Choosing the Best Caterer for Your Wedding

Top Tips for Deciding Which Caterer is Right for You

Your big day has come and gone. Your dress was fabulous, the officiator was funny, in just the right way, the flowers were beautiful, and the whole wedding day was everything you hoped it would be. The only thing you wished you had spent more time researching? The caterer. The chicken was rubbery, the mashed potatoes lumpy, and the green beans were ice cold. Unfortunately, wedding guests will remember the food, almost as much as they will remember the wedding itself.

So how do you go about hiring the best caterer? What questions should you ask and what should you expect when you retain a caterer? Michael Tapia, co-owner and founder of the restaurant Kindness at the Owyhee, suggests a number of tips to help you get the best caterer for your event.

Budget

Before contacting caterer have a clear understanding of how much you are prepared to spend. Matching your expectations with your budget will go a long way in getting you what you want. Ask yourself how many people you plan to invite. Do you intend to have a bridal luncheon, heavy hors d’oeuvres in the afternoon, or a fully plated and served sit down dinner? The luncheon may be a less expensive way to go. The heavy hors d’oeuvres, because of the labor to make them, could be more expensive than you would think. Of course the sit down dinner would be the most expensive. The kind of entrée you choose, will also greatly impact cost. A filet mignon will be much pricier than almost any chicken dish. If you definitely want a sit down lunch or dinner, consider having a buffet. It will cut your price because you won’t be paying for wait staff.

Choosing a Caterer

Tapia, a 20-year catering veteran, suggests that you consider using a wedding planner.

“Your wedding maybe the biggest party you ever throw,” explains Tapia. “Planning a wedding is a vocation. You want to find a wedding planner that will be an advocate for you.” You can Google wedding planners in Boise. Wedding planners usually have a list of caterers that they have worked with and whom they trust.

Whether or not you use a wedding planner, you will still need to interview caterers.

If you have already chosen a reception location, talk to the venue about what caterers they recommend. Ask if you get a cost reduction on the room, if you use the venue’s restaurant or caterer. Choose two or three caterers to interview. Make sure you are comfortable with the caterer. Let them know if you have any specific dietary requirements, and ask to have a tasting of two of the entrees that you are considering. Usually caterers will offer a complimentary tasting for up to four people. You can ask for a more custom tasting with a number of different food items, but be prepared to pay for it.

Remember each caterer will have a base catering menu. Selecting your entrees from this menu is usually the most economical option. Anything that you request that is not on the base menu is considered custom, therefore more labor intensive and more expensive.

Also, remember to book your caterer early. The best caterers will be booked well in advance, especially during the high season of weddings, May-September.

Signing the Catering Contract

When signing a contract with a caterer be firm on the date you’ve chosen for your wedding. You will likely be asked to provide a deposit. Every caterer is different, but the closer you are to the date of the wedding when you either cancel or change the date, the more likely it is that you will not receive a refund. You can expect around a 20 percent service fee on the contract for wait staff and bartenders. Service fees will most likely be included in the final invoice. Go over the contract line by line to make sure you understand everything you are being charged for, and watch for hidden fees.

Lorie Nies Pettiette is the owner of Nies Partners, a media relations firm with offices in Boise and Chicago.