Top Questions to Ask Your Caterer

Marta BlockContributor

Casual or formal, sit down or buffet, food is a big part of any wedding budget. Although it may seem like the most fun wedding vendor to hire (tastings, yay!), hiring a caterer can actually be very stressful. Not only are there a lot of industry terms to decipher (wait, what does plated mean again and what's a charger?), but each catering company has their own way of breaking down the bill so it can be hard to compare quotes.

These questions will help you get at some of the more common budget pitfalls with caterers, and also assess if the caterer is a good fit for you and your wedding. It's important to remember that many venues only allow their own catering service. This is almost always the case with hotels. If youre interested in a venue like this, it's important to speak to the catering manager and do a tasting before deciding on the venue. Other venues have an approved list of caterers from which you must choose. Before deciding on your venue, make sure that at least one of the caterers on the list is both within your budget and to your liking.

1. What do you like about working events at our venue?
You could ask "have you worked at our venue before" but then what? You want to ask a question that will engage the caterer and give you a sense of the company's professionalism.

2. Do you do both buffet and sit down meals? What are the pluses and minuses of each?
Although buffets are generally less expensive, depending on the type of food you serve they may not always be significantly less expensive. If your caterer is only interested in a formal sit down meal and you're planning an informal country style bar-b-q, you'll want to look elsewhere.

3. What do you recommend for a staff to guest ratio?
Typically, for a sit down dinner you'll have one or two waiters per table, which means either a one to five or one to eight ratio for staff to guests. You would need fewer waiters for a buffet. But, if the caterer recommends a one to three ratio, they may be a little pricer than you had in mind. If they recommend a one to twelve ratio, service might not be that great.

4. What does your per person price include?
This is one of the things that makes it difficult to compare catering bids. One company's price might include food, drink, and place settings. Another, just food and still another food and drink only. Before making a decision based on price, make sure you understand what that price includes.

5. Who will be my contact person during my wedding?
Do you absolutely LOVE the guy you've been working with? Is he so on top of things with so many great ideas and easy fixes? Wouldn't it be a shame if he is not the on-site manager for the event?