Hiring a caterer for your wedding is a huge decision, and will probably be one of the most costly aspects of your big day. But unfortunately lots of couples only consider two thirds of the equation when making this choice. First, of course, is the food itself. Does the caterer in question make the type of cuisine you intend to serve? Does it taste like you want it to? Secondly, what is the price and what does all does that include? Does it fit in your wedding budget? These are both crucial aspects that anyone with common sense knows to consider, but all too often couples ignore the third crucial component, which is service!
When I say service, I am not just talking about how the food gets from its original container into your guest’s mouth, although that is included as well. I’m talking about the overall interaction between you (/your wedding planner, your venue, etc.) and the caterer, from the time you sign the contract all the way through until the conclusion of your reception when they load up to leave. To an eager couple who is dealing with the realization that weddings are crazy expensive and things just keep adding up, its tempting to overlook something like service that is intangible and seemingly not a priority. But as I recently advised a bride, a caterer may promise you quality food at a very low price, but who’s to say they won’t show up in a child molester van with servers who have 3 teeth and haven’t showered? Hear me now and believe me later, you DON’T want to hire a caterer based solely on price and food quality. Why? Let me share some of the horror stories that I have either experienced first hand or heard from fellow wedding vendors:
- The caterer shows up an hour and half late, and guests enter the cocktail area to find the caterer still setting up. But even worse is that the beautiful wedding photos, by a very talented and costly photographer, feature a U-Haul and servers scrambling around in the background of the ceremony!!!
- The caterer says they will provide all their own linens and china, but they show up with linens that are the wrong size, wrinkled, and stained. They “have a long drive” ahead of them at the end of the night and leave early, not leaving a single drinking glass, and totally unconcerned that 200 people dancing the night away MIGHT just want a beverage at some point.
- The bride hires her own caterer, who does not supply a detailed contract. The wedding planner cannot get anyone at the catering company to return her calls and emails until the week before the wedding. When she finally does speak with them, she learns that service is not included in the price they had quoted the bride in their very nebulous contract, and the they had planned to drop off food and leave. To rectify this situation, the couple has to come up with a significant amount of money in a matter of days.
- The catering company, although they own a reputable restaurant of their own, shows up to the event in a dirty beat up station wagon, and the manager puts her pack of cigarettes on the buffet table while they are setting up. Family and wedding party members who have arrived early for pictures get to enjoy the show. Need I say more?
- The owner of the catering company has multiple events that day and sends out several servers but no manager in charge. Not only does nobody know what they are supposed to do, they also have not brought the correct beverages, serving pieces, and supplies so they just have to “make do”. Really?? The only person making a do on your wedding day should be your hair stylist!
I could go on and on, but hopefully I have horrified you into believing that hiring a reputable caterer with a history of good service is imperative! Before you sign a contract, do you internet research, ask around, and definitely, definitely take the advice of your planner, venue, and other wedding vendors. Unless someone around you has personal experience with the company, or you can at least read several positive online reviews, it may not be worth the gamble. Some brides think that vendors recommend each other because they get some sort of financial kick back. This is very rarely, if ever, the case. We all have a vested interest the event going flawlessly, and we recommend vendors who we know we can rely on to make that happen. Once you make your decision, be sure you get EVERYTHING spelled out clearly in writing. If there are things you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask. Most caterers are not “out to get you” by any means, its just that there are a variety of goods and services involved in catering and you want to be sure that both parties understand what to expect!