Are you overwhelmed and horrified by the prices you’ve been quoted to provide food and drinks for your wedding guests? It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some options to keep food and drink costs within your wedding budget.
Choose a wedding venue that lets you choose the caterer: Many wedding reception sites only allow you to choose from their preferred caterers, who may all be pricey (and who know they have limited competition). Before committing to a location, make sure you find out what they allow for catering and that their options fit your budget.
Hire a full-service caterer who will help you with more than just the food: Some caterers really go above and beyond, acting as wedding planners that will help you find the best prices on florists, a DJ, and rentals. They may also act as wedding coordinators to help make sure everything runs smoothly the day of. You shouldn’t expect a catering company to do this, but if you can find one that does, their expertise and extra work can save you time and money and help you put on a better event than you might have been able to otherwise.
Work with a company that includes or discounts rental items: When people serve catered meals, they will either need to rent plates, silverware, glasses, tablecloths, and so on or purchase disposable ones. Deep discount caterers will actually include most or all of these things in their prices, and many other caterers will offer you a deal as part of a catering package or be able to get you a deal if you work with their preferred rental company. For the price of nice disposableware, you may be able to borrow the real stuff, which will make your event seem a lot nicer.
Avoid popular days and times: Give a caterer a chance to work when they might not normally get any business and they might be more willing to give you a discount off their regular rates. At least choose a time when you won’t be competing with the Saturday-evening wedding crowd.
Avoid holidays when caterers are in high demand, like the winter holiday season: Caterers will be able to pick and choose their jobs then, and they will be less inclined to work with an individual on a budget when they could be working a corporate holiday party. Choose a wedding date when caterers aren’t likely to have other jobs.
Consider a less-experienced caterer: Companies looking to make a name for themselves have to do something to convince you to take a chance on them-and that something is often a lower price. The going rate for catering in your area might be $30 to $50 a head, but a newbie might only be charging $16 to $20 a head. Minimize your risk by interviewing the company thoroughly, asking for references, researching them online, and doing a tasting before putting down a deposit.
Get a detailed proposal that lists and breaks down all costs and all of the caterer’s responsibilities: Make sure the proposal is complete and that it specifies the amounts of any required taxes and service fees. Make sure that the prices are fixed and can’t be raised on you after you’ve agreed and paid your deposit. Also, be aware that some caterers will expect you to tip the servers “at your discretion” in addition to paying a 15% service fee.
Hire a company that lets you keep the leftovers: Some caterers will not give clients the leftovers under any circumstances because of concerns about food spoilage. But others will give you any leftovers if your wedding venue has a fridge where the leftover food can be stored at the proper temperature until you can take it home. There’s no guarantee that there will actually be leftovers, of course, but if there are, you can put them in your freezer, go on your honeymoon, and eat for free when you get home.
Remember — you’re the customer, and you’re probably going to be spending thousands of dollars. You want to choose a catering company who is excited to earn your business and willing to do things the way you want. You may have to look harder, but you can find a caterer you can afford.