Before your attendees dive into the delicious array of food that you've envisioned for your wedding, you'll need to secure a caterer that meets you and your future spouse's needs. To help you with your search, we've compiled a list of important topics you'll want to discuss with prospective companies. How they respond will help you make the right choice for your celebration.
1. What can you prepare within our budget?
One of the largest line items in your wedding budget will undoubtedly be food and drink. Before you get started with the finer details, let the caterer know what you're comfortable spending, so they can give you an idea of what they can prepare for you within that amount.
2. Do you have a specialty cuisine or item you think we should consider?
Maybe you thought you would serve one type of meal, but you start talking to your wedding caterer and she informs you that she specializes in something different and it'll work out to a similar cost. Each caterer usually has a specialty, so inquire about what they love to cook.
3. What do you require from the venue?
Get a thorough list of what the catering company would need, such as appliances, dishes, and even parking spaces.
4. What are you licensed for?
Paperwork is the least fun part of wedding planning, but it has to get done. Talk to your wedding caterer about what they're licensed for (liquor, etc.) and what you'd need to provide.
5. What type of contingency plans will be in place?
Back-up plans are always a good thing for things like illness, traffic delays, and staffing issues. Ask them about what they have in place in case one of these unfortunate (albeit rare) incidents occur.
6. Do you prepare meals for special diets?
If you're worried about guests with dietary restrictions, make sure to inquire about what they can make for those people. If they don't prepare special meals, you can always get those dishes elsewhere, but it's good to be aware before you make your decision. Bonus points if you survey your attendees beforehand (through your wedding website, perhaps?) and come prepared with a list of specific needs.
7. What do you do for staff/vendor meals?
While it's proper for you to provide meals for key vendors like your wedding planner and photographer, it doesn't have to be the same one that you're serving to your guests. Many caterers will offer a more affordable, but still tasty, staff or vendor meal.
8. Is it possible that you'll book more than one wedding on my wedding date?
While it's not a dealbreaker for many couples, it's helpful to know if your caterer is coming to your event directly from another wedding, or will be leaving at a specific time.
9. Do you have additional service fees (cake cutting, corkage, etc.), if I opt to go to different vendors for my alcohol and cake?
Laws vary from state to state about who can serve alcohol and where it's purchased. Make sure you're clear with your caterer and/or alcohol vendor about your state's requirements. Also ask about various service fees so unexpected items aren't tacked to the bill later.
10. Can you please breakdown your costs for me? For example, is gratuity for servers included?
Again, all of these tiny items add up. For many companies, bartending staff normally puts out a tip jar. If you'd prefer to cover that cost yourself, then negotiate ahead of time. Ask for a detailed list of all anticipated costs.