Questions to Ask Catering Vendors

Because what you serve is so important to your reception’s success, making the right choice when it comes to wedding catering services is one of your most important wedding planning decisions.

Full-service hotels, restaurants and most banquet facilities provide the food and beverages for all events they host. But many reception sites lack the staff, equipment and facilities to provide these kinds of catering services. In situations like this, you can simply contract with an off-premise caterer to serve your guests.

Before you meet with potential catering services—whether in-house or off-premises—pull together essential details like the reception time and date, its location, guest total, service style, menu options, and the size of your food and beverage budget.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. The more you understand, the more likely it is that you will have a memorable celebration. Here are some issues to discuss with prospective wedding catering services before signing a contract:

  • Can you provide references and a portfolio of previously catered events?
  • Are you licensed and insured to serve alcohol? Do you carry liability insurance?
  • What will be the estimated per-head cost, and are taxes and gratuities included?
  • Does that total include setup, tear down and cleanup?
  • How much time will you require to set up?
  • What deposit do you require, and when is it due?
  • What will the balance be, and when is it due?
  • Do you have a cancellation policy, and what are its terms?
  • What kind of flatware, glassware and place settings will be provided?
  • Does your wedding catering service supply tables, chairs, linens and table skirting? If not, what are your additional fees?
  • Does your catering service provide bar supplies and equipment, including glassware?
  • Are there additional charges for equipment or glassware rentals?
  • When must you have my final menu selections?
  • What are the sizes of the portions?
  • How soon must you have my final head count?
  • What will be your server-to-guest ratio, and does that figure include bartenders?
  • What will your wedding catering service staff wear?
  • When would overtime charges begin?
  • If we have a buffet, do you provide line servers or is it self-serve?
  • If you supply the wedding cake, what is my cost per serving?
  • Do you assess a per-bottle opening fee for champagne or a cutting fee for the cake?
  • How much liquor, beer and other beverages do you recommend I order?
  • Can you offer a volume discount on beverages?
  • What alcohol alternatives can you supply?
  • Can we return unopened bottles without being charged?
  • When will the bar be opened and closed?
  • What type of bar service is available — cash, consumption or open?
  • Will you supply ice?
  • Can you provide a floor plan of the table and seating arrangements?
  • Who will be your top representative at my reception?
  • What additional services does your catering service provide, and what are their costs?
Talking through these points with the wedding catering services you’re considering can make all the difference when it comes to a smooth, elegant, fun and flavorful wedding reception.