Let’s be honest, we love food and because it is one of the biggest spends on your wedding budget, it’s important to know all the key questions when searching for a caterer! More than anything, you need to make sure things don’t get left out so you aren’t shocked with surprises later on. We made a list of how to find your food and beverage pro so when it’s time to start the search and when you are ready to start proposal shopping, we have your back AND your taste buds!
PRELIMINARY BACKGROUND QUESTIONS
Does the caterer have a license?
How long have you been in business?
Do you do multiple weddings in a day?
Have you catered at my venue?
Do you charge a traveling fee?
Do you have set menus? Can you customize anything on the menu? Can I see your sample menus and packages?
What is the average cost per guest for buffet, family style, food stationed, plated?
Do you have photos of your food items and food displays?
What are the charges for kids meals + vendor meals?
Do you provide wedding cakes or do you offer desserts?
Do you provide food tastings before we sign a contract? Is there a charge?
Do the menu prices include anything such as a water/tea/coffee station?
Do you bring and rent linens/chinaware/silverware/glassware/napkins?
Note: Some budget friendly caterers have basic packages that use disposable dinnerware instead of the real thing, so make sure you know exactly what you'll be getting.
NOW LET'S GET SPECIFIC
How much staff will you be getting for a guest count of ##?
Will you plate/serve us, as bride/groom?
Do you charge a cake cutting fee? Will you pass/serve the wedding cake from an outside vendor?
Do they through the entire event until the end or do they leave after food service? If they leave after dinner, can you pay more to have them stay until they cut the cake?
Note: Most venues require a full service caterer. They will want the caterer to arrive 2-3 hours prior to the ceremony and stay until the end is done and the venue is swept/mopped.
What is your policy for leftovers?
Do you set up tables and chairs for the ceremony and the reception? If the chairs have to be moved from the ceremony to the reception, are you able to do this?
If my event runs longer than contracted, what are your overtime fees?
Do you break down tables and chairs after the reception is over?
What is your policy on cleanup? What if there is not a dumpster on site?
Note: You’ll want to be very clear about what "cleanup" means and who's responsible for handling it. In most cases when you rent a venue, it will be your responsibility to leave the place as you got it and trust us, the last thing you want to do at the end of the night is clean up and take the trash out. You will want to make sure they are able to break down the tables and chairs at the end, sweep/mop and remove ALL trash including things like bar trash and florals.
What do you need on site as far as the catering kitchen goes? Any special appliances that you require?
Do you need the venue to supply any tables for your services?
What is your payment policy? How much of a deposit is required to hold my date? When is the final payment due?
When do you need the final guest count?
Are there any fees that won't be included in the proposal that we should be aware of? Does the caterer have extra charges, such as a security deposit, sales tax, admin or service fees?
What, if any, are the expected gratuities? Do note that tax and a service charges are added on to your final cost. The service charge, which can range 18–23%, is NOT typically used to tip the staff.
Once we book with you, how quickly can we expect a contract? And if we make changes to menu choices or other items, will you update us with a revised estimate and contract?
What is your refund or cancellation policy?
Do I need any special permits or items on site or that the venue must provide?
How are you operating under the DSHS Open Texas checklist, is there anything different being done now than before? Does this cost more?
QUESTIONS TO ASK REGARDING BARTENDING SERVICES
What kind of bar packages do you offer?
If they provide the alcohol - do you charge by consumption or per person?
Note: The bar adds up quickly so make sure you choose the best option to accommodate your budget and guests. Typically, you’ll be able to either BYOB or choose between a bar package (priced per person) or charged on consumption (per drink).
What brands of alcohol will be served?
Can you do a full bar with liquor, beer & wine, just beer/wine, OR beer/wine with a signature drink?
Note: If there is a certain brand or type of special bottle you want JUST for your fiancé and yourself, do they provide it or can you bring it for them to serve just to you two?
Can I purchase my own alcohol and does the caterer charge a fee for that?
Note: If you can bring your own alcohol, will they recommend how much and what types to buy based off of your menu?
How many bartenders are recommended? Can you do a separate bar in a separate location for cocktail hour?
Can you accommodate specialty cocktails?
Is there a separate price for glassware, ice, straws, bar napkins, garnishes, etc?
Do you charge a corkage fee if we provide our own wine or champagne?
Is the champagne toast after the ceremony included in your meal packages or is it extra?
Will your staff serve the wine with dinner and pour throughout?
How long will alcohol be served? Is there a time limit?
After the initial interview process, you will want to gather a few proposals to compare the companies before making a decision. Here are some questions and information to ask when gathering your proposals. We also recommend telling the caterers a little background on where you two are from, how you met, and what food & beverage you might want served on your wedding day. Most full service caterers love customizing menus for the couples, so now is the perfect time to wave your magic wand with your dream menu! Don't forget it is just as important to tell them what you DO NOT want!
Bride + groom name, phone number & email address
Wedding date, venue + timeline (Example: ceremony - 4 PM, cocktail hour - 4:30-5:30 PM, reception - 5:30 PM, dinner - 5:45 PM)
Estimated number of guests - adults + kids
FOOD ‣ Desired style of service - buffet, plated, family style, food stations ‣ Dietary restrictions to accommodate yourselves + guests - allergies, gluten free, vegetarian/vegan, etc. ‣ Focus on YOUR likes and dislikes - after all, it is YOUR big day and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to accommodate a menu for every guest. BUDGET ‣ What is your budget for food per person? ‣ Is that price per person before service charge & tax? ‣ Does that budget include the bar? ‣ Does this budget include additional rental items? ‣ What can you expect to put aside for gratuity? ADDITIONAL SERVICES ‣ Hors D’oeuvres - you may want to consider a few appetizers during cocktail hour (and while y’all are taking pictures, especially if the bar is open at this time too!) ‣ Dessert - whether it’s a wedding cake or a s’more bar, it’s a little easier for your caterer to also provide dessert (and it’s one less vendor you have to coordinate!) ‣ Late Night Snacks - it’s like a 4th meal, either to enjoy near the end of the reception, or for guests to take to-go. RENTALS ‣ Are they responsible for linens, prep tables, chargers, dishwater, glassware, flatware, napkins, cake knife/server, etc.? ‣ Is there an extra charge to pick up and drop off or a delivery charge? ‣ What are my options to upgrade/downgrade? CUTTING COSTS ‣ How can I have a full service caterer and where can I have a successful event, but bring cost down? ‣ Can I have disposable items like dishwater and glassware? ‣ If I buy my own linens/napkins, can you set them on the tables? ‣ Is it cheaper if we don't do a formal cake cutting/passing? ‣ Do I need champagne for everyone? Will it save us money to do toasts with the guests drink in hand?
Before comparing bottom line prices with each caterer, we advise you to compare apples to apples with everything that the caterer is providing. Even though some caterers will have a lower menu price, they may not include essential items to serve & eat and all of those items can add up quickly. Always remember that it’s your big day and you can’t please everyone so choose a menu that you want to eat on your wedding day! We WILL make sure that you actually sit down and enjoy the food on your wedding day.