Choosing Your Caterer

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If your wedding reception is being held at a facility that does not provide catering, you should hire a professional caterer. Because a caterer is experienced in planning and working with large groups, they have the knowledge and expertise to ensure that a sufficient quantity of food will be available and that it will be properly refrigerated and/or heated on your special day. A professional caterer will work with you to select menus and ensure that your reception comes off without a hitch.

Hiring a caterer can be a time consuming, if delicious, chore. It is also a choice you do not want to put off too long. You should select your cater between 9 to 12 months before the wedding. You will want to visit with several before narrowing your choices to two or three.

Before you contact caterers you should know the date and location of your reception, the number of guests and your budget. By having this information before you start setting appointments you will not waste precious time interviewing caterers who are not available on your date or are out of your price range. Locally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $18 and up per person, plus tax and tip. Remember, in most cases, the cost of the meal proposed does not include these two amounts, which usually adds another 13% to 15% to the total cost of the plate.

After you have narrowed your choices to two or three caterers, ask for a test tasting of the proposed menu. When selecting a menu, consider your guests. Save the unusual dishes for your first dinner party and keep your reception food fairly middle of the road. Your caterer will assist you in selecting an appropriate menu for the time of day. One way to reduce your catering costs, other than reducing the number of guests, is holding your wedding and reception during a different part of the day. After a morning wedding you could provide a brunch reception, which would reduce the cost of the food as well as the alcohol. At a reception after a late afternoon wedding guests are going to expect a substantial meal.

You can also save money by carefully choosing the type of meal you would like. Smaller parties, less than 100, are best served by a sit down dinner while a buffet service usually works better for larger groups. While it is possible to host a sit down dinner for several hundred people, your costs for staffing will go up. While a staff of three to five people can handle a buffet meal, you need many more servers for a sit down dinner.


Not only does your caterer select, purchase and prepare the food, a full service caterer will do the set-up, serving and clean-up as well. Most catering services also provide table linens, china and silverware as part of their service as well as cake cutting and serving. Be sure to ask your caterer exactly what services are included in your price quote.

Using a professional caterer allows your family and friends to participate in your wedding and enjoy the day as guests, not workers. So, let a caterer attend to all the necessary tasks of making sure the punch bowl and hors d’oeuvres are always fresh and full.

A good caterer will also help arrange an appropriate floor plan with your rental facility to ensure that your guests are accommodated in the most comfortable way.

When shopping for a caterer, check references and look through photo albums of past wedding receptions. Interview each company to determine exactly what services you will be receiving. Make sure you are comfortable with the caterer and their staff. A competent, qualified caterer will welcome your questions, answer them, and make you feel confident that they can handle your reception with skill and ease.

To find a caterer in the San Antonio area, visit the catering section of our San Antonio website.

To find a caterer in the Austin area, visit the catering section of our Austin website.