At first glance hiring a wedding caterer probably seems pretty simple, right? You choose the dishes you'd most like to eat, let the caterer know how many people they need to feed and order some wine to go with it. But what what about dietary requirements, evening food, speciality dishes, VAT charges and equipment hire? We don't want to stress you out, but there are some essential points you'll need to cover before you sit down to your dream wedding feast.
The best way to get all the details ironed out is by bookmarking this page and asking your caterer all of the questions below. From whether or not they'll provide table linen to headcount deadlines and pricing structure, you should walk away from your initial consultation feeling in the know and confident about your wedding breakfast plans.
Trust us, the sooner you ask about the boring - and tasty! - stuff, the sooner you can simply look forward to tucking in!
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1. Are You Free on Our Wedding Date?
Before you set your heart on a caterer, ask them if they’re free on your wedding date to avoid disappointment. If their answer is no, ask them if they can recommend any similar caterers who may be available on your wedding date.
2. Will You Be Catering for Any Other Weddings on the Day?
Ideally, you’d like them to cater for you and you only on the day and so it’s worth checking their schedule. If they’re a large company with multiple teams, it’s reasonable to expect that they may cater for more than one event per day/weekend. Just make sure you know who exactly will be there on your day so you can ensure they know what you’re expecting.
3. Have You Worked at Our Venue Before?
A caterer who has previously worked at your venue will know where everything is and will be familiar with how things work, allowing you to relax a little. There’s no need to write off a caterer who is yet to work at your venue though, simply ask them if they wouldn’t mind liaising with your venue and possibly setting up a visit before the day to ensure they have everything they need.
4. Do You Specialise in a Certain Type of Cuisine?
Many caterers will offer a whole range of dishes but if you’ve got a certain type of cuisine in mind, you might want to narrow your search to those that specialise in it.
5. Which Are Your Most Popular Dishes?
Although you may have a few menu ideas of your own, it’s always worth asking your caterer what their most popular dishes are. After all, they’re popular for a reason and you don’t want to miss out on something fantastic because you didn’t ask!
6. Do You Offer Evening Food?
If you’re hiring a caterer for a formal sit-down meal but fancy having something a little more relaxed later on, ask the caterer if they provide this service. A hog roast, build your own burrito stand, fish and chip cones, cheese and biscuit selection or a buffet would all work well.
7. Can I See Pictures of Your Food?
Some say we eat with our eyes and to a certain extent this is true. The presentation of your food is second only to the taste and so it’s worth knowing how your chosen caterer presents their food and the level of care they put into making sure it looks as impressive as it sounds.
8. Can I See Some of Your Reviews?
Asking your caterer every question on this list will certainly give you a good idea of whether or not they’re right for you, but there’s nothing quite like reading the reviews of those that have booked the service and eaten the canapés themselves! A good caterer will be happy to show you a selection of reviews from previous customers – or at least point you in the direction of where to find them online!
9. Do You Have a Set Menu or Can We Request a Bespoke Menu?
For some, a set menu is a total dream as it allows them to relax while someone who really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to food creates something on their behalf. For food enthusiasts, it’s often important to have a hand in creating their wedding day menu and to include personal favourites. If the latter sounds like you, make sure your caterer is someone you can collaborate with and not someone unwilling to work beyond their usual dishes.
10. Where Do You Source Your Ingredients From?
Eco-conscious couples should focus their search on caterers who work with locally sourced ingredients rather than imported goods with a hefty carbon footprint. Remember, ingredients sourced in the UK are likely to be fresher than if they have been frozen and imported, so quiz your caterer on their ingredients and make sure you get the freshest produce on your plate.
If you’ll be tucking into meat on your big day, it’s also a good idea to check that it’s free rage and ethically sourced so you can enjoy the menu guilt-free.
11. Do You Offer Halal and Kosher Options as Well as Other Dietary Requirements?
Even if you don’t have these requirements yourselves, it’s likely that at least one guest will and so it’s vital that you ask your caterer how they deal with dietary requirements.
12. Do You Offer a Children’s Menu?
Depending on your menu, you may not need separate children’s dishes but it’s always worth asking a caterer what they usually provide for children. A smaller portion set at a lower price may be an option.
13. Do You Make Wedding Cakes? Will You Charge a Cake Cutting Fee?
Having your wedding caterer make your wedding cake can help to save money as you won’t have to pay an additional delivery fee from a cake maker. If your caterer doesn’t provide cakes, ask them if they would be willing to cut a cake made by someone else and if they charge for this service.
14. Do You Provide Silverware, Linen, Tables and Chairs?
Many caterers will provide everything you need for a sit-down meal but not all do and so it’s vital to ask. If they don’t provide everything, ask them where they recommend you hire from.
15. Will Staff Lay Out Place Names and Menus if Required?
Your place names and menus will most likely be taken to your venue by you after you have received them from your stationer and checked them at home. Your venue or florist may be able to set them out when they’re decorating the space, but you can always ask your caterer if they’re the ones laying the tables.
16. Do You Provide Bar Services?
Some caterers provide additional bar services including cocktails, some will provide wine on the tables and some will only provide food, so make sure you know what your caterer is offering.
17. Will You Include Sparkling Wine for The Toast?
Some caterers will provide a glass of fizz for each of the guests for the toasts – make sure you ask and avoid missing out!
18. Do You Charge for Bottles Ordered or Bottles Opened?
This is an important question as many couples over order to avoid running out of booze on the day. It’s helpful if your caterer can charge for bottles opened only, so you’re not paying for leftover drinks you’ll end up taking home with you.
19. Can We Provide Our Own Drinks but Use Your Waiters to Serve Them?
If you’ve got your heart set on some favourite bottles that your caterer doesn’t stock, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them if they’ll serve up your booze as part of their service package.
20. How Long Do You Need to Set Up?
It’s important to know how long your caterers will need to set up as you’ll need to communicate this to your venue so that they know when to expect them. It’s also important to let them know your timings on the day so that they can ensure they give themselves plenty of time to fire up the oven!
21. How Many Waiters Will You Provide?
Ideally, you need one waiter per table of around 10 guests. This will ensure everyone’s food comes out at a similar time and everyone’s glasses are kept topped up!
22. Is there a Fee if the Wedding Overruns?
Waiters will be contracted to work set hours and so they’ll need to be paid overtime if they’re required to stay late. Check how much this will cost to avoid surprise bills after the wedding.
23. Who Will Be in Charge of Coordinating on the Day?
Someone should be in charge on the day, overseeing timings and ensuring everything is going as you have planned. Ask who this person will be and request a chat with them to make sure they know what you’re expecting and when you expect things like cake cutting or the toast to happen on the day.
24. Do You Charge for Menu Tastings?
A lot of caterers will throw in a menu tasting for the couple for free but if you’d like to bring additional guests along, you can expect to pay extra. Speak to your caterer about these costs at your first consultation.
25. When Can I Book My Tasting?
You’ll want to get your tasting in the diary early on so that you can sample your caterer’s dishes and make your final choices before their deadline.
26. When Do I Need to Give You Final Guest Numbers?
You should set a deadline for RSVPs around a month before the big day but expect to get some late responses. Your caterer will most likely expect final numbers around one week before the big day but make sure you know what your caterers individual policy is.
27. When Do You Need a Final Decision on the Menu?
Your caterer will need to order ingredients in advance from their suppliers and so they will likely set a deadline for final menu choices.
28. How do You Deal with Last-Minute Requests?
It’s not unusual to find out that your cousin’s new girlfriend is a vegan at the eleventh hour, so ask your caterer early on how they deal with last-minute changes to ensure they’re flexible enough to deal with late requests. One or two last-minute dietary requirement changes should be fine however we don't recommend asking to change your entire menu at this point as your caterer is likely to have put in the order with their suppliers already.
29. How Do You Charge? A Bulk Fee or Cost Per Head?
It's useful to find out exactly how they plan to charge and whether or not the figure includes VAT so that you can factor this in to your wedding budget.
30. Can You Provide Meals for Other Suppliers?
Suppliers such as wedding bands may require a meal and so you'll need to check with your caterer if they can supply this separately or add some more guests to the headcount for the evening food if you're planning on serving some. Don't forget to ask your suppliers for their dietary requirements too!
31. I’m Hiring an Outdoor Venue, Will You Bring Equipment Like Generators Etc or Do I Need to Hire It?
If you're hosting a tipi or woodland wedding somewhere remote, you'll need to make sure the caterer has everything they need to prepare your wedding breakfast. Ask the venue what they can provide first and then speak with your caterer if there are any gaps to fill. Some caterers will have their own equipment that they can bring and others may hire them on your behalf and ask you to pay an additional fee to cover the costs.
32. Do You Ask for A Deposit?
Most caterers will ask for a deposit to secure the booking, so make sure you've got some money set aside for this ahead of your consultation.
33. When Do You Expect the Final Balance?
To avoid any nasty pre-payday surprises, ask the caterer when they expect the final balance to be paid so that you can make sure you've got enough money in the kitty when the date comes around.
34. What is Your Cancellation Policy?
If 2020 has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected and so it's worth just checking on the caterer's cancellation policy before signing on that dotted line.
Don't fancy anything formal when it comes to your food? Check out these 19 Alternative Food and Drink Ideas for Couples Looking for Something Different.