Finding the perfect caterer for your wedding is one of the most important things on your list. Find a caterer who serves up scrumptious treats and your big day will go with a bang. But hiring a caterer who ends up serving uncooked meat, wilted salad or gone off cream will kill the celebration atmosphere faster than you can say ‘I do’ (and may even result in your guests spending most of the night on the loo!)
Luckily, we have some tips to help you make sure that you choose the right caterer for you and your guests.
1. Don’t leave your search for a caterer too late. If you don’t start your search for the perfect caterer in plenty of time you may find that all the best ones are booked up. This may mean you have to pay over the odds or don’t get the type of food you really wanted. Remember: it’s your big day and a little careful planning will make sure it goes the way you want it to.
2. Decide how you want food to be served. This may sound obvious but it is handy to have a clear idea of what you actually want before you search for suitable caterers. For example, do you want a formal sit down meal or a help yourself buffet? Then, if you are having a full day wedding, what about the night do? Do you want to cater for your guests midnight munchies (okay – 8pm munchies – it just doesn’t sound as good!) with a hog roast, another buffet or maybe a fish and chip van? It’s likely to be cheaper if you can find a caterer who can provide both the ‘day do’ meal and the ‘night do’ meal. So have a clear idea of how you are going to feed your guests before beginning your search. Also make sure you think about your guests tastes: how many are vegetarians? Would they all really like the hot, spicy food that you love? If you are having a sit down meal, try and think of at least 2 main courses that would satisfy the majority.
3. Research and establish a budget (and stick to it!) This is the time to do some basic research on caterers and find out how much you would expect to pay per head for the type of meal that you want. This could be online research, ringing round local firms, attending a local catering exhibition or a wedding fayre (if you are in the Chesterfield area make sure you come along to the Elizabeth Aprilis Wedding Fayre on 27th April). If your favoured option ends up looking like it’s going to be too expensive then you need to weigh up whether you make sacrifices in other areas (decoration, entertainment) or review your catering options. Also, keep in mind that the number of people on your guest list may creep up and factor this into your budget. You know? When your mum remembers that you haven’t included Aunty Edna and Uncle Albert who used to babysit for you when you were a nipper. Never mind that you haven’t seen them for years, they must be invited or they’d be mortally offended.
4. Do not underestimate word of mouth recommendations. Have you attended a wedding or party recently where the food was fabulous? Or maybe you have heard a friend waxing lyrical about the grub at a function they have been to? Do not be reluctant to go for caterers that friends and family have experienced previously. You may feel that you want your wedding to be unique but sometimes experimental, especially when it comes to the food, can be risky. Here at Ashover Parish Hall Events Centre, we can recommend a variety of local caterers who all maintain excellent standards and use local produce.
5. Make a list of potential caterers. Your research and recommendations from friends and family should have given you a list of potential firms. Try and narrow these down to 5 or 6. When making your list make sure you carefully consider: your budget, suitability (are they used to providing the type of menu you want), experience (is the firm longstanding or relatively new) and type of catering they provide (sit down meal or buffet).
6. Make a list of questions. Decide on a few questions to ask caterers over the phone. Ask how much experience they have cooking the type of food you want, what they can provide for your per head budget, what’s included in the price (e.g serving staff, glasses, cutlery – some caterers charge extra for crockery etc) and whether they would need any special equipment that they don’t have and your venue doesn’t provide (if you have to start hiring extra equipment it will add significantly to the overall cost).
7. Whittle down the list. Once you have ‘telephoned interviewed’ your list of potential caterers you should be able to narrow the list down to 2 or 3 that tick all the boxes. Also consider how you ‘clicked’ with the manager or owner you spoke to. Your caterer will play a big part in your wedding day so it’s important you get along. A sense of humour is always a bonus – something Helen, co-owner of Zest for Events, knows all too well.
8. The best bit – sample the food! Once you have your shortlist you can start the fun bit! Any caterer worth their salt will be happy to organise a tasting session of the type of food you want before you book. Make sure you take detailed notes as you nosh so you can sit down and compare your shortlisted caterers after all the tasting is over.
9. Making the decision. Don’t make a rushed decision. You may find that one shortlisted caterer serves up the most delicious banoffee cheesecake you ever tasted and you are tempted to scream ‘YOU’RE HIRED’ – but make sure you make a decision about the overall quality of all the food. The banoffee cheesecake may be ‘da bomb’ but if the beef wellington tastes more like a wellington boot…
(Note – Helen and Natalie from Zest4Events, who provided the photo below, certainly don’t serve up anything that tastes remotely like a wellington boot).
Base your final choice on which wedding caterer is willing to give you want you want. Stay away from the company that insists on trying to sell you above and beyond what you had originally planned on. You want a caterer who understands what your personal needs are and who is dedicated to making that happen.
10. Review the contract fully before finalising your decision. Make sure you are getting everything you want within your budget and that there are no hidden charges.
11. Introduce your caterer to your venue. It is important that your caterer sees your chosen venue before the big day – especially if they have never catered from the venue before. It would be a disaster if the caterer arrived on your big day to find the venue didn’t have the facilities they need. At Ashover Parish Hall Events Centre we have a fully-equipped kitchen and provide good quality crockery, cutlery, glasses and table linen but, wherever you are holding your wedding reception, make sure you consider these things well in advance.
Here at Ashover Parish Hall Events Centre we work with all our wedding couples and offer complimentary planning advice. Make sure you check out our Facebook page and look at the other helpful articles on our blog to make sure your big day goes without a hitch. Wherever you are holding your wedding remember it’s your day and careful planning will ensure you can relax and enjoy it.
Thanks for reading. Until next time…