Wedding planning and wedding day anticipation is in full swing and soon engagement season will be upon us. Often, the reception is the pinnacle of the celebration, with details and activities that reflect the bride and groom. Catering is one of the highlights of the reception, and also tends to be the priciest portion, so it requires a lot of thoughtful decision making, much more than merely selecting between the Pork and the Walleye.
In order to ensure your dining experience will be the perfect compliment to a delicious day, we have reached out to a few professionals: friends from three spectacular Minnesota-based catering companies, to get the inside scoop on catering for those couples ready to conquer the menu and wedding professionals looking to sail smoothly through the reception with the catering staff. On the hot plate we have:
Julie Teran – Sales Consultant at Mintahoe Catering
Rolando Diaz – Chef at Marna’s Catering
Geri Wolf – Event Planner and Designer at W&W Catering
Photography by: Tim & Madie Photography
If you could give couples one tip about wedding catering, what would it be?
JT: “Ask for recommendations; a lot of times brides will ask for something really specific, rather than a similar, less expensive item.”
RD: “Narrowing down a budget is the first priority and it saves a lot of time. Know your budget, have an idea of a menu you want, and be sure to share your budget with the caterer.”
GW: “Be open with your caterer about your budget. A lot of people are protective about what they have to spend, and are afraid of being taken advantage of. Most caterers have a lot of options working into your budget but we need to know what it is you want to achieve.”
What recommendations do you have for choosing the perfect caterer?
JT: “I would first check social media references; anyone can put out a great website and have gorgeous menus. Look at referrals (The Knot, Wedding Wire, etc.) where you have references from real brides. Don’t be afraid to ask for more references. I am always happy to share names of brides as references for out of town clients.”
RD: “First things first, read reviews. Compare caterers and look at food style, food quality, where the caterer shops, etc. Is the food organic or local? Have there been complaints? Find out the answers to the little questions, because the little things really effect the event in the end.”
GW: “Make sure the style of the food matches the style of the wedding. Also know what your priorities are. Make sure whoever your caterer is, understands what you are trying to say through the menu. The caterer must understand all of the different elements of a wedding since weddings are so different from other events in regards to timing and set-up. Keep open communication.”
What tips do you have for selecting the perfect menu?
JT: “Personalize it so you are eating what you want to eat for dinner; this is your day, no one is going to moon because you’re making them eat salmon. The food is a reflection on the couple, you want people to feel like they are in your home, your space, enjoying a meal with you.”
RD: “Know your style and budget, and find someone who can create the perfect menu based on those things. Our company is the only company in MN offering Costa Rican food with a Latin flair.”
GW: “Selecting the perfect menu is making sure what you’re offering is balanced; not a lot of repetition but yet making sure everything compliments throughout the menu. That can often be confusing so asking a lot of questions about the menu and experience is important. Menu offerings vary depending on style (plated, food stations, etc.). Take into consideration what the caterer has available at your venue. If all they have is a closet to work in, plating the food isn’t realistic which will impact the menu.
If you could give wedding planners one tip about catering, what would it be?
JT: “If I know the planner I’m working with and understand her personality, I will be able to better serve her guests, and vice versa. It’s all about building relationships.”
RD: “Timing is crucial in catering. 6pm dinner is a 6pm dinner. Be sure to inform the kitchen if you are running late, because 15 minutes could ruin the quality of the food.”
GW: “Ask us (catering staff) a lot of questions. We find planners do not ask us enough questions about the menu, our processes, why we may have feedback on the timeline, etc.”
What advice do you have for wedding planners to ensure smooth sailing with catering staff on wedding day?
JT: “Read your paperwork, that’s the biggest thing. Let us (catering staff) see the planner’s paperwork so we can be in line. You should be able to see the caterer’s paperwork so you know exactly what they are bringing and expecting to do, as well.”
RD: “Know where things go, and keep communication clear. When we are catering a wedding, we have a plan; when something comes up not in the plan it throws off the timing. Having details ready to go really helps caterers.”
GW: “Putting an event together takes cooperation of all parties involved. Every caterer operates differently; a planner can’t apply the same rule to everybody. Keep communication open, know when to push back and when to defer to the caterer.”
I hope this advice has encouraged you to approach catering with more confidence and clarity, whether you are a Wedding Planner with a detailed agenda, a fiancé with a passion for food, or a wedding enthusiast taking notes for when that special day comes.
To all of you reading, happy catering and BON APPÉTIT!