Wedding Catering…where to start!
You might feel totally unaware of how to even begin choosing your wedding caterer, and I totally understand and empathise – picking your wedding catering is one of the biggest elements of wedding planning, but it’s hardly talked about in-depth anywhere. What is up with that? Not only is it one of the biggest portions of your budget, but it’s also one of the only elements of your wedding that every single one of your guests will directly experience. Even the invitees with not the faintest idea of wedding trends who’ve wilfully missed the neon lights in the entrance, will experience your wedding food. So you want to make sure it’s top notch. On top of that, your caterers are often the ones who have to ensure your day runs smoothly and to time, keeping things moving at your desired pace – yes, really!
To enable you to feel more empowered in your wedding catering choices, I’ve enlisted the help of some of my favourite caterers across the country to explain how the process works, and what you need to be thinking about when picking one.
What should you be looking for in a wedding caterer?
So let’s start off with the groundwork: what should you be looking for when you’re choosing your caterer? How do you sort the wheat from the chaff in all of those Google and Instagram searches? Firstly, Sarah from Taste The Love – a Manchester-based catering company committed to vibrant celebration food packed with flavour and championing local, eco-friendly produce – says you shouldn’t forget the basics. “You should make sure that your caterers’ food is in line with your ideas for your wedding. Don’t choose a fine dining company if you want Indian street food. Making sure everyone is on the same page from the start is very important!”
Laura from El Kantina, Yorkshire-based purveyors of Mexican and Southern style “sunshine food”, says you should also be on the lookout for a good track record. “Look for an established caterer with a good track record of events – great reviews is a must. They should also be always approachable and responsive with good communication throughout your enquiry process, as that bodes well for the future.”
Clem at Kitchen Party, South London-based caterers who focus on the kind of food that accompanies your best memories, advises that “It’s a personality thing too! You might be working with your caterer for months so really important to find one that you can get on well with and can be flexible to your needs and requirements.”
How far in advance should you book your wedding caterer?
Ideally, you should be looking for your caterer about one to two years before your big day – especially if you’re having a summer wedding, when demand is higher. (A lot of catering companies will also do markets and festivals, which boom in the summer.) Kelly, the Events Director at Michelin-trained Saffron Catering, says they will only cater a maximum of 2 weddings on any one weekend, so it’s always worth booking tasting appointments as soon as you’ve confirmed your date and venue. (This does come with a caveat though – as with everything, if you’re working with a shorter time frame and find a supplier you can’t imagine your day without, it’s always worth popping the question.)
How much will wedding catering cost?
Of course, this fluctuates depending on each brief, but if you’re catering on a budget, don’t fear – these superstar suppliers have some handy tips on how to budget. “The thing to keep in mind is making sure your guests are well fed.” Sarah advises. (Especially if there’s a lot of booze!) “Things to think about when budgeting for food are: How long is your day? Will people be eating lunch before they arrive? Are you going to have evening food?” And if the answers are out of the ordinary – don’t worry. “It is your wedding and not ours, so if you want to spend a large percentage of money on lots of canapes and then get your guests to bring dessert, go ahead.”
El Kantina suggest having an ‘aspirational menu’ to start off with. “This is the menu you would want if money were no object. Then you can take a look at that and see where the tweaks can be made – i.e which bits you don’t mind losing out on to get nearer to your budget!”
When looking at your quotes, it’s also important to remember that catering prices aren’t just the price per head for the food, as Kelly points out. “It is also subject to staff and equipment costs. Our staff set up and manage the entire day so are always on site a good 3 hours before and then an hour after the event finishes to pack away.” Often, catering staff are the people who set the pace/keep things running to time on the day, so you’re also paying for management costs – especially in a dry hire venue. Equipment hire is also something to consider if you’re getting married in a warehouse or alternative space: “Equipment costs vary with each venue as some venues have very basic (if any!) kitchen facilities and therefore we may need to hire everything in for the event.”
Also, you have to think about the prep work that goes into it beforehand. “It’s not just about getting the on the day service 100% perfectly executed – the build up to event is a finely tuned operation that takes days of planning and prep.” Laura explains. So what we’re saying – politely but firmly – is please don’t expect your wedding catering to be as cheap as your supermarket shop. That’s not what you’re paying for.
As a starting point, Clem says “For a wedding in a dry hire venue for 100 people, you are probably looking at between £70 – 100 + vat per person including 2 – 3 courses, equipment hire, staff & ice.”
How do you deal with dietary requirements?
In a time when people are becoming more and more aware of their bodies, dietary requirements are something you need to be aware of – and, more importantly, your caterers need to be aware of. What do you do if you have a wedding guest who’s a celiac, or with a severe nut allergy? Kelly’s first step is to ask couples to get people to RSVP with dietary requirements or allergies. That way, your caterer will have plenty of time to prep. Sarah also asks the couple for said guests’ contact details: “That way, I can speak to them directly. Then I know exactly what their dietary requirements are, and all the bride and groom have to do is make sure they are on the table plan.”
Clem points out that “Whilst its nice to think about them, it’s your day so you should choose whatever you like to eat – so you don’t need to base your whole wedding menu on guests with dietaries.” Laura added that “All good caterers should be able to cater for any special requirements by tweaking their dishes or creating new ones so that no guest needs to lose out. If they can’t cater for particular requirements then they should make that 100% clear as part of their consultation process.”
What do you think makes a fun wedding?
Kelly says don’t overdo it. “I believe sometimes less is more, so don’t over complicate the day. Good food and wine, music and friendly staff to host the event go a long way!”
Laura agrees, saying “Out of the LOTS of weddings we’ve attended, and the ones that stick out are those with a personal touch. It’s not about the huge budgets and flashy accessories – its about the thoughtful, personal references that make your guests feel special and make for a memorable day.”
Sarah also came through with a situation so genius, I may have to make it a requirement on my booking form: “My friends had different themed fancy dress for each table at their wedding which was so silly and so fun. I love a game or competition, it brings out the best (and worst) side in people!” (Genius, right?!) “But generally I think most weddings are fun when friends, dancing and a few glasses of Prosecco are involved. What’s not to love?!”
We also asked Clem, Sarah, Laura and Kelly what makes a good caterer, and – aside from great food, obviously – they all said communication. Well, we can personally attest to them all being top of their game in that case! Huge thank you to them all for taking time out of their busy schedules and swapping slaving over a hot stove for slaving over a keyboard for us. Here’s where you can find more about them:
Taste the Love offer bespoke catering in Manchester. Their style is a colourful, vibrant celebration food that is packed with flavour and made with love. All served in a friendly, relaxed and professional manor, you can really Taste the Love! http://tastethelove.co.uk/
Need a super useful list of questions to ask your wedding caterer?Taste the Love have put together one for you! Click here
El Kantina is a fully mobile Street Food catering company based in Yorkshire. They like to keep things relaxed – they love cooking up ‘none fussy’ sharing style food with the wow factor. Their food can be served ‘street food style’ or served direct to your table – but either way, its Mexican and Southern inspired ‘sunshine food’ which your guests will remember for years to come. http://www.elkantina.co.uk/street-food
Saffron Caterers and Events is a family business serving London and the South East. They are passionate about delivering the best quality food and service. Their chefs are Michelin trained and deliver exceptional food and service at very competitive rates. https://saffron-caterers.co.uk
Kitchen Party is a London based biz run by sisters Joss and Clem. Makers and lovers of delicious, seasonal, local food with no waste. Inspired by their greatest memories coming from great company, delicious food and flowing wine, nothing makes them happier than catering the same delight that they experienced growing up. Check their delicious food out here >> https://kitchen-party.co.uk
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