Wedding Catering FAQs


There are a number of questions that will often come to mind whilst you are planning your wedding catering, so to make it easier for you we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions and provided answers to each of them.

How far in advance should I begin to search for / book my caterer?

Your caterer should be booked as early as possible, and should be one of the first things on your “to do list.” Caterers are restricted in the number of events they can attend, and generally speaking, the best companies get booked up quickly. To guarantee the catering company you want is available on your big day, you should be looking to book as far as 9 months to a year in advance.

Should my catering company be insured?

Your catering company should have insurance, because gaining a catering license is dependent on the company having liability insurance as well as having met standards set by the Department of Health.

Which is more expensive: a buffet or a sit-down dinner?

Buffets tend to end up slightly cheaper than sit down dinners for a couple of reasons. First of all, the type of food typically included in a buffet is usually cheaper and requires less preparation. Also, as guests serve themselves, you can drastically reduce the number of staff that is required by choosing the buffet option. Buffets can, however, become expensive as many feel a need to provide many more dishes than they would at a sit-down dinner. In order to avoid this, try not to supply many more dishes than you would at a sit- down affair: buffets can be notoriously wasteful as much of the food often goes untouched.

Are there any cheaper options if we don’t want to provide a full-blown dinner?

There are plenty of other options aside from the more traditional and formal sit down dinner. Tea receptions are a popular choice and generally include an assortment of finger foods such as sandwiches, pastries, cakes and scones. Alternatively, consider a cheese buffet for a quirky and delicious choice, or a cocktail wedding with trays of light snacks, followed by drinks and mingling with guests. For those with a penchant for the sweeter things in life, consider a dessert reception with a wide selection including items such as cupcakes, sorbet, ice cream, cookies, pastries, tarts and cakes.

Factors that influence your choice should include the timing of the ceremony and therefore the reception, and also the time of year that your wedding is going to take place. Using seasonal ingredients will not only keep costs down but will also improve the overall taste.

Will the venue provide its own caterer? And are we obliged to use them?

It is a common occurrence for venues to provide its own caterer or a list of catering companies that you are expected to use. However, this is not the case 100% of the time. Many will give you the freedom to hire whoever you want, but do beware that sometimes charges will apply, such as corkage and cake- cutting, which should also be factored into your budget.

Are the table decorations my responsibility or the caterers?

The table decorations are not the responsibility of the caterer, so this is an area you should discuss with your florist, the venue, your wedding planner or your partner, if you’re planning in DIYing it. However, if you have a particular theme or colour scheme to your wedding, feel free to mention this to the caterers as they can often design the food presentation and plate décor to complement the general wedding atmosphere.

Can the wedding cake be used as dessert or should there be something separate?

Whilst many do choose to include a separate dessert before the cutting of the cake, it has become increasingly popular to simply forgo this course altogether and let your guests enjoy the main culinary event. Offering your wedding cake as the primary dessert option is also a great way of reducing the overall cost of your catering. Furthermore, after a three-course meal, most people are full up and the cake goes largely uneaten, so in many ways it makes a lot of practical sense to simply skip an additional dessert.

Is it appropriate to ask friends and family to help supply food for the reception?

Some people opt to add a DIY element to their wedding in order to keep the costs down. For some people this works very effectively, particularly if you have a friend in the catering business. However, it’s worth remembering that a lot of work is involved, and you may rather your friends and family were able to relax and enjoy the day with you. Asking people to contribute to a single course, such as the dessert table, however, can be a fun way of boosting the amount of food without busting the budget.

What drinks should be provided during the reception?

Typically, wine is served with the meal, but this of course if depends on the type of reception and meal for which you have opted. Tea, coffee and juice will be a popular and necessary option if you are having a daytime wedding. For buffets and sit down meals, a bottle of wine is usually provided for the table and replenished when required. Don’t forget to provide lots of soft options for children, those who don’t drink alcohol and anyone who has already had too much!

Are taster sessions normally charged separately or included in the price of the catering on the day?

Different caterers tend to have different policies regarding taster sessions. Some will charge initially for the taster session and then deduct it from the overall price if you decide to book them for the reception. Others don’t charge at all. Taster sessions are very important though, because you need to assess the taste, portion size and presentation to ensure that it conforms to your expectations and desires.

What should I book first: the venue or the caterer?

The venue should always be the first thing that you book when it comes to the planning of your wedding reception. It is the canvas for each of the additional elements of the reception, including the decorations, the entertainment, and of course, the catering. Booking the venue first will help to determine the number of guests that can be accommodated, as well as any restrictions set by the venue regarding hiring external service providers. This is all vital information, which is required before you are able to make any decisions regarding your preferred choice of caterers.

Will the caterer provide staff to serve the food and drink?

This is something to be discussed with your chosen caters, but generally, most will be able to supply staff to provide table service, if and when it is required. Check with your venue too, as they may also have staff to serve the food and drink.