Today's Bride

10 Things To Know When Choosing Your Catering


Choosing your catering and menu can be one of the best tasks when it comes to wedding planning – especially since you get to taste some of your options! But between the excitement and the unknown, you can easily make some mistakes that will cause you to overpay.

We wish the most difficult thing about deciding on your reception dinner was choosing which delectable meal to serve, but there are a few other details to keep in mind like: how much to order for the cocktail hour, how many options to have, whether you should do buffet style or seated service, and more. Here are the 10 things you need to consider when meeting with your caterer.

Set realistic expectations for your budget

As with all aspects of your wedding, you want the catering to stay within the budget you’ve set. “Sometimes brides are enamored with the fairytale type wedding and have built the day beyond their budget,” says Leslianne from Old Carolina. Go into your initial meeting with a budget already set in your mind and ask about options that fit within that number. “There are a lot of options to create the day of your dreams,” Leslianne continues. Your caterer should be able to work with you to come up with a menu that pleases your taste buds and your budget.

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A buffet isn’t always cheaper

This one might come as a surprise, as a lot of couples assume having a buffet service instead of food stations or seated service is a cheaper option. With a buffet, however, you’re almost guaranteed to have leftover food. Instead of making exactly the right number of meals and charging you only for the food they prepared and served, with a buffet style, caterers often cook too much food and welcome guests to seconds which can end up costing you money.

Have an option for kids

If your menu consists of courses like shrimp scampi or risotto, kids probably won’t be apt to try it. Instead of wasting your money on those dishes, offer kid’s options like mac and cheese, chicken tenders, or pizza. These options are cheaper than paying for a fancier dish and will satisfy the children at your wedding (and their parents).

Have a filling vegetarian option

Observing any dietary needs is a necessity when ordering your menu, but keep in mind that a lot of people prefer a vegetarian option – like pasta or soup – but don’t mark down their preference. Natalie, from Natalie’s has noticed that often times, more vegetarians end up coming to the wedding than expected (like last minute dates or plus ones). “It may be a good idea for the bride and groom to make sure their menu consists of a good starch that is not meat based, such as a meatless base macaroni and cheese or pasta with marinara. This is a hearty dish that can fill someone up who is vegetarian without killing the budget.”

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Serve less food at your cocktail hour

While the cocktail hour gives the wedding party time to take pictures and get to the reception, Natalie warns that you should keep your schedule timely. You should have a limited amount of food to be served so that they don’t ruin their appetites for dinner, but “if bride and grooms take a long time to take pictures during this time, guests become very hungry and will ravish this food.” The cocktail hour is meant to be an appetizer and hors d’oeuvres course, not a main course, so do whatever you need to make sure they progress to the next course (the dinner) in a timely manner.

Avoid foods that aren’t in season

Ordering side dishes or ingredients that aren’t in season can do some major damage to your budget. Talk to your caterer to see what other options they recommend or similar tasting recipes.

Consider serving a late-night snack

Like with a cocktail hour, it’s nice to offer your guests a little something to munch on as the night progresses. Fuel their dance moves with fries and a Coke or hand them customized bags of pretzels on their way out the door monogrammed with your names and wedding date. This can serve as your favor or as an extra gift to your guests for their presence in your celebration, but it will go a long way with out-of-town guests who didn’t book a hotel room.

Things you Need to Know about Catering | As Seen on

Don’t order too much dessert

Keep in mind that not every guest will eat cake as they’ll be busy out on the dance floor. Though we recommend ordering at least one piece of cake for each guest, if you opt to have a dessert station with cookies, cupcakes, candies, and other treats, you can offer less cake. Since you will likely leave for your honeymoon after the reception, you won’t get to enjoy any dessert leftovers, so make sure you don’t order too much. A good rule of thumb is that you should have 3 cookies per guest, .5 cup of candy per guest, or 1.5 cupcakes per guest.

Ask about and compare hidden fees

All caterers are different, and what one business offers as a complimentary service may be an extra fee with another company. Low prices don’t always transfer to low bills. “Old Carolina includes tax, service charges and gratuity [in our price], but most caterers do not,” says Leslianne from Old Carolina. “When a caterer has a really low price, be sure to ask questions because they may add extras like a 20% service charge, 18% gratuity, and charge separately for place settings and equipment.” Do your research and interview your caterers to choose the best option. Don’t just go by their website or initial quote. You may choose to hire a more expensive caterer because you feel that they really understand your vision and layout or you fall in love with one of their dishes.

What will you do with leftovers?

While this question doesn’t necessarily apply to your menu or catering, it is something that most brides and grooms don’t consider before their reception and end up dealing with in the moment. Before your wedding day arrives, brainstorm some ideas for what you can do with any leftovers. If you’re having a buffet service, ask your caterer if they’re responsible for disposing of the extra food or if you can keep it. If you’ve already paid for it, you should take advantage of the extra food by passing out any extras to your guests, wedding party, or freezing it for yourself. Some caterers might know of a place where you can donate leftovers, so ask them for recommendations or suggestions for leftovers. They are the experts., after all.


Find more local caterers here and use our free printables when you go to interview them to get the answers you need for a perfect reception dinner!



Burt Silver says:

This is great info about choosing a caterer. My fiance and I have been struggling to find the right caterer for our upcoming wedding, and the clock is ticking. I like that you mentioned to find out if they have options for kids and vegetarians. We are going to have both at our wedding, so it will be good to know they will have something to eat.

My fiance and I are currently planning our wedding. We have been looking at different buffet catering services, but we’re not sure what to look for. I didn’t realize how important it is to choose a company that serves foods that are in season to ensure the ingredients are fresh and delicious. I’ll be sure to remember this consideration moving forward.

I really like your idea of having an option for kids. My wife and I are throwing a big party for my parent’s anniversary, and there are going to be a few kids there. It would be really helpful to have something that will satisfy the children and not be a waste of money. We will keep that in mind as we look for a caterer.

I like the suggestion you made that you should the catering service what they do with any of the left overs and that with buffets, you have already paid for it and should be able to take some home with you. I’ve been to a few weddings where this was the case with extra food and they were able to take a majority of it home with them. When my younger siblings get married, I’ll make sure they know about asking about options for the left overs so that they are able to have food from their wedding as well.

Gloria Durst says:

I agree that you would want to find out what the caterers charge as hidden fees. it would make sense to consider what kind of extra fees they have before you hire them. My cousin is looking for a caterer for her wedding, so she’ll have to find out about all the catering fees first.

Great tips! It’s awesome how you mentioned about checking options for kids while choosing a catering service! My sister is going to get married this year, so I’ll definitely share this information with her in order to organize it properly.

Maka says:

wow nice post

justseegoods says:

Wonderful post. Thanks for your sharing.

Carol says:

Great article with very insightful information for helping people make the best decision hiring their wedding caterer.

To make your corporate or private event memorable consider the above 10 points mentioned in the blog to choose best catering company according to your style and budget.

These are really best tips to finding a catering service provider. When organising an event, finding the right caterer can be time consuming and stressful. There are many things to consider; budget, event size, event type, food style, add-ons such as service staff or furniture.

Joy Butler says:

I am so thankful for what you have shared about choosing the right catering service. My daughter is getting married and we are expecting for a total of 200 guests. It really helped when you said that we should do more research for the best option.

Kit Hannigan says:

Thanks for pointing out how a lot of people prefer a vegetarian option on the menu. My daughter is about to be wed next week, and a lot of the guests would be from their neighborhood in the city. Her mother took the liberty of hiring the catering services for her. I have heard that a lot of them are vegetarians. so I’ll be sure to tell her to go look for caterers that can offer a good amount of vegan options for the guests.

Robert Blake says:

Before choosing out the best corporate catering in Thorn hill you must first look at the different things such as check whether the company is convenient to work according to your needs and also check whether the caterer is serving veg or non-veg food according to your needs.

Mark Murphy says:

I really appreciate your tip to try and serve less food during your cocktail hour so people will eat during the actual dinner. My wife and I have been thinking of helping our daughter with her wedding that is coming up in a couple of weeks by giving her a caterer. I will be sure to tell the caterer to go easier on the food during the cocktail hour!

I like how you mentioned that one should find a caterer that offers vegetarian options, as some guests may be vegetarians. Another great tip I’ve heard is to ask how many people a caterer can make dishes for, as you’ll want to make sure that they can cater for the size of the event you’re holding. Thanks so much for all the great catering tips.

Ellie Davis says:

I’m needing a caterer for my wedding. Thank you for these tips on choosing one. I’ll have to keep them in mind as I search for the right one for me.

Millie Hue says:

I like that you suggested asking different caterers out there for their rates so that you can compare and choose the one that fits your budget. I will share this information with a friend of mine since they are on a limited budget for their son’s 7th birthday. This is because the venue that they’ve booked is kind of expensive, so the other aspects should be affordable.

I thought it was really interesting how you mentioned that ordering any food or ingredients that aren’t in season can be expensive, so you should try to find similar tasting recipes. My wife has been asked to host the annual work party for her office, and she has been trying to find a catering company that can help provide food for all of her co-workers. It would be great for her to find a company that can provide a number of menu items that she can choose to serve.

Michael Lee says:

We are looking at hiring a banquet hall catering service for an event. I think that it is good to have numbers in mind before you talk to the caterer. I also love that you bring up that people will eat more with a buffet, that is so true.

Sam Li says:

I love what you said about finding a vegetarian option. I believe that catering can make any event more special. If I were to host an event, I would make sure to find the best caterer out there.

thanks so much share good information regarding Things To Know When Choosing Your Catering, this is Wonderful post for me . Again Thanks for your sharing.

Thank you for your comment about making sure that you keep in mind that many people end up preferring a vegetarian option. I can imagine that this is something that should be kept in mind for any time that you need something catered to. My workplace is thinking about doing catered meetings on Fridays, and I know I would definitely appreciate it if I was able to know that I could have food there if I was vegetarian.

Well this type of information is great to see before choosing catering for the wedding function as from my point of view the main thing which I consider to have is food quality and its deliciousness which matters a lot except this one thing more I can say is types of variety in food too which you have to look before choosing any catering company.

Thanks for the tip to choose a caterer with a vegetarian option. My fiance and I need to choose a caterer for our wedding. Your tips should simplify the process of finding the right catering service to hire.

My daughter is getting married in the winter, so we are looking for a restaurant in Abu Dhabi to cater for it. I appreciated your advice to ask if they dispose of or give you leftovers and to research and interview caterers before hiring them. I’ll remember this to help us find the best restaurant for the occasion.

My sister is having a gender reveal party next week, and this will be the first grandbaby on both sides of the family! She wants everyone to have a great time at the party, so she is thinking about getting breakfast catered to keep everyone well fed and happy! It was very helpful when you talked about researching potential caterers to make sure you know exactly what they are charging and if they understand your vision for the event.

It’s a good idea to ask about fees like service charges and gratuities when choosing a caterer. I was catching up with my cousin and learned that she’s looking for a good restaurant catering service for a corporate event next month. I’ll share this info to help things go as smoothly as they can for her when moving forward with a caterer!

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