Eat! Drink! & Be Married! Food is the foundation to any good event, a wedding is no different!
Let’s be real, it is usually what guests are most excited about, besides the bar and watching their cool humans tie the knot. Catering can be confusing, but we are here to break it down for you! We have decided to do a series that dives into catering. Today, we are breaking the venue catering options.
We often have clients that are a little shell shocked by catering prices. They might have unrealistic expectations, or they might just be unaware of all the extra costs that come with catering, but I know from experience, catering tends to be quite a big chuck of your budget, think 30-50% of your budget can go towards the catering. When you are going through the process of choosing vendors, it’s important to choose a venue first. Wedding Venues will usually have one of four options for their clients when it comes to catering. In-House, Catering List, Exclusive caterer, or Open Catering. We wanted to go over those options more in-depth, give you some pros and cons to all of them, so that you can better understand what they are talking about when you start your venue/catering search! If you need help, or just a general idea where to start, just keep reading!
In-House – This is where venues provide the catering with rental of the space.
When we think of in-house catering we think of establishments that are not just venues to hold events, my idea of in-house consists of hotels, golf clubs, country clubs, restaurants (just to name a few) they will most likely have an in-house kitchen that does the catering.
You don’t have to go through the process of emailing a million caterers.
They have kitchens on-site with a chef on-site. If you need to store flowers or cake in the coolers, there is usually not a problem with that, and having a full kitchen is HUGE!
Having an in-house kitchen, and chef means that they are dedicated to you and your event. Your food will be made on-site and most of the time, not sitting in a hot box for an hour. (While I say most of the time, I always suggest ask how they prep the food because you never know if they pre-cook and have food sit in a hot box till dinner service, its always better to ask.)
Most provide tables, linens, china & glassware and service staff included in the pricing.
You are limited to that specific caterer. The menu is going to be basic and and food is going to be your typical wedding food. While these in-house caterers might be willing to do custom options, if you have a certain taste in mind, it might not be what you are hoping for.
Exclusive Caterer – Some venues may use an exclusive caterer, think of Bavaria Downs, Nicollet Island Pavilion, or Mississippi Gardens, just to name a few. These venues have a catering company that they work exclusively with and they either have a kitchen on-site that they work out of, or they may prepare the food off-site at the catering company and deliver it to the venue.
Having an exclusive caterer means it is their space and they are familiar with the space. This is huge because they are the only caterer that works at this space and they take pride in the weddings there.
They may be more open to creating custom menu options for you.
They are well versed in the space, they know the best layout options and they usually have a specific person working that space.
Just like having in-house catering, an exclusive caterer means you do not get to choose that caterer. They might be out of your price range, so you will have to look at adjusting your budget.
They may be the exclusive caterer for that venue, but that does not mean they have a full kitchen at the venue. It’s always nice to know how & where the food is going to be prepared.
Catering List – Some venues will offer a catering list, this is a list of vendors that are approved by the venue to cater there. Some venues have a wide variety of caterers, like Three Rivers Park District, There catering list has almost 20 caterers on it, ensuring you will be able to find someone you love. Some only have maybe 3-8, and that could be because they don’t want to overwhelm people with caterers, or they want to set a certain tone for their venue.
Having a preferred catering list means that these caterers are familiar with the venue and have worked there at least once. They will know their way around the property and will be seasoned in catering the space.
This gives you options when choosing a caterer, you can be more creative and you can find one that fits your budget.
While I just stated that with a catering list, you will be able to find someone that you’re your budget, that is not always the case, sometimes, there are not any caterers on the list that fit into your budget, so if you don’t check around with the catering companies prior to signing contract with the venue, you might be stuck picking a caterer off a list that is far out of your price range.
You are most likely going to have to pay extra for staffing, linens, glassware and silverware. In our next topic we talk all about the hidden costs that you have to look at when hiring a caterer.
When there is a preferred catering list, there might not be a lot of ethnic options to choose from. Sometimes the catering company will work with you to create a custom option, but this is something you always have to make sure of when hiring them. I will be real here, if you are having a catering company work with another catering company to co-create an ethnic menu, it is always going to cost way more than you think it is.
Open Catering – This is when the venue does not have a required catering list, They just have to be licensed. This leaves the option open to any catering company out there.
Your options are endless, you can do food truck, catering, pizza, tacos, BBQ, whatever you choose! An open catering list, ensures that you will find a caterer that fits your budget.
Most catering companies will be willing to work with custom options.
This gives smaller catering companies the opportunity to work weddings. We are all about supporting other small businesses!
Your options are endless! While this sounds appealing, if you are one of those people who can not make up their damn mind… There might be too many options for you to make a choice.
The catering company might not be familiar with the space. This shouldn’t be an issue because any good caterer is going to familiarize themselves before the event. It is just always something you want to communicate with them prior.
These spaces don’t tend to have kitchens for the caterer to work out of, most companies are equipped with everything they need to work with no kitchen, it just takes proper planning.
Again, we will mention, linens, glassware, china and silverware, just make sure to see what the costs are.
Our intention is for every couple to have a stress free time planning their wedding. Catering can be a topic that seems overwhelming, but our goal of breaking theses out into a series is to educate you so that you go into the planning process like a rock star! Want additional help, Contact us! We work with some of the best catering companies around, and we would love to help you in your planning venture, food is our jam and we enjoy chatting with couples (usually centered around pancakes!)
Somethings to keep in mind when starting It is always important to figure out what is most important to the both of you and start from there. If you are dreaming of getting married at your family’s country club, then you probably are not even thinking about what the catering options are going to be, because you know that this is your venue and the rest will work its self out. That is awesome! It alleviates so much stress and we are all for it!
On the other hand, if you have a smaller budget and you want to get married at a fancy historical venue that is currently all the rage, but their catering only offers high end catering options, you might not be able to realistically make that work for you. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a unique and creative wedding, it just means you have to look at alternative options (This is where we come handy).
We are always here to offer advice and give you lists of some of our favorites to work at! So, if you read this and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about all the questions you should be asking your caterer and hidden fees to watch out for!