A little prepration goes a long way.

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Before sitting down with caterers, consider:

  • How much do you want to spend?
  • What kind of atmosphere do you want to create with your food, beverage and d├ęcor?
  • How many people will attend your wedding?
  • Where will the wedding reception be held?
  • Does your wedding site provide food, allow caterers from an approved list or let you choose any caterer you wish?
  • What are you willing to scrimp on; what items are you willing to shell out the bucks for?

Avoid Unpleasant Surprises:

  • If the caterer provides dishes, silverware, glasses, napkins and tablecloths, ask to see a sample to check the quality. If the caterer rents equipment, make sure you know exactly what you're getting.
  • If you're not familiar with a caterer's fare, ask if a "sampling" can be arranged to taste a few dishes you'd like to serve.
  • Determine what charges are included in the price of the meal. Many sites and caterers add a service charge of 15 to 20 percent of the meal and bar to cover a gratuity to the service staff. In other cases, you'll need to add tax and tip.
  • Have the caterer prepare a reception events and times. Pass the itinerary to all the vendors to make keep the day on schedule.
  • Check references.
  • Ask about ratio of servers to guests.
  • When figuring out a final head count for the caterer, ask the band/deejay, wedding day coordinator, and any others providing services whether they want a meal. Caterers often charge less for "vendor meals."
  • Ask for a "leftover basket" that includes a sample of all the food at your wedding. It makes a great late-night snack. Consider giving leftover food to a charity, such as a homeless shelter. Or to the bride or groom's parents if they'll be entertaining out-of-town relatives.