The caterer is probably the most important vendor at your wedding, other than your wedding planner. Responsible for feeding and watering your guests in a timely and satisfactory manner, they have a huge challenge in front of them for every wedding they serve. Keeping that in mind, it's amazing how many brides and grooms jump into catering contracts (with non-refundable deposits) without considering all the important aspects.
Here are four mistakes couples frequently make when choosing their caterer:
1. Being Too Busy to Do the Homework
The decision about which caterer to use can be daunting, and some brides and grooms will skip the homework they should do simply because it's a lot of work to reach out to former clients for references, and do a lot of searching on the Internet for genuine testimonials and feedback from clients and guests about how good — or how bad — the food was at any given wedding.
2. Forgetting to Ask About Additional Charges
The caterer may have bid your wedding reception food at $80 per person, but there are almost always additional charges that you have to take into consideration for your budget from the very beginning. Most charge some sort of dish rental fee. If you're doing food stations or a buffet, there may be additional charges for station chefs to do the service. Bartenders and servers don't come cheap either. Plus, you need to plan ahead for gratuities if they're not in the contract.
3. Trying to Take Every Guest Preference into Consideration
It seems like half the world has some sort of food allergy or intolerance, nowadays. It used to be that your only worry was whether you needed to accommodate vegetarians and children, in addition to the regular menu. Now you have to deal with lactose and gluten intolerance, and children who can't even be in the same room with something that contains nuts. It's simply not possible to choose a wedding menu that will accommodate every individual dietary need that exists, so you have to draw the line somewhere. If you're offering a couple of dinner options, try to have one that is gluten-free, but don't make yourself crazy over it. People who can't eat gluten won't — they know what isn't good for them. If you know you have vegans, make sure your vegetarian option is vegan, and that will also satisfy the lactose intolerant folks. Offer one option for the children and if there are any with serious allergies, their parents should have enough experience dealing with it to bring something for the child to eat.
4. Overspending on the Bar
Brides and grooms usually want to serve the highest-level bar they can afford, including signature drinks and champagne toasts. Serving top shelf, instead of rail level drinks, can actually double your bar bill for every guest, something that is completely unnecessary. Make sure you have plenty of tasty, cold beverages for your guests and nobody is going to complain about the lack of pricey booze. After the third drink, they don't usually care what's in it anyway.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.