Fourteen Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Food and catering typically comprise one of the largest portions of a wedding budget. Whether it’s a local vendor who provides cuisine specific to your wedding theme or a full-service caterer equipped to help make your day seamless, asking the following questions can help to ensure your wedding food and
reception will be unforgettable for you and your guests:

Do you specialize in a certain type of food or serving style? Whether you’re looking for a certain serving style or a specific cuisine to coordinate with your wedding theme, it’s important to find out how your caterer typically handles receptions. Ask if menus are set or if there’s the option for customization.

Can you make a family-favorite recipe for our reception? Some caterers are willing and able
to recreate the dish on a large scale for all of your wedding guests if you provide them with the recipe.

Have you previously worked at our wedding venue? Many venues provide a list of preferred or exclusive caterers while other locations may not have any restrictions. Make sure the caterer has at least done a walk-through at the site to know how the kitchen is set up, where their staging area will be and how the reception will be laid out. And if you’re still on the hunt for the perfect wedding venue, your caterer may be able to point you in the direction of a location that can accommodate your guest list
and wedding theme.

Are you licensed and insured in the state of ___? Some venues require proof of insurance for outside vendors and/or a liquor license if there is going to be a bar. You will want to make note of this early and discuss this requirement with your caterer prior to booking.

Will someone be there to oversee the event? On the day of the wedding, it will be important that someone experienced is there to coordinate the event from set up to break down to ensure that everything runs as planned.

Can you break down the anticipated costs of our reception? It is crucial to determine what is included in the cost per person, any staffing and/or set up expenses and whether or not equipment rentals are included. When discussing rentals, be sure to inquire about color options to customize your event and match your color scheme.

What are your payment policies for deposits, cancellations, overtime and gratuity? Figuring out the company’s payment methods and policies will help to make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to securing your wedding date, as well as financial expectations.

Do you provide any additional services to help coordinate on the day of the wedding? Catering companies vary greatly in terms of their additional services. Some are associated with restaurants and/or specific cuisines and provide food service only. Others may act as full-service
caterers who provide optional services such as event coordination and/or design, as well as assist with finding and booking other vendors, such as florists, DJs or bands, photo booths and chocolate fountains.

Can we provide our own alcohol? Is there a corking fee? If your venue and/or caterer allow
you to provide your own alcohol, stocking your own bar can be a great cost-saving solution. Just make sure to ask about any fees that may drive up the cost.

Is the wedding cake included in our package? Some catering companies provide beautiful and delicious wedding cakes that are perfect for couples who appreciate a good “one-stop shop.” But if you have a specific baker in mind, be sure to address this early in the planning. If you are providing your own cake, ask about a cake cutting fee so there are no last minute surprises.

What is the usual ratio of staff to guests? The answer depends on the size of the event, serving style, menu demands and equipment needs. However, by asking up front, you’ll have an idea of what to expect and understand how the caterer works to ensure a smooth dining experience for all of your guests.

Is it possible to set up a tasting? Most catering companies provide some sort of tasting experience for their clients either prior to booking or before the event to finalize your menu choices. When arranging your tasting session, inquire how many food options will be available, if there are any associated costs and
how many guests can participate.

When do you need a final head count? This will help you to determine when you need your RSVPs so you have time to contact any stragglers and submit your final numbers to the caterer in time for preparation for your event.

What happens to the leftovers? Unfortunately many couples do not get the opportunity to enjoy as much of the delicious food because they’re so busy mingling with their guests. Having the catering team package any leftovers for you and your new spouse is a great way to make sure you get to have your cake and eat it too!

Michael Evans is the owner of Helga’s Caterers in McLean. To schedule a consultation, call 703.556.0780.

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