By: Kristen Castillo
San Diego Style Weddings tapped catering expert Melissa Fazio, Director of Marketing, at Culinary Concepts to share her top questions, based on what newly engaged couples commonly ask when planning their wedding and their menu. Here’s what she thinks you need to find out from your caterer.
1. Do you have packages or do you customize your menus?
Why you need to know: Often caterers have one or more base packages that can be customized to meet a couple’s needs, such as substituting sides or adding extras. Packages can be budget friendly but they don’t always offer lots of options. Customized menus can be a little pricier but offer more variety, including a couple’s favorite foods. Since custom is often more creative, this option may help you personalize your menu and your party.
2. What is included in your proposal and pricing?
Why you need to know: This is important because you need to know all your catering information including fees, tax and gratuity upfront. This bottom line helps you compare different vendors too so you know exactly what you’re getting. Plus once you have pricing information, you can confidently budget the rest of your celebration.
3. Do you own all of your own equipment like kitchen equipment and china, flatware, glassware and linen?
Why you need to know: It’s good to know now if your caterer doesn’t own his or her own equipment or service wear. That way if you need to rent cutlery, napkins and glasses, you’ll know it ahead of time. You definitely don’t want to find out later that you have to rent party essentials because by then you could be over budget. Remember if a caterer does include these items in your package, the price could be a little higher. Chances are, it’s still more affordable than if you had to arrange for rentals on your own.
4. How can we ensure our tasting experience will be the same quality for a large group at our wedding?
Why you need to know: Caterers want your tasting and your actual reception experience to match, which is why they take very thorough notes of what you like and what items you’d like changed or substituted.
5. Are menu items prepared and cooked “on-site”?
Why you need to know: Different caterers have different approaches to food prep and cooking. In many cases, certain menu items are prepared ahead of time, while others are made on site. Typically caterers use a combination of hot boxes, as well as grilling and prep on location to produce the best culinary experience for your event.
6. How far out from our wedding date should we sign a contract with the caterer?
Why you need to know: Sign your contract as far ahead as possible to guarantee your event. While some couples book their caterer a year or more before the big day, others only have a few weeks’ lead-time. No matter when you book, the key to a successful event is clear communication.
7. Do you have a liquor license? How do you handle bar services and what are the various fees?
Why you need to know: If you plan to serve alcohol at your wedding, you definitely need to address this question with your caterer. There are many different, yet acceptable answers. Just make sure the answer fits your alcohol expectations for your party.
8. What other services do your offer, like napkin folding, coordinating rentals or coordinating with the venue, etc.?
Why you need to know: You may not need or want any of these extra services but it’s good to know what’s available and how much it costs. If the caterer doesn’t offer these services, they may be able to refer you to a wedding professional that can help.
9. Do you have special pricing for vendor meals and children’s meals?
Why you need to know: Don’t assume a caterer does or doesn’t offer these menu options. Simply ask – most are pretty flexible in their menu offerings for vendors and kids.
10. Should we hire a “Day of” Coordinator?
Why you need to know: Some catering companies provide a banquet manager or the venue may have an on-site coordinator. If not, you may want to hire a day of coordinator to help make sure the reception runs smooth, including cocktail hour, meal service and cake cutting. Your caterer may be able to recommend a day of coordinator with whom they work well.