Catering Your Wedding Receptions:
There is no doubt about it: unless you are in the most breathtaking surroundings imaginable, the centerpiece of the reception (physically, not emotionally) is the food and drink. And while the meal will not be the most memorable part of your wedding, if it is not good, neither will it be forgotten in a hurry.
But there is no cause for worry. Fortunately, you can taste the caterer’s work beforehand, and choose one who already has a good reputation.
Don’t overlook restaurateurs as potential caterers: if you have some favorite eateries, ask whether they cater off-site functions (or if the chef could prepare some of his specialties). Of course, many restaurants have separate rooms on their premises for private parties – or might even consider closing the entire establishment to the public for you and your guests.
Nor does a highly recommended caterer have to be expensive. Much depends on the menu you choose and the cost of the ingredients. A skilled caterer can make a variety of simple foods taste wonderful, and a lavish presentation makes a terrific impression as well.
The range of options for the food is once again virtually limitless, although to a certain extent, the time of day defines certain parameters of a menu. A midday reception could call for a brunch menu, an early or mid-afternoon wedding a cocktail party (or high tea) type menu, and an evening wedding a complete dinner menu (unless it is very late, and you specify a “dessert reception”).
Another factor affecting your reliance on the caterer could be how many meals you are planning over the course of the wedding festivities. Are you having a rehearsal dinner? Another meal, perhaps at home, for the out-of-town guests? If the reception represents the only banquet, it is possible to round up friends, neighbors and relatives to cook and bake up a storm and provide virtually all the food. If you start six months before the wedding, divide the tasks up and have plenty of freezer capacity, this is actually not the overwhelming chore it sounds like.
Regardless, food responsibility for the reception can be shared with the caterer to the extent that both sides are comfortable with the situation.
Finally, you know your guests better than anyone. You just want to please them, not the caterer or facility manager. If you make your guests feel happy and welcome, the reception will be a success. If the package you have chosen combines the venue and the caterer, your job is that much easier, as long as you have checked out the food as thoroughly as you did the location. Another key to cost calculation is buffet versus sit-down. Reducing the number of waiters can significantly lower your expenses. The fewer the number of guests, the less troublesome and time-consuming it is to serve buffet-style. The logistics of the venue can also influence this decision. (There is also a “middle ground,” called Russian-style, where the waiters serve the whole table from platters. This saves only a little money, if at all, but guests will hardly notice the difference from a full-service sit-down affair.)
The balancing act between buffet and sit-down revolves mainly around cost – but only if you or the caterer do not have to bring in so many outside serving tables and chafing dishes that the price is driven up. One advantage to buffet service is that guests can pick the foods they like, and decide how much of each dish to eat. On the other hand, if you have a significant number of older people (or physically challenged) people as guests, you may elect to forgo the buffet, or arrange to have these individuals served at their seats