Five Crucial Steps to Choosing A Wedding Caterer
by: Michael Kabel

The wedding reception just isn't the same without a delicious feast. In fact, it's an open secret within the wedding industry that guests often remember the quality of the food served more than any other detail. For that reason and simply to provide the best of everything for your loved ones, choosing the right caterer becomes a vital part of your wedding preparations.

Choosing a caterer means making an informed choice, as if you were hiring a valued employee to act as "first officer" of the wedding. It's an important decision that doesn't have to be a difficult one.

1. Defer to the best referrals

Caterers make their way in the world by virtue of their reputations. The best caterers will likely have the highest degree of satisfaction with their former clients.

As you make your plans, talk to friends, coworkers, and pretty much anyone who can give you a reference regarding a good caterer to use. While you might hit some blind alleys along the way, you'll at least have plenty of choices available.

2. Choose substance over style.

Of course, as with every creative endeavor there are probably also catering companies who entertain a certain amount of hipness or prestige. You can choose to deal with them if you want, but remember too that style is not necessarily substance. Finding the caterer with the most satisfied and enthused customers makes the smarter choice.

3. Peruse your venues.

Many banquet halls, reception facilities, and special event ballrooms include catering staff as part of their rental packages; others have a retainer of independent professionals on a referral basis. As you choose your venue, look to see which offers catering onsite or catering referrals. You may find yourself saving money and time by going with an all-inclusive package.

4. Savor the samples and fine-comb the contracts.

The best caterers will have small samples of their work for you to try and enjoy. They will also have a wide variety of dishes to complement your reception plans, décor, and motif.

Reputable caterers will also not hesitate to spell out everything in a mutually binding contract. This legal document will explain any potential contingencies that may affect their performance or the quality of the food, their guarantees of service, and other potentially contentious issues. Most caterers will agree to let you study the contract before putting down a deposit for their services.

5. Consider the service.

Now that you've got the food straightened out, what about who will serve it? Some caterers also provide a trained wait staff for special events, and can deliver them to your venue. These extra services may sometimes run extra, so decide if the convenience of the package deal – food + service – is an investment you're comfortable making. The final decision should be based on your budget and the time you feel comfortable devoting to the matter.

In many other cases, the banquet hall will provide the service staff. If neither is available, though, consider using a temp agency specializing in wedding and other formal events.