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10 questions you must ask your wedding caterer

Good food is a very important factor in making your wedding memorable. However detailed and unique your wedding décor may be, or how beautiful you look on your wedding day, all this becomes insignificant if your wedding menu is not up to the mark.

Food lovers are aplenty, and there will be more than just few at your wedding. So, you are responsible for providing hearty and interesting fare, that will appeal to them. Only then will they go home happy, and consider your wedding a total success.

The responsibility of serving delicious food and creating an interesting menu, lay with your wedding caterer. With a reliable and talented caterer on your side, it will be easy to satisfy your guests and even exceed their expectations, where food is concerned.

How do you find the right person to cater to your wedding? Find out for your self, by asking the following ten questions to potential candidates.

1.What are your service charges, and what does it include?

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Everything in a wedding is closely tied to the wedding budget. To choose a caterer, you have to first obtain quotes from caterers you wish to consider. This helps you to decide if the charges will be within your budget, and you can proceed with further discussions. Caterers do not just supply the food for the wedding, they also provide the associated services. These may or may not include setting up, serving the food, clean-up after service, cake slicing and serving etc.

The services included in the quotes may differ from one vendor to another. So, you should ask for what is included specifically, as this not only contributes to the experience, but will also impact your budget. If the caterer provides only the food, you have to spend extra on the staff for the service. When collecting quotes, ask for a detailed break-up of what is included in it. This will help you compare caterers and find the best option that works within your budget, after considering all the extras that you have to arrange separately.

2.How many staff will be present at the venue?

This is obviously tied to your guest count and type of food service. This cheat sheet on Wedding planning for dummies gives an apt representation for different types of services.  The ideal staff to guest ratio can vary from 1 or 2 waiters for up to 12 guests at a formal sit-down style meal to 1 for 25 guests at a buffet meal service. However, not all vendors use the same server-to-guest ratio.

It is important to obtain this detail, as this will affect the quality of service at your wedding. You should also consider details like what other jobs the waiters will simultaneously be handling, to determine if the count works for you. Whether the staff will be refilling glasses at the tables itself, or whether guests will be collecting their beverages from a station, can alter the required number count. Take the numbers and your wedding menu style into consideration, before deciding whether a caterer’s staff count will work for you. If there is more self-service happening at the wedding, you can afford to have fewer waiters.

3.How do you obtain your ingredients?

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Local and seasonal ingredients are always cheaper. If you are looking for some help with your budget, ask your caterer how they source ingredients. While comparing rates, you should take this factor into account. When you have to pay more for quality ingredients, it is likely that the food will also taste better. So, it is basically a compromise you have to make between the price and quality. If you consider it important to serve organic or reliably sourced food, you will have to pay more for caterers who can handle this requirement.

4.Will there be any extra charges that you will have to bear, apart from what is quoted?

There are factors to consider, such as the rental charges of the cutlery, glassware and tableware that will be used at your wedding. Do these come with the venue, does your caterer provide it along with the food service, or will you have to arrange for this on your own? Clarify this upfront, so there is no confusion after you place your order. Some caterers will add the rental charges to their total quote, while others will assume you will take care of this part. So, make sure you know what you are paying for.

Apart from this, you should also check whether the final bill will include any additional or overhead charges like transportation or clearing up charges. Or, is what is mentioned on the bill, the final price you have to pay?

5.How will the food be prepared prior to service?

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You should be concerned about whether the food will be ready-to-serve when it arrives, or whether the caterer will be doing the finishing touches on-site? The right option depends on the menu you choose. Some items have to be prepared right before service, as this is the only way they will taste good and look appetizing. Crisp and fried food are examples.

On the other hand, you can afford to have other items prepared early and simply transferred to the serving dishes at the time of service. Cold salads and dips fall into this category. It is likely that you will have at least one or more dishes that require assembling or finishing, just prior to service. Ask your caterer how this will be handled. If the lower quote is associated with food that isn’t served in the best way it should be, you should either replace the dish with another option, or be prepared to pay more for a caterer who will do it on-site.

6.Have you worked in a similar venue before?

The venue where your wedding is held, has a huge role in determining the appropriate type of service. If your caterer has already hosted a service at the same venue, consider yourself in luck. Otherwise, you should identify whether the vendor is capable of arranging a good service in the given conditions.

If you have shortlisted vendors you to choose from, you can take them to the site and ask them about how they intend to work with it. An experienced caterer will immediately recognize if the type of meal that you suggest—plated or buffet—will be practical in a certain venue. They will also offer suggestions on how the service can be streamlined to progress smoothly. This is usually based on their previous experience in catering to weddings of similar scale and in similar venues, if not the same one. This brings us to the next important point; the experience of each vendor you consider for the job.

7.How experienced are you at handling weddings on a similar scale?

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Weddings are usually huge events, and very different from regular restaurant services that most caterers are used to. Experience in handling weddings is a definite advantage. However, it isn’t necessary that the most experienced caterer will be the best for you. This depends on whether their experience includes weddings of a similar nature as yours. If your experienced caterer has only done different styles, or entirely different menus, the less experienced candidate may be a better choice.

The scale of the wedding is also a concern. If your wedding caterer has always done smaller weddings, make sure he has the equipment and staff to cater to your wedding before you confirm your booking. Ask for the additional adjustments they will make to accommodate your wedding needs. Are you convinced they will be able to pull it off? Or do you foresee a disaster? Take a call accordingly.

8.What suggestions do you have for my wedding?

Rather than telling your caterer everything he has to do, you can welcome his suggestions too. As experienced professionals, who have tended to several weddings, they will have ideas you may never have considered. Run your caterer through your wedding vision, the theme and what factors you want focus on. Then ask him for his suggestions. Similarly, gather feedback for your suggestions.

At times, a caterer may not be enthusiastic about a certain idea you suggested. If this is the case, ask him for his reasons. If he thinks it is impractical due to the logistics involved or unavailability of ingredients, you may benefit with following his inputs than forcing him to agree to do it. Your vendor may also have suggestions to make certain dishes more interesting, or suggest substitutes that may better match the meal style. Take these into consideration. When comparing vendors, look at how enthusiastic the different candidates are about your wedding. It is always better to go with someone who is more excited about cooking for you, than someone who is totally bored with your ideas.

9.How many weddings will you be handling simultaneously?

While it is not reasonable to expect your caterer to entirely dedicate his services to your wedding alone, you should be wary of vendors who take on more orders than they can handle. This will affect the quality of service at your wedding. It is even more important to know how many more weddings they will be handling on the same day as yours. If it is only yours, you can expect a more personal service. The preparation for the dishes will also be better, as they wouldn’t be shuffling orders. Communication will be better and there is smaller chance for confusion.

You should also confirm who will be in-charge of your wedding. It is inconvenient if the person who deals with your order changes mid-way, or if new orders will cause the planning associated with your order to be changed. If you attended a tasting session that you loved, you can also clarify whether the same team will be preparing the dishes for the actual wedding. This brings us to the importance of having a tasting session prior to the wedding, so you can see what you will actually get on the day and how you can accommodate any changes that may be necessary.

10.Is the dish at the tasting session final?

Like this article on the Brides blog suggests, every couple should have a tasting session before they finalize a caterer.  This is because you cannot guarantee the quality of service, based on what you see on paper. You have to actually try it out for yourself, to know. So, ask for a tasting session with your shortlisted caterer, before you finalize your order. When attending it, look at the quality of food that is served. Are the vegetables fresh and bright? Is the food served at the right temperature? If it is a buffet, check to see if the food is being replenished in a timely fashion.

It may be a good idea to include a third person with you, when you go tasting. This should be someone who can give you an unbiased and frank opinion on whether they think the food is good or not. You can assess the caterer’s attention to detail and reliability, based on the service you are offered. If you like what you taste, but would like certain modifications, check with the caterer on whether they can customize the dish as per your taste. A good caterer wouldn’t hesitate to take on your suggestions, unless it means overhauling the entire dish.

With these tips, you have all the information you need to successfully choose your wedding caterer. You will find plenty of helpful tips on deciding your wedding menu in our previous posts here and here. Apart from the food, you should also pay attention to the beverages served on the day, and the china that is used for the service. It is only when all these come together in tandem, that your overall meal planning will be a be a total success. Continue visiting us at Best for Bride, your one-stop bridal destination, for more valuable tips, advice and inputs on planning the perfect wedding.

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Have realistic expectations from your wedding planner: 3 things she cannot help you fix

Do you think that you can hand over the A to Z of your wedding planning to your wedding planner, and sit back and relax till the wedding day? If so, you are in trouble.

While a wedding planner can help you with the planning process, and even reduce the stress associated with the task, she isn’t going to be responsible for everything. After all, it is your wedding, and you should have a role in planning it. A wedding planner can only facilitate your plans and execute them smoothly.

Check out this article on the Huffington Post , where wedding planners share their thoughts on what they wish brides would realize. This will open your eyes to the fact that wedding planners have limitations, and it will be better for both parties if you set reasonable expectations from her.

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Having said this, let us come to the three most important things that you are responsible for. Make a mental note of these, do your research and planning on time, and you will make your life (and hers) much easier.

  1. Planning your guest list accurately

The guest list is your decision to make. Unless your wedding planner knows you personally, it is unlikely that she can help you with who should be dropped, or who should be added to your guest list. You should be decisive about the number of people attending, and she will do the bookings and planning for them. While your planner may be able to accommodate a few last-minute changes to plan, she is not a magician who can make arrangements for 50 extra guests, who simply turned up on the day. Similarly, make sure you get those RSVPs on time, and follow up with those who don’t send it. Or else, you will simply lose money on those extra bookings you made, just in case. Your wedding planner cannot do anything about guests not turning up.

  1. Making sure your bridesmaids are where they are and when they should be

While your wedding planner can create a well planned schedule for the day, help to speed things along and fix last-minute hassles, there is no guarantee that she can have your girls ready and in-place, unless they make the effort to do so. So, entrust this task to your maid of honor, and choose your bridesmaids wisely. Make sure they are girls who will be serious with their responsibility of getting their hair and make-up done on time.

  1. Sticking to deadlines

Your wedding planner will put you in touch with the right vendors, caterers, photographers and all other services you require. They will offer options, and also suggest deals with the best value for the money you spend. However, they cannot make your decisions for you. Many wedding tasks are time-sensitive, and unless you inform her of your final decision on time, you run the risk of losing a booking or missing an offer.

Remember that your wedding planner can only help you so much. Have realistic expectations, and follow her instructions. This way, you will be a great client, and she will ensure that your wedding plans progress in the best way that is possible. For more wedding planning tips and advice, visit us on Best for Bride.

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Wedding planning: 5 Mistakes you can avoid

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You are bound to make mistakes when you attempt something for the first time. Your wedding is no exception. With so many details to look into, it is easy to make a few errors along the way. The sad part is, some mistakes can cost you dearly.

Here is a roundup of the common mistakes many brides make, and what you can do to avoid them at your wedding.

Doing it all yourself

You certainly want your wedding to be perfect in every way, but is it worth burning yourself out by doing every task yourself? Many brides find themselves dreading their wedding day, as they are overwhelmed with the number of things they have to tackle.

Instead of worrying yourself to death, it is best that you realize some things can be done better if you delegate them. Save your energy for important tasks like choosing the wedding dress, vendors and planning the dates. The sub-tasks can be handled by capable friends or assistants. Curb the temptation to micromanage, and leave out details that aren’t extremely important. You will enjoy your planning your wedding this way.

Blowing your wedding dress budget

via Best for Bride

When brides budget for their wedding dress, they should set aside a particular amount for the dress itself and distribute the rest for accessories and alterations. Do not exceed the wedding dress amount, by looking only at those that fit your budget. If you go over-budget with your dress, you will have to compensate by cutting down on accessories like shoes or jewelry, as you cannot skimp on alterations if you want to look perfect.

Not figuring in additional costs

You have planned your wedding budget, and you intend to stick to it when ordering things and booking vendors. However, have you figured in the overhead costs as well? There are additional charges for cleaning up, taxes and tips. Make sure you incorporate these into the budget and that your bookings are all within the limit. This can prevent you from receiving a shocking bill in the end.

Being fixated on a specific idea

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This applies to your wedding dress, flower arrangements, wedding venue, décor, bridesmaids dress and all the other aspects of your wedding. If you are too particular about your choices, it is likely that you will be disappointed when things don’t work out exactly as intended. Keep yourself open to ideas and you may even be pleasantly surprised with what you find. When you go with your bridal consultant’s advice, you may discover a better wedding dress than you ever imagined; allow your florist to choose the flowers for your bouquet and you may receive a stunning but affordable one that complements your wedding theme.

Hiring family or friends who aren’t professionals

Unless your cousin is a professional photographer, or your aunt is used to baking wedding cakes, don’t hand the task over to them just because they asked for it. Whether you will be paying in full for their service or not, you will risk things going wrong on your wedding day by entrusting it to someone who isn’t capable of handling it on the required scale. Your wedding is not the occasion to take such risks, and you will be better off with a vendor who knows what they are doing, even if they charge more.

For more wedding related tips and advice, visit us at Best for Bride.

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How to Hire a Caterer for a Wedding Reception

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Couples recruit several professionals to help with their weddings. Each one plays a part in making the wedding as the couple wants it. The photographer, officiant, florist, and caterer have roles to fill to ensure the wedding becomes the special day the couple has been planning for months. Choosing a caterer is an important part of having the reception of your dreams. Here are some tips about how to hire a caterer for a wedding reception.

The couple may feel pressured to use a friend or family member as the caterer. If the couple is confronted with this situation, they may need to be assertive and politely say that they are using a different caterer. A caterer friend or family member who would be invited to the wedding may be appeased with the couple sharing that they would like the person to be able to relax and enjoy the wedding. The friend actually might enjoy the opportunity of seeing what a competing caterer is doing.

An engaged couple should start the process of looking for a caterer nine months to a year before the wedding date. Some couples rush into hiring the first caterer they meet. Consider holding off on the decision until after meeting several caterers who are available for the wedding date. If caterers are bringing samples to the meeting, ask if they charge for their samples.

It’s easy to get caught up in discussing details such as certain menu items. While the couple will want to share what ideas they have, the focus should be on the overall feel that the couple wants for the reception for the first meeting. The couple should discuss the caterers specialties and what type of cuisine the caterer would suggest for the style of wedding. Couples can talk about whether they want a formal dinner or buffet and receive suggestions from the caterers.

Caterers usually price the event per person. Before meeting with the caterers, know approximately how many guests you will have. You don’t have to know the exact number of guests at this early stage. However, you may find it helpful to know your budget and an estimate of the number of guests when discussing prices with potential caterers.

Know exactly what the caterer provides. Some caterers provide the tables, chairs, and dinnerware. Others only provide dinnerware. There are also caterers who only provide the food and serve the guests or set up a buffet. Caterers may have these items and services including in the price or for additional fees. Therefore, it’s important to ask what is included and what services cost extra.

When it comes to the wedding cake, some caterers will charge an extra fee to serve the cake. If you want the caterer to handle cutting and serving the wedding cake, be sure to discuss this with the caterers. A few caterers work with bakers to provide the cake as well.

Planning a wedding involves taking care of many details and making decisions. The Best for Bride blog contains helpful tips for stress-free wedding planning.