Image: Kate Nielen
As your wedding will probably be taking place over the course of a whole day, you need to ensure that your guests are treated to some yummy and refreshing fare at regular intervals. Food is about celebration after all! We cook complicated and time-consuming dishes when we have something to be thankful for or when we wish to mark a special occasion. Think about Christmas, Easter, birthdays, anniversaries, new babies and graduations. These occasions usually revolve around the family sitting down together to enjoy a meal and a glass of champagne. Your wedding should adhere to this tradition of ‘breaking bread’ together, and your menu needs to reflect the importance of this extraordinary occasion.
In-house vs outside catering companies:
Perhaps the first issue which needs to be cleared up regarding catering your wedding is whether you are obliged to use your venue’s in-house catering team, or whether you are permitted to bring in an outside supplier to cater your wedding. This issue should have been mentioned while you were still in the venue viewing stage, but if you’re a little unsure, this is the time to look in detail at your catering plans with your venue. Larger and more exclusive venues tend to insist that brides and grooms use their in-house catering team, however smaller and more relaxed venues such as converted barns and farms tend to allow brides and grooms to book their own caterers if they wish. You also need to be clear on whether you can buy in your own alcohol, and whether the venue will then slap a huge corkage fee on top. A quick chat with the venue’s wedding planning or events team will provide answers to your questions, so pick up the phone and give them a quick call.
As I mentioned above some wedding venues will have a policy which states that brides and grooms must use the in-house catering team for their event, and this is usually non-negotiable. Our venue had such a policy so we knew from the very beginning that we would be unable to source our own caterers. Luckily our venue was well known for the high quality of its menu! The chances are that using the venue’s catering team will be the smoothest option as they will be well versed in catering a wedding with a similar size guest list to yours, they will feel completely at home with the kitchen equipment.
While using the in-house team was perfect for us, many couples prefer to have total control over exactly what is served to their guests. If you’re lucky enough to have booked a venue which is flexible in this regard then you need to weigh up the pros and cons of both options. Sit down with your fiancé and do the maths so that you can compare how much the in-house catering will cost compared to an outside supplier. Keep all of your notes safely in your wedding planning folder so that everything is recorded for future reference.
Budget friendly tips:
Whether you decide to hire a catering company or to use your venue’s in-house team, you may be shocked at just how much it costs to cater a wedding, especially if you have a large guest list or have your heart set on something really special. However, there are a few tricks which you can use in order to keep the cost down. Follow the tips below and you’re guaranteed to secure at least a small saving…
- Try to stay as flexible as you can with regards to dishes as your catering company will be able to make suggestions for keeping the cost down by using slightly different ingredients, or more seasonal produce. If a particular product is difficult to source at your time of year it’s highly likely that it will also be expensive! Eating seasonally and locally is not only cheaper it’s also far more earth-friendly
- Consider the dishes which are suggested by the catering company itself as they are likely to have a great deal of experience in preparing these dishes. As we all know - practice makes perfect!
- Try to keep it as simple as you can. Complicated dishes with lots of exotic ingredients will cost far more than fresh and simple dishes
- Serve your wedding cake for dessert, thereby cutting out the need to pay for another course. This may not be possible if you are obliged to use an in-house catering team, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Serve sparkling wine instead of champagne! We did this at our wedding and I don’t think anyone noticed. I know it’s a bit cheeky but most people cannot tell the difference between the two if you go for a good quality sparkling wine. You may even be able to source a lovely local wine
- More guests equals more catering costs, so keep that guest list as small as you can if you’re worried about your budget
- Make sure you find out at this stage whether waiting staff, cutlery and crockery will be included in your quote to avoid nasty surprises
If you decide to buy your alcohol from an outside source you will need to spend a bit of time searching for a reputable high quality supplier who is fairly local to your wedding venue. Rather than being attracted by the promise that the merchant will buy back any wine which you don’t use, negotiate a better price for the bottles in the first instance. You will probably end up paying less for the wine overall and you’ll be left with a few bottles to enjoy as newlyweds! Also, don’t be tempted to book a supplier without first tasting the wine for yourself. All of the best wine retailers will offer you the opportunity to attend a wine tasting during which you can ask questions concerning how to pair wines to your menu. Relax, enjoy the process and discuss your opinions at length with your fiancé before signing on the dotted line.