Top Tips on how to find the Wedding Caterer that is right for you!

Congratulations, you’re getting married!  Now, all you have to do is plan a wedding that everyone will enjoy.  No big deal, right?

Putting together a wedding may be one of the most stressful things you will do.  However, if you take a deep breath and relax, you’ll be enjoying all of this in no time.  Hiring a caterer is a large part of your budget, so here are a few tips on how to find one that’s just right for you.

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Where to start?

A lot of us have never worked with a caterer before, so just finding one can be a hurdle.  If your reception is at a hotel or country club, the facility will more than likely have its own caterer.  Check them out, but keep in mind their first loyalty is to the facility, and your bargaining powers are limited.  Ask florists and wedding photographers for recommendations.  They work in the industry and undoubtedly know some reputable names.  If your favorite restaurant caters, they are a good choice, because you are already familiar with them, and they know you.

Make Appointments!

 Be sure to make appointments with several caterers.  It’ll give you idea of what is available in terms of service and food.  When you call, give the caterer an estimate of your per-guest budget. If you have an idea of the type of food you would like, ask for some sample foods to be prepared for your initial meeting.  Since this is a very busy time for you, and it’ll save you a second visit for the purpose of tasting.  The sample menu should include appetizer, entrée, and dessert.  By the way, if you have a friend who is a gourmand, that’s the person to accompany you to the caterer.  That friend will probably be an experienced judge of a variety of foods and can give you good input.

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If the caterer charges you for a sampling, don’t hesitate to ask why.  There might be a good reason, but test menus are the norm, and you might want to be careful of a caterer who doesn’t provide one. 

How to save money on your food bill!

Caterers aren’t cheap, but there are ways you can save money.  If you are able to schedule your wedding during a ‘down time,’ i.e., not on a Saturday night or during a holiday season, you have more financial bargaining power, as the caterer might be more anxious for some business during that time period.  Also, don’t reject an inexperienced or new caterer out of hand.  Such a person could very well be an outstanding chef just starting his or her business and might be happy to get the job at a fraction of the standard price.  Since a good reference will be critical to a ‘newbie’ caterer who is vying for business, he or she will more than likely bend over backward for you.  It’s a good option, just make sure you this person can cook up to your standards.  Ask what his or her specialty is and give it a try.

Consider having a wedding buffet instead of a sit-down dinner.  A sit-down meal is more formal, but a buffet gives people a chance to mingle.  Also, with so many people on special diets, going gluten-free, or vegans, a buffet gives them a wider selection of food from which to choose.

Remember the extras! 

Ask your would-be caterer whether he or she provides rentals and/or liquor, how many servers there will be, and how much time will be needed to set up and take down.  Also ask about deposit and refund policy.  A good caterer should refund the deposit if notified within a reasonable time-frame.

tips to see if your carterer is right for you

Making your decision. 

Once you have interviewed five to six prospective caterers, you are in a position to make a decision and to barter.  If the caterer who did the best tasting doesn’t meet some of your other qualifications, such as set up, price, etc., now’s the time to bargain from strength.  You have several others who want your business.  Suggest to your top choice that you would consider a hire at a somewhat reduced price.  It never hurts to ask, and the answer may surprise you.  Few businesses are willing to loose a job over a few dollars.
With a little bit of effort, your wedding meal will be a memorable and successful event.

About the Author: Virginia Fidler writes about the best Hudson Valley ceremony and get tips for starting a wedding business here.

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