You might remember the vows or the kiss as the highlight of your wedding for years to come – but your guests will remember the food! No pressure or anything, right? Here we’ll narrow down the four most important decisions you’ll need to make in the early stages of catering consultation. You’ll want to start getting ideas as you shop around for caterers, and you’ll finalize these decisions around the time you book your caterer.
1. How does our budget inform the big picture?
This decision will influence the service, style, and layout of your catering. To accommodate a very limited budget, you may want to minimize staff or opt for a buffet. My husband and I chose to serve a buffet of hearty hors d’oeuvre to fit our small budget, and we were quite happy with it! However, there’s much to be said for the convenience of plentiful staff and the elegance of a plated meal. Decide what your priorities are, in light of your budget, and stick to it. If you want a lavish affair and you can afford it, don’t let anyone talk you out of the best service and most elegant presentation you can find. And if you have to sacrifice something, don’t let it be the quality of the food itself! You should be able to get delicious fare for any budget by strategically cutting other aspects of your wedding spending.
Or would you rather send your taste buds to Mexico, India, or Japan? Many caterers now offer international cuisine options. In addition, creative presentation is on the rise, and you should be able to find a caterer who offers hibachi, carving stations, or other ways of creating a more lively dining experience. If you make a decision about this before booking a caterer, you’ll be able to narrow your search to those caterers who offer the cuisine or serving style you want at your wedding.
3. How will we accommodate guests’ dietary restrictions?
My husband’s cousins have celiac disease, so it was important to us that we offered gluten-free options. While you may not have RSVPs back at this stage, you’re probably aware of one or two dietary restrictions you can expect to see – if dad has diabetes or Aunt Ruth is a strict vegan, for instance. The sooner you plan for these, the friendlier your menu will be for your guests.
4. What do we need our caterer to do besides cook food?
I’d suggest grabbing a pen and brainstorming a few answers to this question. Okay, you’re back? Did you start to realize that you needed to know a lot about your venue, vendors, and overall reception style in order to answer this question? I hope you did! Some answers are pretty universal – someone will need to set up and tear down the table settings and buffet or serving stations, for instance. But what about setting place cards? Serving other vendors? Cake cutting? Planning with the venue in advance? Non-standard decor needs? Keep brainstorming about this, and use both the Internet and your caterer as resources.
These are, of course, only a few of the many decisions you will make along the way. But once you have these in place, everything else is, well, icing on the cake.