Catering Confusion

So after a LOT of conversation, we narrowed it down to three top choices for venues.

Our key criteria:

  • Walking distance from the church
  • Unique and interesting venue

Two of our three top choices would require catering, so up next was calling some caterers to get an idea of pricing. Catering was one of the things that totally confused me in the past month—some books/articles made it sound like you picked a caterer and then found a venue that allowed them. Others lamented being stuck with the caterer your venue allows. And what exactly does a caterer do? I thought it was just the food, but Shamrock thought they took care of everything—coordinating and setting rentals, cuing the DJ, and so on.

One of our first round picks, the amazing Rookery (which is probably not going to work for us, but now I really want someone to have a wedding there!) allows only two caterers, and one got very positive reviews.

Image via The Rookery

This is the Rookery’s Light Court. It’s amazing. You have to get draping for the first floor, and it’s just clean and light and gorgeous. Sigh.

Next up was just figuring out what to ask when I called.

I checked out this article, as well as these two, for some tips about what caterers do and the kind of questions I should ask.

For my initial phone call, I’m just going for some basics:

  • What is your average cost? Can we itemize and customize individual parts of the menu?
  • Will you be there for our event? For what portion?
  • How many weddings do you do at a time?
  • What’s included in the price? (Rentals, linens, bar, servers, cake)
  • What does the service charge include? (Hint: It’s not gratuities; that’s extra.)
  • Does this cost include setup and cleanup?
  • What is the level of staffing? (One per table is the right answer.)
  • Have you worked at our location before? (I think the answer is yes, but it’s good to ask anyhow.)
  • Does the price include the cake? (Probably not) What costs are associated with the cake? (Cutting fee, plating)
  • Do you provide vendor meals? Children’s meals? (I don’t see why they wouldn’t”¦but it would be nice if they were cheaper.)

My basic details are that we’re expecting to have around 150 people, of whom 20 or so will be under 21 (mostly under 12). I’m looking for baseline pricing, so I don’t think I will need to give much more detail than that.

And if I like them, here are my follow-up questions after we get a rough price:

  • Will you set up the tables? Can you set out place cards? Favors?
  • What is the overtime charge?
  • Where will the food be prepared?
  • Can we do a tasting before we hire you?
  • Would it be cheaper if I handled rentals/linens/bar myself?
  • What is the bar cost? If we provide liquor, do you have a corkage fee? Can you provide bartenders?
  • Do you have references?
  • How does the staff dress? (One article was all, “Will they wear Hawaiian shirts if you want them to?”)
  • How will you handle last-minute changes (extra people show up, you remember three of your cousins are vegetarian)?
  • What happens to extra food?
  • Do you have a license? (This is a yes for the ones I’m contacting, but is good to keep in mind.)

Hopefully this is enough information to get the ball rolling so we can make a decision and book a date!

Are you using a caterer or going with an all-inclusive venue? Which one is cheaper? Which one is easier?

BLOGGER

Miss Clover

Location:
Chicago
Wedding Date:
June 2014

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comments

  1. Member
    Mrs. Palm Tree 1069 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:18 am

    As a Wedding & Event Manager for a catering company, I would be THRILLED to have someone ask the questions you have on your lists. :) Definitely very thorough and organized, which is every coordinator’s dream!

  2. Member
    Mrs. Treasure 1638 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:45 am

    We also looked at The Rookery! I was dying to have our wedding there, but when we saw it in person, we realized it wouldn’t work for us.

  3. Member
    Miss Clover 266 posts, Helper bee @ 3:24 pm

    @Mrs. Treasure: I loved it to, but I think maybe the photos turn out better than the reality? We also decided it wasn’t right for us.

  4. Member
    Miss Wellies 1425 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:43 pm

    That venue is gorgeous! :)

  5. Member
    mrscam24 25 posts, Newbee @ 7:00 pm

    I’m bookmarking this for questions I still need to clarify with my venue/caterer. Thanks!

  6. Member
    ktga 76 posts, Worker bee @ 7:18 am

    These questions are awesome. Definitely something I can reference once I start calling possible vendors!

  7. Member
    Miss Clover 266 posts, Helper bee @ 7:58 am

    @MrsCam24: @KtGa: Thanks ladies. I made some obsessive cost comparison spreadsheets too that I’d be happy to share once you’re at that point. Just PM me if you want them!

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