saving you hundreds of dollars on labor costs!

  • Keep cocktail hour casual: Consider having platters or dips and skipping on the passed hors d’oeuvres. After all, who doesn't love a good charcuterie board!?

There a lots of ways that you can find potential caterers. Ask married friends for recommendations, check out the vendor guide on local wedding websites, ask your venue or other booked vendors for their preferred lists, or ask your favorite restaurant if they do catering. Once you have a couple of prospective caterers, set up a tasting so you can try out their food. Some companies will let you set up a private tasting where you can create a custom menu. While there is most likely a fee for this, you may be able to apply it as a credit to your final bill if you end up booking with them. If they offer it, attending a group tasting or going to an event that they are catering will save you some money. Whenever you go to a tasting, be sure to arrive HUNGRY! Many caterers will prepare the dishes the way that they will be presented the day of your wedding, which means lots of food! Enjoy!

Before a company gives you an estimate, you'll need to have a pretty good idea how many guests you'll have attending your event. Getting quoted for 200 when your guest count is actually 180 will make your bill look way higher than it needs to be. When looking over your catering quote, pay attention to some extra things that you may be getting charged for, like plates, silverware, linens etc. If you are already getting these things from somewhere else, make sure to have these items removed. If you choose to keep these extra things, remember that your overall catering budget might need to be a bit higher, but technically you'll be getting your "rentals" from your caterer too.

Here is a list of some top questions to ask your prospective caterers. Feel free to print it and take it with your to your catering appointments.

We hope this helps your begin or narrow down your search for your perfect catering match. To learn more about some of our favorites in the Houston area, be sure to check out our Feature Friday Instagram posts during the month of August. Happy Planning!

Photos by Amy Maddox Photography, Food prepared by Lisa Hedrick's Catering & Events

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