Here are some things a caterer can do for you that you may not be aware of:
-A caterer can help you find the perfect event venue. Caterers that have been around for a while have extensive knowledge of venues in your area, and can suggest places to meet your budget, style and vision. They can even accompany you on site visits to make sure it’s a good fit for your vision.
-Many caterers can also serve as your wedding planner, including day of wedding coordination. Since they are already doing your catering, they will get to know you really well, and many times they will offer this service at a lower price, since most of their revenue comes from catering.
-The best caterers, like La Bonne Cuisine, have developed relationships with other wedding vendors and can use those relationships to get you better pricing on items like flowers, photography and rentals.
-A lot of caterers also offer design services, so they will be able to take care of the overall design of your wedding, taking care of things like flowers, linens and decor.
-The best caterers can create a custom menu for you. Most caterers will provide you with a standard wedding menu, but if you have something different in mind, don't be shy and tell them! A good caterer will be able to create the menu with your input, so you get exactly what you want.
So now that you know what a caterer can do for you, here's a few things you need to know before you start your search:
1. Establish a catering budget, and be realistic. It is important for the caterer to know from the beginning what your budget is to establish whether you are a good fit with their company. Cost varies a lot depending on where your wedding is, so it may be a good idea to ask a few friends how much they spent so you can get a good idea of what the market is where you live. Don't go by wedding planning websites, since many times they don't have localized information. Also, don't go by restaurant prices, since it's a completely different thing! Remember that many times a caterer pretty much has to set up a restaurant just for you!
2. Tastings. The idea of having multiple tastings to decide on a caterer sounds fun-however, it doesn't work like that. Many caterers now charge for tastings, although some of them will refund the cost if you book them. Some of them won't even do a tasting until you book them, and the tasting is more to get your feedback on the dishes for your wedding, rather than a “job interview”.
3. Preferred Vendor Lists. A lot of wedding venues have Preferred Vendor Lists, and for a reason-the caterers on the list have been vetted and the venue feels good about their food and service. However, if you feel strongly about a caterer that is not on the list, many times the venue will be flexible, but it is best to negotiate this before you book the venue, since they may have an incentive to say yes to get the business.
Now you have some tools to get out there and enjoy the fun journey that is wedding planning. Have fun!