How to Choose a Wedding Caterer

The food and dining style at your wedding are some of the most influential decisions in creating an unforgettable experience for you and your guests, but knowing how to choose a wedding caterer can feel a little overwhelming.

Before starting your Charleston wedding caterer search, identify your venue and budget. This will help narrow your search during the next step: researching caterers that are available on your wedding day. Lastly, schedule a tasting before signing the dotted line to ensure the food matches your overall vision.

Here, we will discuss the most important considerations and tips for choosing a perfect wedding caterer for your special day, along with a list of must-ask questions when you meet with each potential option.

Here are 11 Tips for Choosing a Wedding Caterer:

  1. Begin the Caterer Search Early
  2. Look into Full-Service Catering Vendors
  3. Research Caterers Online and Check Reviews
  4. Ask Around for Caterer Recommendations
  5. Set Up Initial Calls with Caterers & Know What to Ask
  6. Set Clear Expectations
  7. Ask for Menus and Choose a few Favorite Items
  8. Ask for an Estimate based on your favorites and service style
  9. Set Up Tastings With Top Catering Options
  10. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Picky

1. Begin the Caterer Search Early

Most wedding caterers are booked far in advance – you will need to reach out to caterers starting at least 2-3 months after getting engaged to ensure your first choice will be available.

“Start looking for your caterer as soon as you have a date and venue. It is never too early to secure your caterer, especially if it is during peak season.”


2. Look into Full-Service Catering Vendors

Typically, full-service catering includes your choice of menu, food prepared by professional chefs, dining expertly set up, food service throughout the function, and clean up taken care of at the end.

Sometimes this is taken a step further. For example, Duvall Catering & Events emphasizes full in full-service by offering to take care of any decisions needed to ensure they are cohesive across the board. This can include floral arrangements, decor, furniture, bar service, and much more.

This saves you time, money, and stress, and helps to ensure your catering will match or enhance your wedding vision. Read more about full-service catering and what it entails.


3. Research Caterers Online and Check Reviews

When searching the internet for promising caterers, check out their social media pages for images, videos, and testimonials from their past customers. You should look for the quality of their past work, identify if they’ve worked on any weddings similar to yours, and decide if their skills can meet your expectations.


4. Ask Around for Caterer Recommendations

People in your life including the venue coordinator, your wedding planner, or family and friends can be a great source of general information or even specific catering recommendations.


5. Set Up Initial Meetings with Caterers & Know What to Ask

One of the best ways to determine if a caterer is the right fit for your wedding is to set up calls where you can speak to them and get the information you need.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • Are you available on our wedding date? Do you have any other events that day?
  • Do you offer Bar Services?
  • Can I see photos of your previous work?
  • Have you catered at this venue before?
  • Have you ever done a theme like mine? Do you have any pictures?
  • Do you offer food tastings?
  • Can we customize our menu?
  • What would you need to execute our vision properly?
  • Where is your food sourced from?

6. Set Clear Expectations

During the meeting, be sure to set clear expectations for yourself and all potential caterers that communicate exactly what you have in mind for your vision, preferences, and priorities. Be consistent with your ideas and ensure they are being not only heard but listened to.

“Pinterest Boards are always fun to see!”


7. Ask for Menu Samples

Menu samples can show you how much the caterer is willing to customize their offerings to your needs. Some vendors offer static menus that offer little to no flexibility, while others offer varying levels of customization.


8. Ask for an Estimate

It’s always a good idea to ask each potential caterer for their pricing information. Caterers like Duvall will customize packages based on the venue, food and dining style, and other considerations. We recommend following up a second time to make sure you fully understand their offerings and can thoroughly consider how it fits into your budget.

“Pricing is based first and foremost on the menu selection, followed by the length of the event and type of service, i.e. served, buffet, or stations.”


9. Set Up Tastings With Top Catering Options

After your initial meeting, scheduling tastings with your top caterer options is the best way to see if they can create something delicious that harmonizes with your vision. Though these are not always possible, you can always ask for images or references from past clients.


10. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Picky

Once you’ve set up a meeting with a catering company that you are considering, prepare for the interaction like you are conducting an interview. After all, you may be paying a lot of money for their services. Ask for all you need to decide if they would be able to bring your vision to life.


What You Need Before Your Caterer Search

Before you begin your search for a caterer, there are several decisions you should make so you can approach the decision with confidence and know exactly what you are looking for.

  • Know Your Wedding Date – You won’t be able to begin the search for a caterer until you’ve decided on your wedding date. Otherwise, it’ll be impossible to tell which of your options are available on that day.
  • Choose Your Venue – Venues have a big impact on catering logistics. Does your venue allow outside vendors? Does your venue have a kitchen? You may want to find a vendor that has catered at your venue for past events if you would like additional peace of mind.
  • Set Your Budget – Catering makes up about 23% of your wedding budget, on average. Knowing your budget will streamline the process of selecting a menu with your caterer.
  • Be Clear On Vision – Make sure you create a detailed plan outlining your theme or vision. This will help you find caterers that have worked similar weddings in the past.
  • Pick a Dining Style – Is your vision for food something more casual, formal, or in between? Your caterer can help you find options that fit both your budget and style – you don’t have to waste time reviewing options that don’t fit your budget or your vision. Learn more about the different dining styles.
  • Brainstorm Food & Drink Ideas – If you’re not sure what types of food you want to serve, think about themes. Do you want local options? Fancy options? Southern options? You don’t need to know your menu before interviewing caterers, but having an idea of what you want can help your caterer offer the best options for your special day.

Next Steps in Your Wedding Caterer Search

As you continue to plan your perfect wedding, we have several related resources for you to consider: