Hello! I am Macy from To Travel & Beyond, and I am so excited to be guest posting for Mary while she is off getting married! I am a newlywed myself from Baltimore, Maryland and enjoy talking about all things wedding, travel and everything in between. Today, I am going to be focusing on the wedding potion of that and sharing a few tips on how to secure the perfect caterer. I am a Event and Wedding planner myself, so hopefully these tips will be helpful!An Event Manager is someone from the catering company that will be in charge of all timing behind the scenes for each hors d'oeuvre until the last slice of cake is served. It is essential to have someone in this role to work with your wedding planner throughout your big day. They should also be working alongside the waitstaff, chef, and cleaning crew.
You should start by picking a few caters within your budget. This information should always be given just by asking, if the caterer is hesitant to tell you if they are within your budget, they likely aren't. But don't worry, there are always ways to make sure you have a caterer that fits within your range, just make sure to ask all of the right questions from the start.Do they have an event manager on staff?
Find out how many staff per number of people will be present?
You always want to make sure there are enough waiters, bartenders and clean up crew present. Normally a catering company will have different groups of staff based on how many guests will be at the wedding. It is typically 1 server per 20 people.Are bartenders included in the price?
Bartenders have different qualifications than normally waitstaff, and they often are an additional cost if you will need more than the number typically included. Also, check if the caterer or venue require a bartender for every location of alcohol. For example, for my wedding we had 2 bars, a signature drink station, and a beer station. We were able to have the signature drink station without a bartender present, as long as they were the only ones to refill the jars with the drinks. But we also, had to keep the beer station next to one of the bars because only 2 bartenders were included in our catering package.
When do they need the final headcount?
I have worked with companies that needed the headcount anywhere from 2 months before all the way until 1 week before. If you are planning a wedding in a short amount of time, the longer deadline may not work for you, or it could cause extra stress. It is best to know this information as early on as possible in the vendor search process.
If the number of guest decreases, will you get a price decrease?
Some caterers will contract you for the first number of guests you tell them, and this number is only allowed to go up. Others will let you change the number of guests up until the deadline for the final headcount, and the price is able to decrease. For example, if you say you expect 150 guests, and only 135 RSVP that they will be able to make it, make sure your caterer will only be charing you for 135 guests vs 150 guests.
What are the price differences for buffet vs sit down vs family style?
There isn't really a way to tell which will be the most expensive, or the least expensive. Some caterers charge more for buffet, and others charge more for sit down dinners. This could depend on the number of options given for either,
Are linens included in the price?
This could also depend on your venue. If the venue only offers white or ivory linens, it is nice to know if the caterer has other options available at their disposal. Many caterers at least will have overlays, runners or napkins available in coordinating colors. If they do not supply them themselves, they will likely know where to get them from and can recommend you for a discounted price.Are there different prices for vendor meals or kids meals?
Depending on if you decide to have children present for your wedding, it is best to know if you will be able to have a discounted meal for them. Typically there are children's options at a lower price, but sometimes they will offer a smaller portion of the main meal for a cheaper price as well. The same goes for vendor meals, caterers will normally have a "box" option for your vendors for a discounted price, or you could offer them the same meal as all of your guests. From experience with other vendors, it means a lot for them to get the same meal as guests.Do they pass hors d'oeuvre or only have stations?
Depending on the style of your wedding, you may want to make sure passed hour devours are an option. Some caters will only have stations with appetizers once you have a certain number of guests. If you would like to make sure they pass some as well, add this to your contract, but keep in mind additional staff may be required.Do they supply the cake? Is there a cutting fee?
It is becoming more popular for caterers to supply the wedding cake, or at least dessert options. Make sure you know all of these options before searching for another dessert vendor. Many caterers will charge a cutting fee for a cake if it is not supplied by them, if this fee applies it will typically be a per person charge.Hopefully these were helpful as you plan your wedding or any other event!
Thanks again, Mary, for having me while you are enjoying all of your own wedding adventures!