Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Caterer

When I got married, I didn’t want a big, formal thing, so we got married at lunchtime and our reception was an afternoon tea. It was nice and casual, it fit our personalities, and most importantly for a university student, it was cheap.

Since then, it seems that more and more people are getting away from the traditional formal meal, dance and midnight lunch (and no disrespect to those who still want to go big – more power to you). With all the choices you have available, however, it’s more important than ever that you and your caterer have a good working relationship from the very start. After all, whether you go big or small, next to the dress, food and/or venue is the next biggest expense for a wedding.

So I sat down with Red Table’s Carson Engele, the Chef who taught me everything I know about gnocchi, and asked him what advice he’d have for couples planning their wedding. Here are his big 5:

Before you talk with a caterer, have some idea of what you want

“Your caterer wants to work with you,” said Carson. “But it’s important that you come in with some thoughts about what you like and what you don’t like, and what you want. It makes it easier on the caterer and ensures that the whole event will be successful.”

It’s not just food – it’s an important part of the whole wedding, and should be in tune with the theme and style of the wedding (and even the colour scheme if you really want to get creative).

Think about what you’re envisioning for your wedding: Is it a Western-themed country wedding featuring barbecued Alberta beef? Is it an informal, afternoon event with a light meal? Are you hipster urbanites who want a food truck for your midnight lunch, or meal stations set around the venue featuring do-it-yourself popcorn bars and taco stations? Do you want to create a more relaxed and informal atmosphere by having the food served family style, as opposed to individual meals?

One trend is to have food that reflects something about you as a couple. What was the menu of your first dinner date? Did you meet somewhere exotic? You can use the food to tell the story of your relationship (not recommended if you’re university students like we were – the entire menu would’ve been instant coffee).

Want something completely different? Domino’s Pizza has a wedding registry.


Talk to your caterer about any special dietary requirements

“It’s important not only to find out how your caterer will handle special requests, such as vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, Kosher or Halal meals,” said Carson. “But if there’s going to be an extra charge for these, you need to discuss that as well.” Also make sure to ask your caterer about children’s meals and how they’ll be charged.


Make sure you understand everything included in the catering contract

This is a big one. There are a lot of details to be considered, so it’s important that it’s clearly understood what will be provided by the caterer, what will be provided by the venue and what you’ll be responsible for. Some things to think about include:

  • Venue setup
  • Tablecloths
  • Smallwares (dishes, cutlery, napkins, etc.)
  • Decorations
  • Centrepieces
  • Liquor license
  • Venue cleanup
  • Will a catering supervisor be onhand to oversee the event?
  • Who will be responsible for setting out place cards?
  • Make sure the menu is what you want

Carson recommends doing tastings of the meals with your caterer before settling on your final menu. This will save you from any misunderstandings or disappointment on your wedding day. And lastly …

Be very clear on the contract

You know the attention you paid to the whole “who is doing what” part of the contract? It’s also important to give that same kind of care and Bridezilla-level attention to the fine print. Make sure you and your caterer are clear on important questions like:

  • What are the deadlines for deposits and payment?
  • What is the cancellation policy?

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