The caterers are an essential part of your wedding team. The food you serve your guests can make or break your reception so what they do has got to be excellent.
You are likely to be choosing from two different types of catering for your reception: the in-house caterer based at your venue; and the off-site catering company, which brings everything to your venue.
Many venues offer wedding packages, ranging in price depending on the style and formality of the event and the ingredients being used. Generally speaking, the more formal the occasion, the more the catering is going to cost. Most packages include all the food, the people to cook and serve it, the tables, chairs, linens, china, cutlery, glasses and bar staff, all priced on a 'per head' basis. Alternatively, if you want to use items outside the usual package, such as coloured linens, specific glasses or having chair covers, you can list everything you want and have it priced individually. Depending on the venue, you may not have to use its in-house catering facilities. But if you particularly want to bring in someone of your own, you are likely to be charged a lot for the privilege and it may be more cost effective and a lot less hassle to look for a different venue.
If you are holding the reception in an unfurnished venue, such as a marquee at home or the village hall, you will probably use a mixture of hire companies and outside caterers. The room will be a blank space so you will need to hire everything from tables and chairs to the linens and glasses. Some catering companies can help with all of this, others provide just food.
Once you have chosen a caterer, ask for a tasting session of the proposed menu and drink options. Discuss the menu, canapés, guest numbers, vegetarian and special dietary options and when you need to confirm everything. Don't be afraid to make changes to their food suggestions; it is your wedding and you need to love, not just like, what you will be serving your friends and family. They are professionals and won't be offended if you want something different.
So what are you going to feed your guests? The food is one of the most memorable parts of any wedding party so work with your caterers to come up with an interesting, though not too adventurous, range of dishes that will suit most tastes from young to old. If you are expecting lots of young children to come to the wedding, think about offering a children's menu. This will keep the kids happy and probably save your budget at the same time.
Think about the time of day you are holding the reception before deciding on the style of the food. Traditionally, the earlier in the day you are holding the celebration, the less formal it can be.
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