15 Commonly Asked Questions About Planning a Wedding Reception Menu

A buffet table with food at a wedding reception.

Even if you’ve cooked dinner for a large gathering of friends or family, it’s nothing compared to the logistics you need to nail down for your wedding reception. Whether you’re hiring an outside caterer to take care of the reception meal or your venue has an in-house chef, you’ll likely have plenty to talk about during your initial meeting with the person preparing the food. Come prepared with these 15 commonly asked questions when planning a wedding reception menu.

1. What type of service should I choose?

There are a few types of food service styles that you can choose from at your reception including plated, family stations, buffet, and heavy appetizers. Though the type of service doesn’t necessarily have to dictate what your menu is, certain types of food lend themselves easier to plated meals versus buffet meals.

2. How long do I have to finalize the menu?

Even if you think you have your mind made up right now, it’s still good to know when the deadline is to make changes to the menu.

3. When is the latest I need to book?

Ask the caterer if they even have your wedding date available an if so, when you need to book. If they’ve had meetings with several other couples and you like what they have to offer, it might be better to err on the side of booking right now.

4. How much food do we need?

A close-up image of tacos at a wedding reception.

At this point of your wedding planning process, you should have an exact total of guests invited to the wedding (don’t worry if you don’t have an RSVP total yet). Having a total and a budget will help your caterer determine how much food you will need to get—and how much it will cost per person.

5. Will the food be prepared at the venue or off-site?

Though it won’t likely affect the taste of the food too much, it’s good to know how much time your caterer will need in the venue to prepare.

6. Can we create a custom menu?

A lot of caterers have a (more or less) set menu that you can pick and choose from, but if you want to create something completely custom, is that an option—and how much will that cost?

7. How do you source your food?

A close-up image of locally-sourced appetizers at a wedding reception.

Is most of the food sourced locally or is it mostly delivered frozen to the caterer?

8. What options are available for those with dietary restrictions?

If your cousin is vegan or your sister has Celiac disease, will there be the option of adding special meals for them—and how much extra will that cost?

9. Can we have a separate menu for children?

Having kids attend your wedding? They might not be so crazy about the chicken piccata that you’ve picked out—or you may not want to risk wasting a bunch of food on little ones. Having a separate menu for kids would be a worthwhile thing to ask if you have lots of nieces and nephews or if you have kids of your own who are on the pickier side.

10. What should we have at the dessert table besides cake?

A candy bar at a wedding reception.

It may be hard to believe, but not every single person is a big fan of wedding cake. Ask your caterer what kinds of goodies they can provide in addition to the wedding cake that will be served—like brownies, cookies, a sundae bar, etc.

11. Are you licensed with health permits?

It may seem obvious, but the last thing you want is to have all your guests sick with food poisoning the morning after your wedding.

12. What type of linens and silverware do you provide?

Do you have a variety of choices available or is there only one option? Is there an option to provide your own if you don’t like what they have?

13. If I have an outside cake baker, do you charge an extra cutting fee?

A bride and groom cutting the cake at their wedding reception.

Every caterer and venue has different rules, so it’s a good idea to know exactly what kinds of extra costs you could potentially be looking at, including whether or not there is an extra fee for using an outside baker for your wedding cake.

14. Can we bring home leftovers?

Ideally, at the end of the evening there won’t be too much leftover (because that would mean you paid for way too many meals), but just in case, are you allowed to take home a few to-go boxes?

15. What is your cancellation policy?

No one wants to think about the unthinkable, but just in case the weather is uncooperative or you have to cancel the wedding, it’s a good idea to ask each and every vendor what their cancellation policy is and how it works so you can give yourself some peace of mind.

Find Amazing Vendors