Should You Have Food Truck Catering at Your Wedding Reception?

Food Truck Wedding

Photo by Chellise Michael Photography 

As weddings become more and more focused on guest experience, food and drink are the best way to ensure a memorable event. Whether that means serving snacks before the ceremony, including an elaborate grazing table at cocktail hour, or offering elevated zero-proof cocktails at the bar, there are plenty of ways to do something unique in this department—and one increasingly popular option is the food truck wedding.

“Catering is such a huge part of the wedding day, so it’s a good place to do something different,” says Allie Shane of Pop the Champagne Events, which has helped coordinate over 50 weddings with food trucks. “I also think wedding catering can have a bad rap overall—boring dried chicken and things like that—so when food trucks came on the scene with these creative dishes, it was a natural transition.” 

Meet the Expert

Allie Shane founded her Orange County wedding coordination company Pop the Champagne Events in 2012. In the wake of coronavirus, she has also created the Backyard Wedding Collective, which plans at-home micro-weddings for couples impacted by the pandemic.

While food truck catering can be exciting and fun (and, occasionally, more budget-conscious) it also comes with its own set of considerations and limitations. Read on for everything you need to know about hosting a food truck wedding before you commit to the approach.

Food Truck Wedding Cost

At first glance, a food truck wedding can seem much more cost-effective than one catered by a traditional caterer. In some cases, initial estimates for the latter may come back at $100 per head, while estimates for the former come back at $15. That’s a huge difference, but, as Shane notes, it’s important to realize that a quote from a food truck is likely not all-inclusive. “When you’re comparing catering quotes, you want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges,” she explains. Per Shane, a traditional catering quote will typically include rentals, staffing, and oftentimes beverage and dessert service. Food trucks typically bring their food and their truck ... not much more than that.

“They’re not helping to set up tables at the beginning, they’re not providing China, no one's pouring water for guests at their tables,” she adds. That setup may work for a casual picnic-style affair but likely won’t jive with something more traditional or formal—which means you could wind up spending more money (and time) booking additional services to round out the experience.

Another element to consider is insurance. A professional vendor will have their own event insurance, but the same is not necessarily true for a truck that doesn’t ordinarily work the party circuit. If something were to go wrong, those costs could fall to you, so you’ll want to ensure the truck you book has their paperwork in order. 

Pros and Cons of a Food Truck Wedding

Pros

The biggest pro is an obvious one: This will be a unique experience your guests won’t soon forget. For foodie couples, it’s also a chance to introduce out-of-towners to one of the best aspects of where they’re marrying. “In L.A., food truck culture is such a scene,” says Shane. “I’ve had a lot of clients whose families maybe live in Ohio, but they want to have a food truck at their wedding because it’s very representative of our local culture.” 

A food truck is also a great option for a venue that doesn’t have a traditional kitchen. If you’re hosting your reception in a field or open-air space, a private residence, or somewhere entirely non-traditional, a food truck can be a much easier and more economical fix than creating a prep space from scratch.

Cons

Longer wait times for food can be a pain point with food truck weddings, especially when everything is cooked to order. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to mitigate that. Consider asking your vendor to limit the menu to a few options, and having several of each ready to go as guests approach the service window. Many food trucks with event experience also offer the option of having a buffet-style table of their offerings placed outside of the truck, so guests can easily help themselves.

Shane suggests hosting a hardier cocktail hour ahead of the main meal, or, at the very least, laying out snacks like chips and salsa at each table so guests can nosh while they wait for their turn to be called up.

Another point to consider is how long the truck will actually be on-site for your event. Unlike traditional caterers, who will arrive hours before to set up and stay through the end, food trucks are typically booked for a specific amount of hours. Once they’re gone, guests who missed the window to grab their food will be out of luck.

Finally, as mentioned above, you’ll also likely need to devote additional time and financial resources to securing vendors to handle set up, beverage service, dessert, and clean up. “Ask yourself: Am I the type of person that really wants to piece together 10 vendors where I could just pull in one?” says Shane. “Maybe the answer is yes, but maybe it's not.”

Food Truck Wedding FAQs

Do I need a permit to host a food truck at my event? 

Special event, parking, and fire code permit requirements vary by city and county. If you’re not working with a food truck with event experience, you’ll want to check with your local municipality. For events on private property, you generally won’t need a permit.

What do I need to consider when it comes to parking the food truck? 

If the main meal at your event will be served from a food truck, you’ll need a space that’s large enough to accommodate the truck but isn’t too far away from your guests’ tables. (It’s never a good idea to have wedding attendees trek away from the main party space to grab their food.) You’ll also need to think about venue accessibility. LA’s beloved Kogi BBQ truck, for example, cannot drive up hills with a 15% grade or higher.

How many guests does this work for? 

The largest guest count Shane recommends for a single food truck is 150. For anything bigger, you’ll want to book multiple trucks to avoid excessive wait times.

Should I decorate the truck to blend in with my wedding decor? 

The short answer: no. You’re likely booking the truck because it’s a fun and unique experience—lean into that! If incorporating your theme is important, trying including a sign or menu beside the truck that matches your decor.

What do I do if it rains? 

A contingency plan is necessary for any event with an outdoor element. Talk with your food truck vendor in advance about adjustments that could be made in case of bad weather: “They can prepare the food in the truck, then serve it in a more traditional buffet or plated fashion,” suggests Shane.

Food Truck Wedding Ideas

  • Mobile Bar: These utterly Instagrammable drink services are a fun addition to any celebration. (They can also serve coffee, lemonade, and other non-alcoholic options.) Those that specialize in only one beverage or are confined to only a few taps are best when booked for a short window of time (like, say, cocktail hour) in addition to a bar.
  • Dessert: Not into cake? Not a problem. Go with an end-of-night ice cream sandwich, popsicle cart, or donut truck instead. “This gives guests the food truck vibe, but there’s no rush or [worry about] a time constraint,” says Shane.
  • Late-Night Snack: After a night of dancing and drinking, there’s no better surprise than end-of-the-night junk food. Whether it’s burgers and fries (PSA: Shake Shack does weddings), pizza, tater tots, or tacos, your guests will be grateful for carbs to sop up the booze.

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