Selecting a wedding caterer
By Alice Boney
You are in love.
You are marrying your perfect partner.
You want to share the occasion with the special people in your life.
You dream of an idyllic setting in the shadow of the Tetons.
You will have a meaningful ceremony.
And then, most certainly, you will want to celebrate the new union with a flawless party!
Experience Delivers Success
When choosing your wedding caterer, be certain that the team you employ embraces the celebratory concept of a wedding reception. It is important that your caterer can create your desired cuisine and service, and deliver it in the ambiance you envision. Experience plays a major role in successful wedding catering; it could be the most important aspect of your chosen caterer.
A skilled caterer has years of experience—especially with brides—and he/she will know the small nuances that can occur during the rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception, cake cutting, and late-night-party food service. Hiring a caterer who is experienced with weddings will enhance your planning phase and give you another degree of confidence.
When looking for a caterer, references are critical—there is too much at stake (your successful reception) to go with unknown entities. Seek local caterers with a reputation for excellent food and service. By asking people who throw parties frequently (local nonprofits, for instance) for recommendations, you will identify caterers who are reliable and have solid business practices. Look for ones with friendly, accommodating staff and fun menu ideas, which will make your event memorable. A word of caution: make sure you select a caterer who is licensed and operates out of a commercial kitchen that is inspected and certified by the local health authorities.
Start your search by asking for recommendations from wedding planners, florists, photographers, venue managers, rental suppliers, and band members. These people have seen it all and know which caterers make great events happen.
Choosing your venue will impact your catering company selection. On-site caterers are usually limited to their respective facilities, such as hotels and country clubs. Most of these venues will not allow off-site catering.
Off-site caterers bring the party to your event location—providing the bar, kitchen, food, servers, and serviceware. Exchanging your vows in the sagebrush with gorgeous background scenery is so romantic. However, an off-premise wedding reception requires crews efficient in loading, setting up, and cleaning up. Is your potential caterer an expert at creating an outdoor kitchen, service station, and bussing location? Ask if they are equipped and capable of setting up in challenging locations and how he/she plans to prepare the food on-site.
Menu Style Defines Event Vibe
Planning what to serve your guests is the fun part; planning how to serve it can be tricky. After you research reception-menu concepts, present your ideas to your prospective caterers. Certain menus are best when matched with certain serving styles. For instance, messy foods are best plated in the kitchen, not out on a buffet. Sides tend to work better when presented family style. And, the traditional wedding cake should be cut and served by a professional. Buffets are popular, efficient, and pleasing to the guests. Grouping the food and presenting it in food stations gives an updated look to the traditional buffet. Food selection and presentation create different event tones or vibes, which can range from formal to family friendly. Your caterer should be flexible and eager to help you attain the feel you’re looking for, while having experience with all styles of service. Keep in mind: menu styles vary in cost. Extra servers, buffets that need extra food prepared, and a plated service that involves more kitchen staff will increase the price tag.
Tastings are a good way for you to experience a caterer’s capabilities before selecting him/her. Check to see if you can sample the style of food you plan on serving. Be aware that popular caterers will have limited availability throughout the year and may never be available for tastings during the busy summer season.
Special Requests Accepted
Your wedding will be a once-in-a-lifetime event and having it fit your wishes should be top priority for your caterer. If ordering from a static menu is not what you desire, ask if your caterer can do that special recipe from Auntie Sue or the Spanish paella your fiancé loves to devour. Offering a unique dish will add enjoyment to your guests’ experience.
Consider those attending; does anyone require special accommodations, like gluten-free or kosher? Most caterers can provide a vegetarian or vegan option, a kosher or gluten-free meal, or special children’s selections. Also, be sure to tell your caterer about any food allergies your guests may have—seafood or nuts, for example. This will be important information for food preparation.
It is best to think of the wedding cake as a project all its own. Discuss wedding cake options with your caterer candidates—do they make cakes or have professional cake chef recommendations?
Local Businesses Reflect Local Character
The ideal caterer employs local professionals, sources food locally, projects the local character, and is part of a meaningful community. Keeping money in your area is an important concept in today’s economy. Will you be supporting a locally owned business, a global corporation, or a company with owners in California? Ask yourself who will benefit from your choice.
Alice Boney and her husband, Bill, own Dining In Catering, a full-service catering company serving Jackson and Teton Valley. Chef Bill Boney, who has been at the helm of the catering division for twenty years, started Dining In Catering and built The Wildwood Room (and its enormous commercial kitchen) in Victor ten years ago. The food is always fresh, prepared to perfection, and delicious. To contact them, call 208/787-2667 or toll-free at 800/787-9178, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit their websites at diningincateringinc.com and wildwoodroom.com.