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Catering for Your Wedding Reception

Updated on March 14, 2014

Food for a Wedding

Catering for Your Wedding Reception

Catering for Your Wedding

Statistics show, the things that most wedding guests talk about after a wedding is over, first is the bride in her lovely wedding dress, second is the look of the delectable wedding cake, and the third thing is the food served at the wedding. If you want the wedding to be an outstanding success you must find a really good caterer to serve your wedding. The food needs both to be visually appealing and taste good too! For a formal wedding, the meal served should be food that is not very commonly seen in one's home, the food served should represent a very special once in a lifetime occasion.

When you allocate your wedding budget costs, the food costs which includes your caterer, reception hall, wait staff, and all supplies, your chairs, tables, linens, dishes, and decorations usually eat up 50 percent of your total wedding budget. If you can find yourself a good caterer, you greatly increase the likelihood the chances of your wedding will be a rousing success.

Wedding Catering Tips

Types of Caterers for Weddings

There are basically five types of catering you can have to cover your wedding. The first type of catering is the caterer for sit down dinners. This type of caterer you will meet with and typically come up with three different entrees but all in different areas of the menu. You might come up with three different choices such as steak item, a poultry item and maybe a vegetable lasagna. Or the entrees could be a pork dish, an ethnic Asian dish, and a seafood. When invitations are sent out to wedding guests, entrée selections are included on an RSVP card of food choices.

If the wedding is a very large wedding, there might be four or five entrée choices. It is usually recommended to hire 1 wait staff member for every 20 wedding guests. You don't want wedding guests to see food being delivered to tables and have to wait a long time seeing food being delivered to them. For wedding guests to be happy, there needs to be enough wait staff to be served food fairly quickly.

For sit down dinners, there is a few variations on food being served. At some weddings, the serving of food could be a 7 course dinner and some a 12 course dinner. Every little bit a new food item is served at each wedding guest plates. The meal might start out with a salad, then a soup, then an hors d'oeuvre dish, then a shrimp cocktail, then a fruit cup, maybe a sherbet, then the main entrée, then coffee, and desserts beside the wedding cake. Usually a bread and butter is at the table. Four drink glasses are at the table including a water glass, a red wine glass, a white wine glass, and champagne flutes or a glass for a rose.

The other option that has become a little more popular in recent years, you have a main entrée dinner and then four hours after the main dinner and the dancing, another meal is served to wedding guests. This meal is a little different than the main meal, often it is an ethnic meal, it could be a taco Mexican meal, soul food, or an Asian dish, a lot depends on the ethnicity of many of the wedding guests. A different type of ethnic dessert that goes along with the meal also can be introduced.

The second type of catering at a wedding is a buffet table. All the foods served at the wedding are served from the buffet tables, hot food served using chafing dishes and many foods served in different types of platters and dishes. Usually the foods are presented on long rectangle tables. Sometimes the foods are set up on one side of the buffet table and some buffets foods are served on both sides of buffet tables. Buffet tables tend to be less costly than sit down dinners because not as much wait staff is needed.

The experts recommend to have a buffet serving table for about 50 to 60 guests each. If you have 150 wedding guests to feed, you should have 3 buffet table areas. You never want a wedding guest to have to wait in a long line and to take a while to serve themselves at a wedding buffet table. You want wait staff to monitor the chafing dishes, bowls, and platters and make sure they are never more than 3/4's empty. Always have the serving dishes showing food or you may have a wedding guest feel cheated from a delicious food and end up feeling slighted and not having a good time.

The third style of catering is station catering. Station catering become popular at many culinary schools and often station catering was set up at many corporate learning centers. The station catering concept became so popular they are starting to show up at weddings. The centers are set up with many food stations, usually a wait staff member is assigned a food station. At one station might be a huge carved roast or ham, another station is a huge salad bar, another all sorts of vegetables, another might be meat loaf and potatoes, another stuffed mushrooms, another skewered shrimp, another a taco stand, another a dessert bar, and so on. Usually one food station is set up for every 12 to 15 guests. For 150 guests you might provide 10 to 12 food stations. A wait staff and helper assigned to each one, to be sure food is always replenished and someone to help put food on one's plate. This style of catering tends to be more expensive than buffet tables but less expensive than sit down weddings.

The fourth type of catering for weddings is more for country style weddings. Instead of food being placed at each place setting, this type of food is set up like a Thanksgiving meal. Foods are placed in the middle of each reception table, meats on platters, vegetables in bowls. The servings of food are passed around the table. This style of catering is not popular for city or suburban weddings, but used in country weddings and barbecued style weddings. This format is good for breaking the ice of wedding guests that are meeting for the first time. These format is less costly than most types of catering.

The fifth style of catering has gained in popularity in recent years. Instead of serving dinner at a wedding, a meal of hors d'ouevres and appetizers are served instead. Many wedding guests just love these types of food which is called cocktail style catering. The secret is to introduce a new hot hors d'ouevres or cold appetizer about every five minutes, each food that is introduced out of the kitchen is fancy, varied and delectable. For a formal cocktail catering, you want to serve foods for the most part aren't very common, there are hundreds of hors d'oeuvres to choose from, choose varied meat choices, pastry choices, vegetable choices, seafood choices, cheese choices, pasta choices such as beef turnovers and dumplings with a unique stuffing, and a plate with fruit and prosciutto, etc. The key is to keep sending out foods each one different, something of a surprise.

Consult with your caterer with what hors d'ouevres and appetizers he would recommend. Ask your caterer if he/she has any specialties, what ones would be in season for the wedding, and if he offers any ones with significant discounts. Also at your cocktail catering, should you push the hard liquor, or should you push signature drinks, which 3 or 4 drinks you have chosen specially for your wedding, (to cut down on your alcohol bill) hopefully you have consulted with your big drinkers. You could also push red and wine for this type of event, you might think of having your wedding reception located at a local winery.

A Catering Station

Finding a Caterer for Your Wedding

Your decision on a caterer for your wedding, depends a lot on your reception location choice. Some caterers go with a reception facility, golf club or with a four and five star hotel. Sometimes you will be required to use a caterer from a preferred list. Some reception places, often unique venues such as art galleries, science museums, women's clubs, and outdoor venues you might use with a tent you can bring your own caterer.

If you can bring your own caterer, you want to target interviewing 3 or 4 caterers before deciding on one to book with. In your appointment interviews with each of the caterers, you should have an idea of what your food budget will be, you should have an idea on how many wedding guests you are planning to invite. You might include teenagers and children in a separate bucket, you might be able to order a less expensive entrée for them. You also might have some wedding vendors at your wedding, you might not have chosen them yet but you need to decide how you might feed them, will you serve them a wedding entrée or serve them something less expensive, or serve them nothing at all.

The wedding vendors that might work your wedding include photographers, videographers, wedding musicians, disc jockeys, your wedding planner, and possible an officiant and sometimes an officiant's spouse. Your wedding vendors might have assistants along too. Many wedding couples set up a wedding vendor table in a convenient location to their wedding assignment which is usually convenient to a dance floor and musicians station and for the photographer and videographer in a location to capture pictures quickly and for the wedding planner to give cues to the caterer when to serve the meal and cut the cake. The wedding officiant often seats with the bride's family.

When you star your meeting with your caterer, you want a meeting to feel each other out. You should have a comfortable feeling when you meet one on one with your caterer. You want to build a trusted honest rapport with them. You first want to get a feel on how the caterer operates, hear how they have handled other weddings, hear how they would handle your wedding, hear what foods they have on their menu, hear how they prepare their food, and how their food flow goes. You then should talk about how you envision your wedding, what foods you were looking to serve at your wedding and how you envision your wedding reception.

After you have each have given your overview, the caterer often will bring out their menu to show what foods are on their menu and often the price of the entrees on the menu. Some of the caterers will also bring a picture of the entrée. At a wedding the food needs both to be delectable and eye appealing. The caterer many times will have a specialty they are noted for, have promotions on certain foods and many foods will be in season at the time of your wedding and sometimes be of less cost. Some foods he gets are fresh and some come frozen.

Many of your better caterers will offer a food tasting to help you make a decision on food entrees. The food tasting usually occurs when the business is slow, often an earlier in the week period maybe a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday late in the afternoon. Sometimes food tasting are with other wedding couples and sometimes you will be allowed to bring family members and friends along, sometimes free and sometimes for a nominal fee. The food tasting allows you to sample most foods on the menu, and if you get serious on menu choices they will show you how the entrée will be shown on the plate.

When you meet with a wedding caterer give them a range in price you are willing to spend with the high number being your budget. With most caterers you will be talking with them on cost per person costs. Cost per person amounts can vary a lot depending on the food entrees chosen, an average per person food costs these days often are around $130 per person but can go anywhere from $25 to $5000 cost per person. When you give the caterer a range of prices, often they will target to come up with the mean of your high and low range amount.

In your meeting with your caterer, there is a lot to cover, more things that must be covered than most of your other wedding vendors. You need to cover all the foods that will be served with your entrees, and how do the foods get served sit down dinner, buffet, or food stations. You will review what vegetables and possibly starches go with the meal, what vegetables get served, soup, salad, fruit cocktail, shrimp cocktail, and flavored rolls and will you serve coffee or have a coffee bar and will you choose desserts long with the wedding cake.

After the food for the wedding has been chosen, next you need to review the dishes to serve the food on, do you need a salad plate and a salad fork, do you need a soup bowl and a soup spoon, a plate for flavored rolls and a butter knife, are dishes needed for anything else such as a shrimp cocktail dish. All dishes for the wedding place setting will need to be determined in your meeting with your caterer.

Next you need to review all the things the caterer can offer. Many reception places have supply needs covered and many do not. On the things not covered what can the caterer provide, can the caterer provide many of your supplies for the reception, does the caterer have chairs, tables, linens, dishes, cooking pots and pans, storage containers, ovens, preparation tables, refrigerators, serving dishes, cups and saucers, coffee urns, and things like salt and pepper and fine china and all the place setting dishes and glasses for water, wine, and champagne.

With all the supplies the caterer has mentioned, you need to check out all the supplies and determine if they are acceptable or not. It may be you don't like the china décor or the color of the dishes which are not the color of your wedding scheme. You need to determine if the supplies are good for your wedding or must go elsewhere to find supplies. You might have to go look at a rental supply store for certain supplies. Sometimes you just have to hold off on making a yes or no decision until you can investigate finding your color scheme elsewhere.

In your meeting with the caterer you might need to discuss with him/her, are there any foods on his menu that can suffice guests that have dietetic needs or maybe you have a few wedding guests that are vegetarians, can something be made special for them. Also, very often at weddings, there is so much food wedding guests ask for doggy bags, can the caterer accommodate them with take home containers and can wait staff prepare leftover containers or dropped at a wedding guest's place setting.

With some caterers you might need to talk bartender needs and wait staff they will be needed to handle the wedding and you might need valets for parking. You need to review everything with the caterer, you need to review everything needed in the kitchen, wedding reception room, and sometimes address valets, address the entrance way, the lobby, and outdoor spaces as you enter the venue space.

Hors D'oeuvres Inspirations

Where to Find Wedding Caterers


You can find wedding caterers in many wedding directories such as www.mywedding.com , www.weddingwire.com , www.theknot.com and a few other directories. You can also find caterers in wedding planning apps you can download from the Apple Store onto your mobile device. You can find caterers from search engines inputting local cities followed by the word "catering" or "caterer". You can ask family and friends if they recommend any or you can also find using local Yellow Pages.

If your wedding serves buffet style catering, encourage the wedding couple to serve themselves first, in many cultures, it is considered rude for a wedding guest to fill their plate before a wedding couple does. Event if the plate sits a bit at a wedding couple's place setting while they are in a receiving line, the flow of food can be fouled up at the wedding buffet table if the wedding couple waits to grab their buffet food.

There is a lot to cover with a caterer's contract. Make sure everything verbally discussed is also written into the contract. Bring along a companion to review the contract along with you. Besides reviewing the contract with you they are also a witness for the things in your contract. Make sure everything is covered food, supplies, and people needs. Review how tips are handled, often caterers will list them as service fees or service charges. Don't double pay tips.

Also see if you can bring your own bartender, waitstaff, and bring your own liquor. Often venues and caterers will jack up the price for overhead staff and pay a lot more than liquor. You might pick up liquor a lot cheaper but just as good beer, wine, and liquor at local breweries, wineries, and liquor stores. The bottom line, find a caterer you are comfortable working with and who is looking out for you, remember there are a lot of caterers in your area to choose from.

Catering Buffet Table

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    • twilanelson profile image

      Twila Nelson 3 years ago from Carmichael, California

      I'll be reading every word of this spectacular Hub. Although we are not planning for a wedding soon we are planning for an 18th birthday party and a graduation party and my daughter expects it to be wonderful. Thank you for sharing your expertise.

    • twilanelson profile image

      Twila Nelson 3 years ago from Carmichael, California

      Excellent Videos. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Candice Harding 3 years ago

      It's so important to start looking for a catering service as early as possible. The interviewing alone is a pretty serious time investment. But, of course, it's completely worth it when you find your perfect menu and caterer.

      Candice Harding

      http://www.austingourmet.ca/en/

    • profile image

      Will Jenkins 2 years ago

      I have a wedding reception coming up that has me nervous! I'm just starting to get to the catering arrangement planning. I really want to find the right type of catering and food for my guests.

      Will Jenkins http://www.fiveforksmarket.com/catering/

    • profile image

      James Lisbon 2 years ago

      Thanks for the article. I had no idea that there were so many different types of catering for weddings. It has been awhile since my wedding, but I remember we wanted to have good food available to people. Based on what I remember people saying, I think our food turned out pretty good. My wife may have had to consult with a professional on what to serve, but I'd have to ask her to be sure. http://www.selfimpressionscatering.com

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