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28 July 2014

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Bride's guide: catering

(menu)

Finding and briefing a caterer can be easy as pie - just follow our step-by-step guide

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Find out what your options are

Many venues have an in-house caterer or preferred list of suppliers, so it’s often the location of a wedding breakfast that will stipulate who cooks it. But don’t be too upset that the choice isn’t entirely yours. To become affiliated with a venue, a caterer is likely to have gone through rigorous vetting. Its team will also know your venue well, which helps things run smoothly.

Set yourself a budget

It’s important that you know what you can afford to spend before contacting a caterer. Clear numbers – per head or in total – will help them advise you on how best to spend your money. There’s no point splashing out on a full three-course meal, topped and tailed by canapés and cake, if that would mean having to skimp on the quality of ingredients. Better to serve the nibbles as starters and cake as dessert, with a buffet or family-style sharing meal in between.  

Get some quotes

If your venue allows, contact two or three caterers for an initial quote. This will give you a feel for how different companies would use your budget. 

Pick a winner 

As long as their quote doesn’t completely break the bank, go for the caterer that’s most ‘on your page’. We’re talking gut feeling here. The wedding breakfast is a very personal meal and you’ll want someone you think is able to deliver the style you’re after. 

Work on your brief 

The easiest way to make sure you get exactly what you want is to be really clear about what you’re asking for. Read your caterer’s quote carefully and write down what you think about it. Don’t forget to highlight your favourite bits, as well as things you’d like to change or elaborate on. Have you thought about how you’d like the meal served? This is your chance to dig out all those magazine cuttings you’ve been saving.

Ask for a tasting

Once you’ve sent over a detailed brief – and followed up with a call to go over questions – it’s time to eat. A reputable caterer should offer a tasting as a matter of course. If the one you’ve picked refuses, pick again. You’re about to spend a decent chunk of money with these guys, right? The least they can do is show you what you’ll be paying for.

Finalise your menu

Don’t be afraid to suggest changes to the menu during your tasting – that’s what it’s there for. Love the flavour of that roast lamb but not how it looks on the plate? Consider serving whole joints on boards for guests to carve at the table. Do the canapés look a bit fiddly? Grab a glass and try eating them with just one hand. If it doesn’t work here, it won’t work at your reception. 

Get it down on paper

Right. Happy? It’s contract time. Make sure everything you’ve agreed is confirmed in writing, from the date, venue and start time, right through to the number of vegetarians that need catering for. Costings for food, drink, glassware, crockery and staff should all be detailed, alongside payment terms and a cancellation policy. Job done. 


This article was first printed in Square Meal Weddings, 2014

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