7 Tips for Choosing the Right Caterer

Guests will likely forget what flowers you carried down the aisle and the music that was playing as they danced the night away, but they will most definitely remember their meal – good or bad. Choosing the right caterer is important not only for the quality of the food, but it will likely take the biggest bite (pun intended) from your budget and will dictate how much is left over for other wedding day must-haves. We came up with seven tips to help guide you through the process to get this to-do checked off your list.

Check their references – It’s true that you can’t please everyone all the time. There will always be someone with a gripe, bad experience, or unrealistic expectations. But taking a look at the overall reviews, or better yet, talking to someone who has used this particular caterer in the past, will give you a good idea of their level of service, quality and responsiveness.

Menu flexibility – Each caterer will have certain specialties and items they are known for. You definitely want to give those tried and true options serious consideration, but you also want a caterer who will work with your theme and preferences. Your caterer might be best known for their mac and cheese but you want something with a little more pizzazz. Find a caterer who is willing to make adjustments and work with your specific ideas and expectations.

Easy to work with – Find someone who listens, asks thoughtful questions, and treats you as a valued customer. Establishing a good rapport with your chosen caterer will allow you to have open and honest conversations about your ideas and expectations. Having the best food with the freshest ingredients is ideal, but if the caterer doesn’t return your phone calls or rolls their eyes at your suggestions, it might not be the right fit.

Ability to handle your specific type of event. If you’re planning an elegant, five course meal you definitely want to make sure the caterer in question has the ability and staff to pull off such a feat. On the other hand, if you want to keep things casual and light, you don’t want to choose a company that specializes in heavy, rich plated meals. Each caterer has their own style and expertise. Find one that most closely aligns with your vision and needs for your day.

Willing to provide tastings – You wouldn’t buy your dress without trying it on first, so you shouldn’t book a caterer without sampling the food. Testing a few options will give you an idea of their style, abilities and creativity. Request a wide variety of samples and don’t worry about offending them if you don’t like something or have other ideas. They want you to be happy! It makes their job easier down the road if they have a clear understanding of your preferences.

Familiar with your venue – There’s always a first time for everything, but your wedding shouldn’t be a trial run for any vendor. If you’re set on a venue, they will most likely provide you with a list of approved or preferred caterers. It makes sense to go with someone who is not only familiar with your space, but also has a positive working relationship with your other vendors. The last thing you need on your big day is a disagreement about buffet placement or extension cords. They will already have a process in place for layout, setup and cleanup, which means one less thing for you to worry about.

Policies, insurance, and contracts. Your potential caterer should have them all. It should go without saying that you shouldn’t go into this type of agreement on just a handshake. An experienced caterer will have contracts to sign, insurance for potential accidents or unforeseen issues, and policies to follow along the way. If not, this might be a red flag and you may want to move along to the next option.