Of all the things you plan for your wedding, catering is the one part that often feels the least straightforward and has the biggest potential to blow your budget. "Many couples worry that if they don't serve a ton of food at all points during the reception, they might come off as cheap," says Andrea Correale, president of Elegant Affairs Caterers. "But that's actually not true. Planning a successful event means keeping the guest experience in mind. And honestly, people want to have fun, not eat course after course after course."
Luckily, this translates to some money saving opportunities for the couple. Below, Correale shares five recommendations that can help you make the most of your catering budget — all without sacrificing style or experience.
Don't serve too much food during cocktail hour.
"A lot of couples think they have to go crazy with cocktail hour and have a tremendous amount of food," says Correale. "But people are very health conscious now and chances are an overabundance of food will just go to waste. So scale back and just have one or two stations and some passed hors d'oeuvres. Cocktail hour is about mingling and whetting the appetite, not getting your guests full before a 3-course dinner even starts."
Limit the number of choices on the dinner menu.
"You don't need three or four entrèe options on the menu," explains Correale. "In fact, each additional choice can add $15 or more per person. Instead, limit your menu options just to one meat and one fish dish and a silent vegetarian option. As for the starter course, a well-done salad is always a good choice."
Try passed dessert bites instead of too many stations.
"After dinner and the cake, people probably don't want to gorge themselves in more sweets," says Correale. "Instead of having a number of stations, consider having small dessert bites passed around like hors d'oeuvres. This not only saves money (and food!), it also adds an air of elegance to the end of the evening."
Let the chef choose the fish and vegetables.
Some types of fishes and vegetables can be less expensive than others depending on the season and location. "Leave the type of fish and vegetables up to the discretion of your caterer," advises Correale. "Not only does this give them the freedom to find the freshest options, it also usually ends up being less costly."
"This only really works if you're hiring an off-premise caterer (vs. having your wedding at a hotel or restaurant), but you can avoid markups on alcohol by negotiating with your local wine store," says Correale. "It's even possible to work out a deal where you can buy in bulk and then return what you don't end up using."