The next ‘to do’ we have for you, dear Brides, would be to find a caterer and start considering your menu! Food is definitely an important aspect of your big day, whether you’re serving simple pick-up foods or a six course meal. This is one area you may get really creative with and your groom may actually be interested in helping! When it came to my own wedding menu, my fiance (at the time) and I definitely knew we wanted our food to reflect what we found to be southern staples and old time favorites–fried chicken, mac n cheese, beef brisket, southern vegetables, and naturally, some sweet tea to wash it all down! Of course the gourmet details and the fancy twists dressed up our meal to please our guests and raise the standards for a special evening! Southern hospitality was our goal. Our guests were well fed and even walked away from the night with to-go bags and biscuits from our biscuit bar!
image: Nancy Ray
Picking out our menu was easy for us, as it was the same sort of Sunday after church feast we both were used to, but some couples may not have a special meal they find to be nostalgic. It’s fun to consider stations with a variety of options, mini food, or even a fare that reflects your new life together. Moving down south? Why not go for a crawfish broil or a fancy gumbo? Maybe if you’re starting your life up north, a surf & tuf with lobster and steak fits the bill. I’d love to see a fiesta styled reception in person, to be honest! Food trucks and midnight snacks are trending right now, but there’s always the option of going classic with stuffed chicken and glazed vegetables.
When interviewing your caterer, make sure he/she is open to your individual style. See what they may come up with based on your personality. If you’re going with a caterer who has standard options, you may not have much wiggle room for creativity, but maybe you have already been able to taste the food and you know it’s delicious! Working the budget and the guestlist is important for your contract. Catering costs will most likely change closer to the big day once you’ve finalized your headcount, but you don’t want any major surprises when the RSVP’s start coming in. If you base off cost per person off an average number, you’ll be able to see where your cost may rise or depleat. Say, you’re inviting 180 guests, but you expect that 20-30% won’t be able to make it. Base your food costs off 150 people so you can have an understanding of what you may be looking at when it comes to the bottom line. Be sure that head count cost includes your tips, fees, and anything you may be renting so there are no surprises!
Food costs will not only include the actual meal, but also the wait staff, the beverages, the bartenders, the meat carvers, and then set up and break down at the end of the night. Sometimes your caterer may even throw in dishes or flatware and maybe even food risers and display options for your buffet or stations. It’s important to understand that costs may be high because they’re catering to you, for one night, for your event. It’s most likely going to cost more than it would for a restaurant dinner because they’re not serving a steady flow of tipping guests throughout the course of an evening.
image via Collin Cowie
Be sure that you’re going to get a tasting included with your catering contract! This was a fun evening out with my groom to be and my parents because we got to experience the amazing menu creations our caterer designed for us. It’s important to note, too, that our menu options changed a few times before the tasting. What we initially started out with ended up being a bit over budget, so we had to cut out a carving station and we had to freshen up some of the passed hors d’oeuvres. Our caterer was so flexible with us and was OK with us cutting things out to bring our costs down. We were really grateful because he cared about us being happy, rather than us costing him money. I would say that it paid off, because I’ve sent two other brides over to him for their weddings in the next year!
You may want to ask your caterer what exactly he/she includes in the contract: from glassware to coffee to sodas and lemons for waters. Sugar for coffee? All of the little details shouldn’t be assumed. It’s custom to tip your caterer at the end of the night, as well! Be sure to see if that is something included in the contract, or if that will be additional. Ask about traveling costs. Arrival times, kitchen space needed. Your caterer may do a walk through of your venue to see if it’s possible to work in that space with the amount of guests you have invited.
Once you’ve finalized your details of the catering contract, you can then get more of an idea of your specific menu items. I’d say, that’s the fun part! My mouth is watering just looking at all this yummy food, y’all.