Choosing the best caterer for your wedding day.

1. Where do I start when choosing a caterer?

Most venues or marquee companies will work and recommend a small number of caterers with whom they have a trusting relationship. Working from a recommendation is always the best way to start the ball rolling. Contact a few companies by phone. This means you can ask key questions, so that the information that they send you will be what you are looking for. It also gives you an indication of how the company works, how helpful they are and how professionally they can deal with your requests.

2. What is the next step?

Set up a meeting. If possible ask the caterer to come to you so you are in the comfort of your own home and can relax. These meetings should always be no obligation and following this first contact a more detailed proposal and quote should be provided.

3. What about budget?

Each caterer quotes in a different way and pricing can be very confusing. Make sure menus are priced simply and include everything. The only extra costing could be if the event is in a marquee. This is because kitchen equipment will be required, as it is usually supplied by the venue. Menu prices should include: the crockery, cutlery, white table linen, linen napkins, waiting staff, chefs, event management for the day and time spent planning the big day.

5. How do we select a menu?

Budget is always a key factor when selecting a menu. A good caterer will price menus on a sliding scale which will be based on items included in the dishes. You can mix and match these to create the perfect menu. If there is something specific you want; ask about bespoke menus. Your caterer should be able to guide you through the menu with ease, making suggestions based on your ideas and their expertise. You should be creatively included in the planning process, but they will have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t. Don’t forget that you are employing a professional who will have been doing this for years, so use their knowledge as much as you can.

6. When do we need to confirm our chosen menu? 

The menu should be confirmed by the final meeting – usually four weeks before the wedding day. Most brides and grooms want to confirm even earlier so menus can be printed, but it can be done nearer the time. Most bride and grooms have an idea of what they would like but as we all know, the details during the planning process change – sometimes daily! Your caterer should offer as many meetings with you as you need during this process.

7. How do we ensure good service?

Ask if your caterer uses agency staff. If they do, ask about the level of training they go through. A good caterer should put all staff through a formal training programme on a regular basis to maintain a high level of service throughout the company. The catering company should offer a designated event manager, who is there to take care of you and your guests’ needs on the day.

8. What if my guests have special dietary requirements?

A good caterer will offer an extensive vegetarian and vegan menu, and endeavour to reproduce the chosen menu. They should replace produce that causes problems for your guests. It shouldn’t be a problem for your caterer to use products such as soya milk or cream for dairy free guests, or rice flour for gluten free guests.

9. What about payment, contracts etc?

Every caterer will request a deposit to secure a date. However, you should be able to keep a date on hold whilst deciding who to use. Before the deposit is paid, you should have received a copy of the company’s terms and conditions. They will require the deposit and a signed copy of this to secure the booking. This is not only important for the caterer, but for you as well. You should be given a copy to keep and check at a later date should you need too. Most caterers expect the majority of the bill to be paid before the event. Many have an estimated payment sent four weeks, but due two weeks before the event, giving you time to get your finances in order. The remaining balance is payable after the event, which gives you time to relax on honeymoon, not worrying about the bill!

10. With so many to caterers, how do we choose?

You should feel comfortable with the company you select and feel sure they can deliver what you want on the day. Trusting in the person who will ultimately be running the wedding is paramount. Flexibility and helpfulness are key factors too. You should feel like you have control of the plans all the way through. Professionalism speaks volumes about a company. You should feel they are taking good care of you throughout the entire process.Words by Michelle Birch from Barretts Catering

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