Typically, about 48% of the average wedding budget is spent on catering. With that much sunk into something you don’t even get to keep after the big day is over (and no, leftovers don’t count), it’s really important to feel like you’re getting what you want. There are no hard and fast rules about what you should serve, because these days there are a lot more options than your old-school sit down dinner.  To be honest, someone probably put an end to that nonsense after sitting through wedding after wedding one summer with nothing but dry beef or dry chicken as their choices. Think about it, it’s just like flying economy class to Russia: “Chicken or beef? Chicken or beef? Chicken or beef?”

No, these days, there are OPTIONS. There are weddings with food trucks, there are weddings with brunch receptions.  Weddings with nothing but cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, weddings with cake and punch. Weddings with sit down dinners, weddings with buffets, weddings with carving stations.  I know this phrase is as worn out as an old sponge, but It’s Your Wedding!  That means you can do what YOU like.  Within reason. Within your budget.  Within a range of tastes that won’t offend your guests.  I suggest no kimchi. Also none of that kombucha stuff unless all of your guests are from either Seattle, Portland or Vancouver, BC.  Kinda kidding, but not really.

First, you do a broad search

Okay, so how do we get started finding wedding caterers? Cast your net wide, and start getting a list together. Searching by your city, go through and gather websites.  I’m going to be super honest here, if you hate the name, don’t call them. It’s not that they’re bad, but if they don’t appeal, your list gets smaller. Sweet, right?

Send out an email to friends and family to ask if they have any recommendations for an event or wedding caterers

If they do, cross reference them to the list you now have. Any matches?  Check those websites first.  Or call them. Get in touch somehow and find out more about what they do and offer.

It’s really important to ask what they do best

You might have a specific menu in mind, or are as wide-open as ‘anything delicious will do’.  Wedding caterers might want your business enough to tell you that they can give you whatever type of food you envision, but every caterer has a specialty. Find out what they think really rocks on the menu, and decide how well that melds with your own ideas for wedding food.

Narrow it down to two or three wedding caterers MAX

Ensure that the wedding caterers are already within your budget.  There is no reason to go eat their delicious food if you can’t even afford them.  Only after you double check the numbers should you then make arrangements to have tastings. Any more than three and you risk stepping on a slip-n-slide of Analysis Paralysis where you’re completely unable to make an actual decision and suddenly you’ll find yourself on the couch drinking the last of a bottle of chardonnay (that you don’t even like!) and commiserating with Bridget Jones over her tragic love life. Get. It. Together!

Three tastings and you should know what you like. If they’re the kind of people you want to give your money to, and the food you think tastes delicious, then put down a deposit.  Boom, you found your wedding caterers. Now move on with the rest of the wedding planning already!

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