Wedding planning can be one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do in your life, especially if you are forging the road alone without a hired wedding planner. There are several vendors to contact, hire and coordinate. Who you choose to be your wedding caterer will have a large impact on your wedding. They will feed your guests, provide tables, chairs, linens, table ware, serving ware, and may even be providing the alcohol and your wedding cake. Your wedding caterer will coordinate with your venue and other vendors to ensure the timeline of your wedding flows properly and the hors d’ oeuvres and entrees are all served in a timely manner.

There is a lot riding on your wedding caterer so you want to make sure you find a good one that fits your budget. Here is our guide of questions to ask your potential caterer and things for you to keep in mind as well.

  1. Do you have any professional training? Many chefs may have gone to school while others may have been additionally trained under a renowned chef before starting on their own. Education is important but so is training and experience.
  2. Are you licensed? There are several answers for this question you should be looking for. Have they met (or really, exceeded) health department standards? Do they carry liability insurance? Both of these should be a yes. Always stick to a licensed and insured caterer. Some caterers also provide alcohol for some of the weddings they cater for; others may not if they primarily work at venues that provide the alcohol in house. If your cater does provide alcohol, they should be properly licensed to do so.
  3. Can the caterer provide reverences (or do they have third party verified reviews online)? Getting a feel for how others have experience working with the caterer will let you know what kind of experience you should expect. If several people have reported that the caterer refused to adjust menu choices two months in advance, then you know you could expect the same difficulties in managing your own changes. Or if the caterer has all good reviews from several sources (Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc.), you can expect to have a pleasant experience as well.
  4. Does the wedding caterer offer tastings? Reviews are one thing but experiencing the taste yourself can help you to decide if you want to hire. If you don’t like the food, why have it at your wedding?
  5. Is the caterer working any other events or weddings on the same day or is there a chance they could be? Not to be selfish, but you do want to make sure the you caterer will have ample staff and time to prepare for your big day. It is common for caterers to book two or more events on the same day but there is nothing wrong with getting assurance that you event will get the attention it deserves.
  6. Does the caterer use organic or locally grown produce? Do they use fresh, not frozen food? You want the food you are catering to be as fresh and delicious as possible and knowing that all of the ingredients are fresh and not frozen can reassure that it will be.
  7. Does the caterer specialize in a particular style meal? This is important if your caterer is known for their sushi bar but you want a country buffet. Be sure to research and find a caterer that can cook an array of foods or one that specializes in the cuisine you are interested in serving.
  8. Does the caterer offer packages and are they full service? Packages will allow for you to get more food for your buck and you will need to know what comes with each package. Does one offer tables, linen and staff while another does not or all of the packages all inclusive. Knowing will allow you to plan for the extra cost of getting your own linens or hiring staff for serving.
  9. When does the caterer need final numbers and how late can you make changes? The answer for this will help you to prepare accordingly.
  10. Is the caterer able to make meals in accordance to special or religious dietary needs? If you need Kosher or halal meals; or perhaps you have several family members with a peanut allergy and the caterer you are interviewing cannot meet these standards then you will need to find one that can.
  11. Can the caterer make special dishes for children? Kids can be picky eaters and may not want anything to do with the beef wellington you ordered. Also check if special pricing is provided for children, many caterers offer half price or something similar for children’s plates.
  12. Does the caterer make wedding cakes and are they able to make one to your design specifications? Some may be able to make an extravagant cake while others may stick to general designs. Others may leave cake making to the baking experts. Knowing will help you to plan accordingly.
  13. Does the caterer provide table ware, tables, chairs, salt & pepper, or linens? Is there an extra fee for this? You want to ask this so you can budget these extras.
  14. Does the caterer provide serving or wait staff? Knowing this will also help with planning and budgeting. Also check to see how many are provided and if needed, can you hire more.
  15. Does the caterer provide bar service and staff? This isn’t a deal breaker but it can be quite convenient to have an all-in-one catering company.
  16. Does the caterer include set up and clean up in their fees or is it a separate service? Also check how much time they will need to do both and coordinate with the venue to ensure they will have the time to properly do so.
  17. Does your venue have a kitchen and if not, does this pose an issue for your caterer? You will need to make sure the caterer can work with the venue you have chosen and if there are any issues, is the caterer able to handle it in stride as part of your package or will there be an additional fee.
  18. Does the caterer provide place cards and menus to place at the tables for guests? Or is this something you will need to create yourself. Little details like this are commonly forgotten and can cause a large amount of stress.
  19. Are there any additional charges or fees that the caterer includes in the final bill, such as a service fee, taxes, or gratuity? If gratuity is not included, should it be added and how much is an appropriate amount?
  20. How does the caterer arrange the food? Do they have a particular presentation style, do they have photos, or can they arrange it to your specifications? It is your big day and you get to choose how you want everything. Make sure to find a caterer that is able to work with you.