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The type of food served at your wedding and its presentation can add a touch of personal flair that guests will not soon forget. On the other hand, a bad catering experience can really dampen the party. Part of ensuring a good wedding day feast starts with selecting your caterer.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are always a great way to start looking for the right caterer. Talk to wedding professionals such as venue managers and cake makers to see if they have any strong endorsements for a certain company. Your videographer should have video footage of wedding receptions which includes the presentation of meals, servers/wait staff, buffet tables, table settings, bartending. If they’ve been in business for over 13 years, like me, they’ll have any caterer you’re considering in their archival video footage. (We get shots of appetizers & dinners being served, featuring food, services and creative displays. I wish we had “smell-a-vision 😉 Talk to friends and family who have planned catered events and see if they strongly prefer to work with someone in particular. If you are looking to have a certain type of food to be catered, say Indian cuisine or authentic Mexican, and don’t know anyone who could point you in the right direction, give your trusted local restaurants a try. Many of them offer catering. When you have made a list of potential caterers, set up an interview with each of them.
The funnest part of the interview is the taste-testing, especially if you are a “foody” like me. Try the chef’s special. Experiment with regional foods and seasonal produce. Have fun but don’t forget about other important information gathering. Does the food taste and look fresh? Your caterer wants to impress you so if she isn’t very impressive now, she probably won’t be later either. Do they include bar service or will your banquet hall do that? (Crosley Mansion on Sarasota Bay requires that you use their liquor license and bartenders.) Find out how long the catering business has been established. You don’t want to risk your big day to an amateur. Always hire wedding professionals with the experience, creativity & right equipment to do the job.
When you meet with the caterer, talk money too. There are some dishes that you’ll try that will taste great and make for a fabulous presentation but you’ll need to know if those dishes are affordable for 300 guests. If not, ask her for creative suggestions that will still make a great presentation. A true professional will have creative ideas and suggestions that fit within your theme and budget.
Once you have decided on a particular caterer, start nailing down the specifics. Figure out exactly how many course you’ll have and how you want to be served (buffet or not). Once you have worked everything out, a verbal agreement will not be enough. Get a written contact that includes everything. It should state the date and time, all food items – course by course, agreed upon services that will be provided (linens, waiters, cake cutting, wine corking?) and the fees for each. A specific number of guests will not be included in this contract as you need to give your guests ample time to RSVP. A specific number should be given to the caterer a week or so before the wedding takes place. Ask her for a deadline to be sure. Remember to include meals for the band members or DJ, photographer and videographers. It’ll be a late night for your wedding vendors and they will do a better job for you with proper nutrition. Besides, no one wants photos of themselves eating, so it’s a good time for your photographer and videographer to take a break.
When your wedding day arrives, make sure you actually eat the food. No kidding – Some brides and grooms get so busy drinking, dancing & mingling that they never even get to try the feast. Trust me – I know from experience!
~ article & freeze frame photo by Leslie Harris-Senac of Visions Unlimited Video Productions, Inc.; married 14 years and going strong!