When you're allocating your wedding budget, wedding catering prices will be a big part of your overall spend.
We all know how important food is to a wedding. From canapés to the main meal to evening feasts, it makes a real difference to guests' enjoyment of the day.
But it's not always easy to understand the costs. That's why we're here to demystify wedding catering prices, explaining the factors that can push the cost up or bring it down.
That way, you can start to work out what sort of menu will suit your budget - and whether you can afford any extras. Dessert table, anyone?
How Much Does Wedding Catering Cost?
There are two main ways of catering your wedding: either you hire an external caterer or you use your venue's in-house catering team. It's sensible to bring in professionals for your wedding feast - whether you go for external or in-house, your wedding catering is not something you want to leave to an amateur.
According to the Hitched National Wedding Survey, the average wedding catering costs per person in the UK was £70 per head in 2022 - this will factor in a mix of different catering options, from three course menu packages to casual food trucks. Of course, you can spend more or less. That will depend on the factors we're about to explain - but also on how important food is to you as a couple.
The point about allocating your budget is that there is no 'should' - base your wedding on what matters to you.
If you're both massive foodies, put more of your budget towards the feasting and dial it down in other areas. If you see the food more as party fuel? There are ways to reduce your wedding catering costs so you can spend more in other areas.
That being said, guests going hungry is not a wedding mood you want, so even if you're going down a cheaper route, make sure there's plenty for your loved ones to tuck into.
It’s hard to pin down exactly the catering costs per person average in the UK as many companies offer bespoke quotes depending on a number of factors. A member of the Mesa Catering team says, “It is hard to give a cost per head for a wedding as every wedding is unique. This is why we always offer our clients bespoke quotes.
"Wedding catering could cost anything from between £20 per head to £100 per head depending on numerous factors such as; the location, courses, style of service and number of guests as well as other additional factors such as crockery, service of drinks, tea and coffee etc.”
The team at Garni agree: “As we work on a bespoke basis for each of our couples we always start with a Zoom to understand each other and check we are the right fit.”
What Can Affect Your Wedding Catering Price?
1. The Number of Guests
This is a big one - and a logical one! The cost of catering for 100 guests in the UK is going to be higher than catering costs for an intimate wedding of 10 people.
Wedding catering prices are almost always calculated as a per-head price. That means that if you're looking to cut costs, one of the easiest ways is to have a smaller guest list.
The advantage of having a more intimate wedding is that you can indulge your guests more within your budget.
However, if a mid-size or larger wedding is on the cards, a good caterer will be able to work with you to create a fabulous wedding breakfast. Just make sure you avoid guest-list-creep - adding guests along the way can really increase wedding catering costs. If you do end up adding people to your list, make sure you update your wedding budget tracker accordingly.
It's so easy to underestimate the difference staff can make to a wedding. We would never recommend trying to cut wedding catering costs by asking for fewer staff - be guided by the numbers your caterer says you need.
Nothing can kill an atmosphere more quickly than guests waiting for ages for food that turns up cold, or used plates left on tables. It's also not fair on your caterers.
3. Dining Style
Couples are often advised to cut wedding catering prices by opting for a buffet rather than seated dining.
While you may make some savings, having a buffet means you'll need to have extra food, assuming guests are serving themselves - people always give themselves larger portions than they'd have as a plated meal! There will also still be staffing costs, as the buffet will need to be monitored and replenished as required.
That being said, you will find that more laidback styles of wedding catering tend to cost less than a more formal meal - think barbecues and hog roasts.
4. Multiple Courses
The more courses you have, the more costs can stack up.
To reduce the price of wedding catering, one thing that makes a difference is using other elements as a course of your wedding breakfast.
For example: having substantial canapés at the drinks reception in place of a starter. You could also serve the wedding cake as pudding, which can greatly reduce a three course wedding meal cost.
Any glance at a restaurant menu proves that the types of fish and meat served can really affect the price of a dish. It's the same for wedding catering.
Turbot and Dover sole, for example, are among the most expensive fish on the market, while if you're looking at cuts of meat, fillet is pricier than T-bone.
If you're looking to cut wedding catering costs, avoid the most expensive ingredients - ask your caterer about any food swaps you can make to bring the cost of a dish down - while keeping the overall taste at a high level. Seasonal ingredients will be more affordable, and more sustainable too.
Of course, if you're looking to splash out, the world's your oyster!
6. The Wedding Catering Extras
You can choose to have just one big feast at your wedding. However, there are extras that can enhance your day - but also push up the wedding catering price.
- Canapés and/or bowl food - usually served if you're having a drinks reception before the wedding breakfast
- Food stations - either as an alternative to canapés before the meal or afterwards
- Evening food - this can be anything from food trucks to a buffet
- Dessert table - instead of a single dessert, guests can help themselves to a variety of puddings
- Sweet buffet - as the name suggests, a buffet of sweets
- Cake table - as well as the wedding cake, you can have cupcakes and other delicious bakes
- Doughnut wall - increasingly popular as an evening pick-me-up
Other ways to elevate the experience include interactive food stations, where chefs create mini masterpieces as guests look on.
7. Menu Choice
It's certainly a nice idea to offer guests a choice of lots of different dishes. However, offering more options will increase the wedding catering prices, so if you're looking to save, keep your options to a minimum.
8. The Experience of the Chefs
Quality chefs with years of experience will cost more - but at least you'll be getting what you pay for in terms of delicious, extra-special wedding food.
9. Menu Tasting
Some caterers include a menu tasting in their quote, others offer a free tasting to the couple but charge for extra guests, and for others it's an extra charge. Check with potential caterers what their policy is.
Not every caterer includes VAT, which can really increase the price, so make sure you ask if it's included before making a decision.
As you'll find with many wedding suppliers, caterers' prices will vary depending on where you're getting married around the UK.
Costs tend to be higher in London and the South East, and in larger cities due to higher living costs. If your caterer has to travel to your venue, that can also push up costs.
12. Your Wedding Date
Suppliers' wedding prices are generally - although not always - higher at peak wedding times. That's spring and summer, and on weekends, and prices tend to be lower for dates outside of high season as there's less demand.
If this isn't supplied by your wedding venue as part of the hire price, you will need to source crockery, cutlery, linens etc. Your caterer may provide this service, but you can expect an extra charge.
You can also find companies specialising in tableware if your venue or caterer doesn't offer hire. Remember, you'll need to factor this into your wedding budget.
You can hire some truly stunning tableware, from magnificent crystal glasses to fine china. However, you don't want this to come at the expense of your feast.
If you've chosen a dry hire wedding venue, remember that you may also need to hire furniture - including tables!
14. Additional Facilities
If you're using an external caterer and your venue doesn't have a prep kitchen they can use - for example, an outdoor wedding venue or festival wedding venue - you might incur extra charges for bringing in equipment and setting up a power supply.
Anthony from Anthony's Catering says, “We sometimes need to add on things like linen, fridge trailer hires, bar hire etc., which all affect the price per head.”
Why is it Important to Invest in Good Quality Wedding Catering?
With the cost of living rising daily, it can be tempting to cut corners on wedding costs, including catering. However, with wedding catering, as with so many elements of your wedding, you get what you pay for. As Anthony says, "Although all couples are feeling the squeeze at the moment it is always important to research caterers to find the best one for them. The cheapest isn't always the best."
The food is one of the most memorable parts of any wedding, and guests often remember the food they ate at a wedding for a long time afterwards. Serving good quality food will also guarantee guest satisfaction - after all, who doesn't love delicious and well-presented food?
Mesa Catering advises: “If you love good quality, sustainably sourced food then you will need to pay a bit more for good local produce.
"Experienced caterers will have the timings fine-tuned, will know how many staff are needed on the day and will be able to cater for guests with dietary requirements. They will understand how important your wedding day is and ensure that your wedding meal is memorable for all the right reasons.”
What Can I Do With a Lower Wedding Budget?
If you're working with a lower wedding budget and want to save some money on your wedding catering, it might be time to start looking at some alternative catering options. From food trucks to doughnut walls, there are plenty of quirky and delicious options guaranteed to stick out in your guests' minds for long after the ceremony.
Holly from Lettice Events advises: "There are lots of creative ways to work with a lower budget, from dessert canapés and grazing tables instead of canapés during the reception. We always want couples to feel that they have lots of choice and we can create something that will impress their guests."
There are also some alternative options at Anthony's Catering. Anthony explains that "We offer a great selection of buffet style options which can be great including a low and slow menu and hog roast with salads and potatoes. We also a do a picnic box menu for each table to share.
"This is a great option for anyone looking for a cost effective option and it can be less than half the price of a hot plated three course menu."
How Much Is Asian and Indian Wedding Catering?
When it comes to the Asian and Indian wedding catering costs per head in the UK, you can expect this to be impacted by all the same factors listed above.
Asian weddings typically have a longer guest list than other weddings in the UK, meaning that Asian wedding catering costs are likely to be higher as they are affected by size.
The best way to find out the Asian and Indian wedding catering costs per head in the UK would be to get quotes from multiple caterers so that you can compare prices, services offered and menu options before making your decision.
Award-winning wedding caterers The Indian Dish provide some clarity on pricing: "The Indian Dish offer luxury authentic catering for your special day. Prices start from £35 serving street food style from our pop-up kitchen. We also offer a hot buffet setup as well as a full table service with sharing bowls."
Director Julia also offers some expert advice about saving on your Asian wedding catering costs: "When thinking about your budget, also consider how many courses you would like. To keep your costs down, you could jump straight into a main course buffet including two main curries and three side dishes and then have your wedding cake as a dessert!
"Our most popular dishes are chicken dhansak, allotment vegetable balti, basmati rice, naan selection and onion bhajis." Our mouths are watering!
Hungry to learn more? Check out our ultimate guide to wedding catering to find all the information you need.