Monday, March 26, 2012
10 Cost Savings Tips For Wedding Catering
Tip 1 - Trim Down on Your Wedding Guest List
Most brides dream of inviting everybody they know to their wedding. For most brides, this is an impossibility, the key is to prioritize all your wedding guests. First write down all the people that the bride and groom know, put down anybody and everybody. First the bride's side, the bride's family including sisters, brothers, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. Next include the bride's friends, then the bride's work and clubs. Next write down the groom's side, include family, friends, groom's work and clubs. You then put a mark by all people, people that must be invited to the wedding, people you would like to invite, then people that it would be better not to invite such as ex'es and people that may get out of hand such as friends that can't handle liquor or create gossip.
Put all people in your wedding list in order, the definites on top, then rank order the maybes, then choose people one by one, go bride's choice, groom's choice, bride's choice etc. until all the maybes are slotted. Keep that list until you meet with a caterer you have decided on. First take your catering budget, then divide the catering budget by the per person catering costs, this should give you the amount of people you can invite. Say you have 200 people on your list, 75 are definite, after you go through your calculations you determine you can invite 150 wedding guests. Numbers 151 and higher are on hold. If say 10 people from some of your invites you find can't attend you can add some more people, numbers 151 through 160.
Review your choices with the bride's parents, groom's parents, and important members of the bridal party. If the wedding couple should decide to go higher on the list make sure money can be found to fit the bill. Don't feel pressure or feel guilty, people not invited may feel hurt at first and after a couple of days will understand and will get over not being invited. It always seems to work out. If you really want some people on your list to be coming to your wedding, see if you can move budget money from another category, or see if you can come up with some more money or you can go go back to your caterer and have a less expensive entree that will allow your guest list to be increased.
Tip 2 - Serve Buffet Style Instead of Sit Down
If you can, the preference for weddings is sit down receptions with assigned seats. But if you must, you can save some money having your wedding served buffet style. Chefs don't have to put extraordinary efforts to make each dish delectable, and there will be need for less wait staff servicing plates of food to each place setting. There are two styles of buffet to choose from. A buffet table can be set up with all the food with both chafing dishes and serving dishes and plates upon it. A line of your wedding guests can help themselves to the buffet table. You should consider one buffet table per every 50-60 people, you don't want long lines of people serving themselves or it will become a bad mark for your event.
The other buffet possibility is for each buffet table to be a food station. One table may be meat, another vegetable, another a salad bar, another a dessert bar, and maybe another with specialty foods like crepes, woks, or pizza. Don't forget the drinks and the wedding cake. You need a second food station for about every 150 people. For buffet style weddings, make sure you have wait staff to refill, occasionally mix the food and inform the chef when the food level is getting low and keep the buffet area clean from spillage of food.
Even with buffet style food at your wedding, make sure there is assigned seating. The assigned seating helps keep order, friends may take seats close to the bridal party and family may have to seat far away. The assigned seating creates the proper pecking order for the wedding. The assigned seating also helps to avoid people conflicts by seating people apart that don't get along.
Tip 3 - Order Less Expensive Entrees, Appetizers, and Hors d'oeuvres
Wedding couples for their special event, often go for some of the most expensive items on the menu, but often find they need to cut expenses. A way to cut expenses is to go for less expensive food items. Most great chefs you can count on them having any food that is on their menu will be delicious. The less expensive items are just as good as the more expensive items. The key in choosing good foods for your wedding is offering good food that your wedding guests don't normally see at home. A vegetable lasagna will probably taste as good as a beef wellington. The key is having three entrees that are all different providing wedding guests choices for their taste buds. Another trick in serving food at weddings is to offer a lot of appetizers and hors d'oeuvres at a cocktail hour and your wedding guests will feel a little full by the time the entrees are served. Then less of an entree can be served and a starch, salads, fruit cups, soups, dinner rolls, etc. can be bypassed. If you have a lot of finger food at your cocktail hour, you can get away with just an entree and vegetable and then wedding cake and coffee.
Tip 4 - Find a Caterer That Has Their Own Supplies
Some caterers have more to offer than others. Some caterers also have supplies. Some caterers can provide all sorts of dishes, flatware, glasses, tables, chairs, serving dishes, linens, wait staff, and a lot of things for your wedding reception. Some caterers even can help decorate your wedding reception, bake wedding cakes or provide all types of desserts. When you interview a caterer, ask what else they can offer for your wedding. What they can offer can save you a lot in wedding costs. Some of what they can offer might be thrown in as a bonus for choosing them.
Tip 5 - Cut Down on Alcohol Costs
There are many ways wedding couples can cut down on alcohol costs. Your wedding guests expect to be served alcohol at weddings, it's a time honored tradition. If you have a non-alcoholic wedding, you better be sure you have no drinkers, most wedding guests expect alcohol and not have to pay for it. Your choices, have an open bar for the first hour only, provide two tickets for each wedding guest for the bar, serve wine and beer only, shut down the bar during the dinner hour, or create 3 signature drinks. Signature drinks have become popular in recent years. Start off with your color scheme. Check in with your drinkers on which alcoholic drinks that match with your color. Offer just those signature drinks with the alcohol that is needed may it be rum, vodka, and tequila. Serve beer, wine, and your signature drinks. Name your 3 signature drinks after wedding lingo or special people at your wedding.
Tip 6 - Serve Simple Meals for Children, Teenagers, and Wedding Vendors
Many children and teenagers have not developed their taste buds for sophisticated meals. Very often if you serve a fancy meal to a young person, not much of the meal will be eaten. The young people would rather have their old stand by favorites. Young people love chicken tenders, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and french fries. For the kids at your wedding, ask the caterer if he/she can serve a kids food at a lot less expense. If the kids aren't too young have a kid's and a teenager's table away from the main reception area. As for wedding vendors that aren't seating with wedding guests consider a cheaper meal such as a sandwich. If the caterer won't cooperate, you can have someone make a sandwich or simple meal to bring in for your wedding vendors. Give the wedding vendors an allowance of two drinks.
Tip 7 - Attend a Taste Testing Before You Book A Caterer
A good caterer may not always have available food samples. But a great wedding caterer will schedule you to stop in for a taste testing, it's part of their routine. This will get you comfortable with your entree choices and many will even show you food presentation on the plate. If there are unique appetizers or hors d'oeuvres they might provide this too. The food tasting is usually accompanied by a pricing list. You might make a fun event by inviting along family members or your closest friends. Seek their opinion on choices too. Usually at taste testings, often the event is free for the bride and groom and the charge for any bring alongs might be a nominal charge of about $5. For many it may be the best value for a meal you are ever going to get and the occasion is helpful for the bride and groom to choose a meal they are going to be very comfortable with for their wedding.
Tip 8 - Inform the Caterer With Your Per Person Costs and Let the Caterer Decide
Most great caterers have a wide assortment of foods they can offer your wedding guests, they know how to make any meal great. You can inform them of your budget and headcount and leave the meal to them. Sometimes you can get a really outstanding meal with this approach, they can get foods that are in season, maybe they can get gigantic scallops, prawns or in season seafood. They can get the freshest vegetables or this might give them an opportunity to try a new recipe out. Don't worry, they will test the recipe out on themselves first, the key is having a reputable chef noted for their menu. Just make sure you check in with them, to inform wedding guests of the choices they want and again the week before your wedding to be sure everything is fine with the caterer. Also book the caterer far in advance, the great caterers tend to get booked early, so you need to get to them before they get booked by other wedding couples.
Tip 9 - Bring your Own Bartenders, Buy Your Own Booze
If the venue lets you, bring your own bartenders and buy your own booze. You want to find a bartender that is very experienced at weddings. A bartender just out of bartending school won't suffice, a wedding requires a very good bartender who has experience setting up a bar for a wedding, one who knows how to properly make most drinks without looking it up or asking. You might ask around for a good bartender from area hotels, golf clubs, banquet halls, upscale restaurants, and large bars or nightclubs. Don't ask for a bartender from your wedding venue. You can save a lot from not using the venues bartender, they add a lot of overhead costs for insurance and overhead costs. Bring your own bartender and often you may pay half the costs the venue might charge.
You can also save a lot of money from buying the booze yourself. You can get the booze much cheaper by buying alcohol from a local liquor store. Again some wedding venues might not allow you to bring liquor but if you can bring your own you can save yourself a lot of money. Check with the liquor stores, to see if they can buy back liquor that is not opened, and check with the venue to be sure there is no corkage fee if you use their own bartenders, a corkage fee is a charge for every bottle opened. Check with your bartenders on which liquor to have for your wedding. The following are some general guidelines for ordering liquor for your wedding.
What to Order per 100 Wedding Guests
Beer 5 to 6 Cases
Whiskey 1 Liter
Bourbon 1 Liter
Gin 2 to 3 Liters
Scotch 2 Liters
Light Rum 1 Liter
Vodka 5 Liters
Tequila 1 Liter
Champagne 1 to 1 1/2 Cases
Red Wine 2 Cases
White Wine 3 1/2 Cases
Dry Vermouth 1 Bottle
Sweet Vermouth 1 Bottle
Tip 10 - Have a Pot Luck Wedding Instead of a Caterer
If you are very poor and you don't have much money for a wedding you might consider a pot luck catered wedding. I have been to a pot luck catered wedding and the wedding and wedding reception turned out great. A pot luck catered wedding requires a lot of coordination to pull it off but can bring substantial cost savings. A pot luck catered wedding has all your closest family and friends bring their specialty, the wedding couple supplies the main meat for the grill or serve something like barbecued meatballs, baste the meatballs in boiling jelly and chili sauce. The wedding couple also provides the drinks, maybe a keg of beer and sodas and a little champagne. Recruit some family members or recruit some volunteers from a local church hall or women's auxiliary group to help serve the food and cleanup. Check off with what people are bringing so you don't get duplicates such as multiple baked beans. Food storage may be an issue. Unless you have a large commercial kitchen and walk-in refrigerator you may run into space issues. Maybe store and heat up food in some neighbors homes. Break out responsibilities into 5 components, timelines, planning, space, servicing, and cleaning. Try to use nicer plastic dishes and silverware over cheap paper plates and cheap breakable utensils and don't forget garbage bags.
The food is often the costliest part of the wedding and it's very important to offer good food, food a lay person would normally not be served at home works best for weddings, the meal should be memorable. Look for savings from your caterer.
See you on the other side!