While planning a wedding as a whole can be quite the stress-filled undertaking in itself, one of the particularly daunting aspects of the process is determining your approach to catering. We all want our wedding guests to leave the party feeling full and happy, but it is just so easy to get bogged down in so many details when planning a menu. As many of us who have planned events in our lives know, there are a wealth of things to consider regarding food service – from service style, to cuisine type, to types of plates to use, to beverages to serve... And the list goes on! It’s no wonder that arranging your wedding catering can be one of the toughest tasks any Bride or Groom faces on the way to the altar.
Fortunately, there are ways to make sure that you aren’t facing too many headaches as you seek to wow your guest with your wedding menu. Kathryn Albarado, owner of Dagar’s Catering in Austin, Texas, provides three simple tips that will help guide you through this process in an organized and focused way. A catering expert in her own regard, Kathryn’s tips are sure to aid in making this part of your wedding planning process a straightforward and enjoyable one!
Know Your Style
To quote my favorite movie, The Notebook, you first have to ask yourself one thing: “What do you want?!” All joking aside, it is best to decide first and foremost what type of cuisine would represent your wedding vision best. Once you have an idea of what this might be, it is important to then consider the service style that could best suit this cuisine; from passed hors d’oeuvres and buffet service to food stations, plated meals, and family style options, most caterers are equipped to offer a number of service styles to best suit your needs. In making such a decision, it is important to remember that more labor-intensive service styles (like made-to-order stations or plated dinner service) tend to cost more as they require more staff. Once your caterer has a concise vision of what you want for cuisine and service styles, it will make it a lot easier to meet your expectations.
Know Your Guests
While your wedding is ultimately all about celebrating you and your spouse-to-be, it is important to consider your guests when making certain decisions with catering. Remember that this is your first hosted event as a married couple; part of that responsibility is to provide your guests with food and drink that they will enjoy. If you and your spouse-to-be absolutely love canned sardines, by all means serve canned sardines at your wedding if it will make your day a special one! However, do not forget that other guests may not share your unique tastes across the board, so it’s wise to also include more universally friendly items – at least in a portion of your menu offerings.
It is also considerate to inquire about major dietary restrictions present in some of your guests, notably regarding food allergies, vegetarianism/veganism, and gluten-free diets. Most caterers can accommodate these restrictions with ease, provided that your budget allows for it and you notify them in advance. Lastly, if you know kids will be present at your event, it doesn’t hurt to have a few kid-friendly food options and beverages – even in limited quantities.
Ultimately, you never want your guests to walk away from your wedding saying, “That was lovely, but I’m still hungry!” Your guests will stay and party with you all night if they are full and happy. On the other hand, they will be out the door faster if there isn't enough food or drink that is enjoyable to them. Simply put, it’s smart to keep in mind your personal tastes alongside the wide range of tastes and dietary restrictions of your many guests, aiming somewhere for the middle-ground when planning your menu. It may sound like a daunting task, but this part of the process can also be a blast (food tastings!), so have fun with it!
Know Your Budget
It’s the word everyone dreads when seeking out catering quotes: “BUDGET.” Creating a unique and delicious menu can be exciting, but having to consider the reality of your budget after the fact can be a bit of a downer, especially once you first see your catering quote.
There are two ways to work around the sticker shock that tends to come with throwing all your dream menu ideas out to your caterer and getting back a high-end quote. The first is to identify the items on your dream menu that are must-haves, no matter what. I always ask my couples, “If there was one thing you couldn't live without on this menu, what would it be?” It is a great help to start with these – the items you know you have to have on your menu – and build the menu out from there. Second, it helps to consider alternative and more cost-effective service options ahead of time that you might also be okay with. You may have had your heart set on a family-style dinner service initially, but if you are looking to trim your catering quote, perhaps moving over to a buffet service instead would help cut costs without taking away from your actual menu selections. If you can keep these points in mind and remain flexible in the quote process, your caterer will be set up to successfully help you realize a menu that is ultimately going to be perfect for your big day and easier on your wallet.
Once a Bride and Groom have found their ideal style, budget, and finalized guest list, the fun begins with planning the menu. Whether you’re in search of an oyster bar or a wedding cake shaped like a unicorn, the pre-planning makes the process of customizing the menu for that special day a much easier task. Sometimes finding those creative ways to cut costs, like opting for an interactive s’mores bar instead of an ice sculpture, adds a personalized touch to your wedding and creates a fun experience for guests. At the end of the day, the guests are there for the Bride and Groom and will appreciate any extra detail that highlights such a memorable event.