Wedding Catering 101: How a Venue Can Impact the Food and Drinks

Updated 10/19/16

Whyman Studios

What should be one of the first things you do after getting engaged (after taking that picture-perfect engagement ring selfie, of course!)? Choosing your wedding venue should top your to-do list. Before you send out invites and start tasting cakes, you gotta pick your place! After all, your wedding date, your décor, and your guest list all depend on the size, feel, and availability of your chosen space. Another major wedding day detail your wedding venue can influence? The food!

Whether you've been dreaming of saying "I do" in a classic hotel, a trendy restaurant, or a unique event space, the wedding venue you choose will greatly impact just how unconventional your catering can be (although most locations can accommodate some degree of personalization and surprise). Be sure to add these pro and con columns to your list when venue shopping. You do want your guests asking for seconds, don't you?

Restaurants

Great chefs are often found at restaurants, so buying one out for your big day is the ideal way to get the menu you want. You could also save big because food, rentals, and service are included. "But avoid small places that don't have the staff to handle a party of your size," says Hugh Acheson, James Beard Award-winning chef at Empire State South.

Hotels

For a truly stellar meal, find a hotel with an award-winning restaurant where ingredients are locally sourced or made from scratch. But no matter which you choose, meet with the chef to tell him about your wedding style and the foods you like, says Chris Huerta, executive chef at North Carolina's Old Edwards Inn. Work with the in-house team to create a custom menu or, at the very least, tweak the preset options to reflect your own tastes. "Good caterers can adapt, so don't be shy about telling them what you want," Acheson says.

Event Spaces

Aim for one that lets you bring in any outside vendor (cue food truck for cocktail hour or late-night snacks). "Look for companies that participate in local food festivals or have a background in the restaurant industry," says Lara Ziemba, private-events manager at the Chicago Cultural Center. If the venue insists that you use a "preferred vendor," ask if you can pay a fee to go off the list. If the site's people won't budge, Ziemba says you can hire a chef you love to work with the caterer (the chef will craft the menu, which the staff will execute and serve) or enlist your favorite restaurant to cook the meal for a licensed caterer to simply pick up, transport to the venue, heat in ovens or warming trays, and serve to guests.

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