Food is very, very important to me in my everyday life. When I say things like “I love to travel!” it’s really because I love to try new food. When I say “Let’s go do something!” it usually means “Let’s go out to eat!” Because of this, I knew going into wedding planning that finding the perfect caterer was going to be a tall order. While all-inclusive venues are sometimes a better deal, in the long run, we knew we wanted flexibility with our menu. Then, the many venues that don’t require you to use their caterer still need caterers to be licensed and bonded by the city (understandably), but that rules out bringing ANY food of your own. One of my bridesmaids happens to be an amazing cake-baker, and we have a friend who makes the best stuffed mushrooms in the world, so we really lucked out finding a venue that didn’t have many rules regarding food.
Once ALL the choices were opened up to me, though, the search became a little overwhelming. At first I found a caterer whose food sounded amazing and was right at our budget. However, newbie wedding planner that I was, I forgot to factor in servers, tax, and gratuity. And that’s in addition to renting plates, silverware, and table linens! The out-the-door price doubled, and that caterer was off the list. Next I got a recommendation from some friends who had just booked their caterer, and who raved about how the company was both delicious and reasonable. This was the vendor who, as I mentioned in my first post, told me to come back when I found more money. So, no. MY BUDGET IS ENOUGH.
I reached out to a few of my favorite local restaurants. One came in right at budget, and I called my fiancé in joy. But (and there’s always a but), as I read through the menu in detail, I realized that for all the money we were paying them, they were only serving us four passed appetizers for two hours – not the big family dinner we wanted. The other restaurants were just way too much; at one point I calculated that if we could take everyone to dinner AT the restaurant, and all 80 guests ordered their very own appetizer, entrée, and drinks, with tax and tip, it would still be less than the catering department was charging for one, portioned buffet plate. That just felt wrong.
Finally, after months of searching, I found what seems to be the ideal caterer. They are perfectly within budget, service included with no extra fees, have worked with our venue before, and are even located a mile away from the venue. The food, BBQ, is perfect for us, too – both from the Mid-West/South, our second official date was to a BBQ restaurant, and we consider ourselves BBQ connoisseurs. Here is the but, though: they refuse to do a tasting, as the food preparation is so labor intensive, and are asking us just to trust that their food is delicious. Catering is the owner’s passion and hobby, not his full-time business, so what’s it to him if we don’t want to hire him? The Yelp reviews back up his claim that the food is amazing, but since BBQ is so close to our hearts, we do have some ideas about what we like and how it should taste. Plus, it is incredibly nerve-racking to put down a few grand on something I’ve only seen in photos.
Another of my bridesmaids didn’t get the chance to taste the food at her venue before the big day, and guests are still raving about it.