Nearly to Newlywed: Choosing Your Wedding Vendors – Pt. 2

Welcome to Wednesday, y’all!  Another Wednesday means another wedding post – yay!!  Today we are continuing our series on choosing your wedding vendors.  In Part One we discussed information on choosing your venue, including where you can start your research and what questions you should ask.  In today’s post, we’re going to discuss catering and alcohol because more often than not your venue is already working with a select group of caterers.

Wedding Vendors

I found when I started my search that many of the venues I looked at offered the following options when it came to catering:

1.  They do all the food/alcohol in-house and you don’t have an option to bring in anyone different
2.  They have an exclusive agreement with an outside catering company and you don’t have any option to bring in anyone different
3.  They have exclusive agreements with multiple outside catering companies that you must choose from
4.  There is no catering agreement and you are able to bring in any catering company so long they can produce the correct documentation that they’re a valid business

I knew when I started planning that food and alcohol would eat up a lot of my budget [no pun intended] so I was really hoping that I could find a location that allowed me to bring in my own catering company, as I could go with some place small that had reasonable pricing.  Instead what I found was the opposite – almost every venue fit into the first three buckets, with most falling in buckets one and two.

The cost per plate for a plated dinner, or per person for a buffet dinner, was shocking when I added it all up against our 300+ guest list.  The cost for food alone can run upwards of $10,000 – and that’s not including alcohol or any other wedding expenses.  So here is what I started looking for and asking when I was researching caterers:

  • Do I have to meet a minimum amount for food/beverages?
    • What happens if I don’t meet this minimum?
  • What is the cost per plate for plated dinners or cost per person for buffet dinners?
    • What’s the sales and food tax added to this cost?
    • Does this include gratuity or does that need to be added to the top?
  • Who handles serving the food?
  • Who handles removing the plates, flatware, glassware, etc. and doing the dishes?
    • Is this cost of these items included in our price or does that get added as a separate charge?
  • How many meal choices do we have?
    • If multiple meal options are provided is there an extra fee charged
      • fyi: a lot of caterers add a fee to the cost per plate for plated dinners if multiple meal options are provided.  Usually this rule doesn’t apply to a standard meat option alongside a vegetarian option but that is a question you will want to ask
      • You’ll also want to ask about any guests who may have special dietary concerns [gluten intolerance, diabetic, etc.] – how is this handled?
  • Are we able to taste the food before making our choices?
  • Are we able to bring in our bakery items [cake, cupcakes, cookies, etc] from an outside bakery or are we required to use a preferred vendor? [this might be question to confirm with your venue, too]
  • Are appetizers/late night snacks available for purchase? [fyi: late night apps are becoming increasingly popular! It’s a great way to sober up those guests before they head out for the night but aren’t always budget-friendly]

The next set of questions you will want to ask is regards the alcohol piece of the pie, if you plan on serving it.  Again, some of these questions may have been answered when you were researching your venue, but in case you haven’t reached that point, here are some good questions to ask:

  • Is bar service provided or do we need to work with a separate company?
  • If yes, who supplies the bartenders?  Is there an extra hourly fee for each bartender?
  • Do we need to pay for extra security or is that included in the cost?
    • I noticed in my search that some places require police officers be in attendance if alcohol was served [the number of officers depended upon how many people you had there].  This is usually an extra charge.
  • If they have keg beer, what is the cost per keg?
    • Is there a variety of beer brands to choose from?
    • Are we able to put a keg on “reserve” to use as back-up in case we run out?  If not, what’s the back up plan [usually it’s bottles]
  • What does the wine and alcohol variety look like?  Do they offer plenty of choices; call and premium?
  • What is the average cost per glass/bottle
    • Ask about cash and host options
  • What are the payment options?  Do they accept cash only, charge, etc?  If cash only, is there an ATM nearby for guests to use [if having a cash bar]

Did you think there would be so many questions to ask your caterer and bar service?  I certainly didn’t when I started my planning.  These are some of the common questions I asked based on information I came across in my search – some of these may not pertain to your day or you may find there are some questions I’ve left out [there’s a good chance of that happening].

As I mentioned in part one of this series, make sure you are documenting all of the information you receive from your vendors in a place like excel [or a wedding binder] so that you can compare all of your options side-by-side.  If you are forced to be extremely budget conscious, be sure you do all your homework when it comes to venue rental fees and your caterer fees.  I say this because some venues may charge you $3,000 to rent the space but you are allowed to bring in your own caterer or work with a catering company that’s very reasonable priced and provides all the supplies you need to execute a flawless day.  On the flip side, you may find that a venue doesn’t charge a rental fee but you are required to spend $15,000 on food and beverages or that the cost per plate/person is really high using more of your budget than the venue that charges a fee.

I hope this information is a helpful start to your catering and beverage planning needs.  Be sure to check back in the next couple of weeks to read up on the other big vendors you will likely need to plan on using for your wedding.




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