I know you have a million things going through your head when planning your dream wedding. This post is for those going with an outside Caterer – here are some important questions + factors to consider before booking.
Most importantly; “Are you available?”
Of course, they need to be available for your date! Some people book a venue first, some people book a Caterer. Think about what is most important to the two of you and go from there.
“Is there a minimum charge?” or “Is there a minimum number of guests required?”
SO important. I’ve read contracts where the minimum is 100 guests or there is a charge of xxx dollars, keep in mind, the Catering company needs to ensure they are making it worth their while when booking during their busiest time and with everything being in smaller numbers currently.
Do they require me to obtain any food permits?
Alberta Health Services has all the information here.
Do you want plated or buffet options?
Some Caterers will only offer one or the other – don’t settle. Remember, you are bringing your vision to life. During COVID times, everything needs to ensure they are following the AHS guidelines – as of right now, buffets need to be served, meaning there needs to be a staff stationed, serving each guest.
What happens with dietary restrictions?
It’s inevitable. You are going to have dietary restrictions with gluten and vegetarian being the most common. It’s up to you to decide how important it is to be accommodating to all the other guests.
“Do costs include set up + clean up?”
The majority of Caterers, for weddings specifically, will include the clean up of all their items; chafing dishes, serving, utensils, etc. What happens with the guests’ items; plates, utensils, napkins, even empty cups? You may need to pay extra to have this service, but it’s better than having your guests having to clean up after themselves – they are there to enjoy the day too! This leads to the last important question.
“Will there be a catering representative on-site?”
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean a server/cook who will be in charge of serving food. This is someone who’s been dealing with you and who can answer any questions. I did a wedding a few years back, where the Caterer was responsible for bringing utensils – guess what they forgot. If it wasn’t for the owner of the Catering company on-site, the servers would have had no idea this was written IN the contract, and if it wasn’t for me…well I’m sure the couple would’ve been less than impressed.
“If you’ve already chosen a space, is the Caterer familiar with the venue?“
This will help with what else is needed to the Caterer and possibly you. If you’re having a BBQ style dinner, is there a BBQ available? What happens if there is no oven to keep the food warm? Set the Caterer up for success!
“Do you provide Bar Service?”
A lot of companies are able to provide bar service, if you are needing this as well, it’s worth an ask. Or remember this will be an additional charge in your budget.
ASK FOR REFERENCES!
Google is your friend. I always like to read the one-star reviews first. Yes, people are more likely to post the negative before the positive, but if 10/50 people are saying “they were late”… there is a possibility they will be late.
What happens if you needed to cancel? Emergencies happen. We are in a pandemic. It is better to be prepared and know what you are on the hook for, than have to cancel 3 months out to realize you lost the 50% deposit. Also, a great idea to have wedding insurance. PAL is cost-effective and very common amongst planners.
Now, remember, if you’ve hired a planner – and depending on your package – they can ensure most of this is taken care of! Yes, a planner is another cost but definitely worth it to ensure you are being taken care of.