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What You'll Forget to Ask Your Wedding Caterer

Selecting wedding vendors may feel like you just keep asking question after question until they’re annoyed. But take it from a wedding industry professional: 99% of wedding vendors would rather you ask those questions and know what to expect than to just jump right into a contract with them! Catering is no exception. Most couples focus too much on the quality of the food (which is of course very important), and they forget to ask questions that could potentially add thousands of dollars onto their bill. Don’t end up with a catering nightmare at your wedding… here are a few questions you need to ask your caterer!

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1. Are you able to cater at my venue? It may seem like a given to you that any caterer should be able to provide a meal at any location. Industry experts know, however, that some caterers are not suited for certain locations.

With the rise in popularity of the outdoor venue, caterers have been forced in some ways to adapt; many outdoor venues do not have commercial kitchens for them to use, and sometimes, electrical access has to be limited.

Make sure to get the specs from your venue on what they have at their location: - Ask about water access and type of water (public or well?) - Ask about electrical access (What voltage and amps? How many outlets are designated for the caterer? Is it a designated circuit?) - Look to see where the caterers will park and if it is flat ground - Ask if a catering tent or area is provided by the venue (if it's not you may need to rent an additional tent for the cater)

The above items may rule a caterer out depending on their style. If your venue only has limited electrical access, but your caterer needs to plug in 4 chafing dishes and an oven and a coffee pot, chances are, they’re not a good fit for your venue.

 Photo by Moonloop Photography

Photo by Moonloop Photography

2. I see at the bottom of our quote it says there is a service charge. Is that for gratuity or something else? It never hurts to get frank about money and the nitty gritty when it comes to contracts. More and more, caterers are adding on the bottom an added gratuity fee or a service charge. These two terms are not always one in the same.

“Gratuity” means it will be used to pay for tips to their staff. Anywhere between 15 and 25% of the total bill is normal for gratuity.

“Service Charges” can be used to pay for anything the caterer deems is necessary, like staffing, setup or teardown. The service charges can be ambiguous and not be listed out. If you’re confused, ask!

Ask your caterer how many staff members will be there and for how long. Be direct: what does this “service charge” include? If they can’t or don’t want to make it transparent for you, then you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth booking them.

Some caterers have a service charge, but that DOES NOT always include the gratuity. If that is the case, you should be prepared to tip an additional 15% to 20% on top of the total catering fee.

 Photo by Brittney Kreider Photography

Photo by Brittney Kreider Photography

3. It says here your staff will provide clean up. What exactly does your staff do and could you place that in writing? When in doubt, put everything in writing. Many couples forget to ask their caterers about what type of cleanup will occur after the wedding.

Most caterers will take care of linens, china and silverware if you contracted through them to rent those items. However, you’ll want to have all of the details spelled out. You won’t want to be left with all of the dirty linens and plates at the end of the night!

One big question many couples overlook is what happens to the leftover food. Some caterers will not leave it for you. Others will box it up for you, which means you’ll have to make plans ahead of time for what to do with the leftovers. If you're not local to the area it could be an issue finding refrigeration for the leftovers.

Also ask your caterer about trash removal. Some venues will charge you for any trash left behind, so it’s always good to check if your caterer will remove all trash items.

Make sure your caterer will bus the tables. If not, you will need someone to do that. Several times we have found the caterer does not bus the tables and our couples expect us to do it. We have lots of other things to be doing throughout the reception so that's not always possible.

The Stylish O Team is always here to walk you through any planning questions you have! Check out some of the things couples are saying about us.

WeddingsMelissa Martin