7 Ways To Save On Catering

by Stephi Stewart,

Finding the "right" caterer isn't easy!
Here are seven keys to help insure you get the best deal on your caterer and don't get taken advantage of...

1) Plan As Early As Possible...

The farther in advance you secure your caterer, the more negotiating power you have...

If you wait too long (e.g. too close to your wedding date), there's a strong likelihood that your "caterer of choice" will either be booked already or know they can charge you whatever they want because you're running out of choices and time...

So get a move on girlfriend!

2) DO NOT Hire The First Caterer You Meet!

Even if you fall in love with the first caterer you meet, it's very important to meet with several and COMPARE their offerings and prices before making a final decision.


Because not all caterers are the same and you need to compare "apples to apples"...

For example, good caterers will prepare most of the food on location, whereas others may make it at 8am that morning for your evening event and according to my friend, you can definitely taste the difference ("Cooking and re-heating is when the food goes to garbage").

Be sure to ask about this, as well as to see pictures of weddings they've recently done to get an idea of their "presentation style".

I also recommend that you get a list of names and numbers of several brides they've recently worked with (and actually call them!).

But don't just rely on somone elses word...

3) Always Insist On A "Tasting"

Be very skeptical if a caterer says they will not do a tasting for you...

Do they really just expect you to shell out all that money and then just cross your fingers, show up to your wedding and hope the food turns out okay?

Not Even An Option!

4) Ask For Complete Breakdown Of Costs

If a caterer quotes you $50 a person, for example, ask them to break this pricing down for you to show you what you're going to pay for food, bar, labor/staff, service charges, tax, rentals etc.

Be sure to ask them to list any "extras" as well...

The breakdown will help you compare the prices to other caterers and give you insight into areas where you might be able to cut costs further...

5) Negotiate Your Service Charges & Extras!

Most caterers tack on enormous 12-24% service charges.

They often also charge extras like "corking fees" when you supply your own alcohol.

This is an area where you can often save money just by having some "inside knowledge".

For example, some caterers will add the service charge to food and beverages only, where others will add it to the ENTIRE bill!

Remember, "It's your wedding, so act like it!" You're spending the money, so you're in charge. Make these caterers "earn" your business.

You may not think these prices are negotiable, but they often are, as evidenced by this statement directly from my cater friend's mouth:

"While I don't like to negotiate the service charge, I certainly won't throw away a big event if I have to reduce the service charge from 18% to 10%."

This can mean several hundred to several thousand dollars in saving depending on the size of your event.

Hopefully you can use this idea to save too!

6) Get It In Writing!

Contracts are VERY important because many caterers will promise to come through for you, say they can pull it off at the price you want, and then "bail" on your event at the last minute because they've found a better job that's more lucrative.

That's why it's critical not just to get a verbal confirmation that they'll do your event, but actually a contract that includes all the following:

  • Breakdown of ALL prices (including taxes)
  • A Menu You've Agreed To and Signed Off On
  • Dates When Deposits Are Due
  • Date Final Guest Count Is Due And No More changes can be made.
  • A Cancellation Clause

Be careful with caterers that run their businesses out of their home as professional caterers need to have special licenses approved by the health department as well as liability insurance, and "home based caterers" often don't have these.

Ask if they accept kickbacks from the rental companies as many rental companies pay a 5-10% kickback to the caterer for referring your business (If they do, insist the caterer pass these savings on to you!).

Do not hire a caterer that won't put an exact price in writing.

Saying the actual prices will be based on "market prices" at the time of your wedding is a trick that some dishonest caterers use to jack their prices a few dollars a head just before your event, claiming increases in "market prices"...

My friend assures me that honest caterers don't do this!