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How to choose a wedding caterer: The basics

Updated: May 5, 2020

You’re getting married! The perfect dress is ready and waiting in your closet, you’ve signed the contract for your ideal venue, and of course – the love of your life is standing by your side.

But wait!

What about the food?

Picking the right wedding caterer is a big decision – your choice effects not only you and your fiancé, but all of your guests as well!

You might find yourself asking:

So then.. How do I find the right wedding caterer? Where do I start?

Like finding that perfect someone, finding the perfect caterer can be tricky. For some it’s as simple as a being in the right place at the right time, while for others the process is more of an arduous slog.

Want to simplify and de-stress the enter process? Just make sure to ask the right questions.

1. Is my date available? 

An obvious, but necessary, starting place.

2. Are you licensed for both food and liquor?

Some smaller home-run operations might not yet have the right licensure

3. Are you catering any other events on the weekend of our wedding? 

Keep in mind that other events on your weekend are not necessarily a bad thing. Truly, it depends on the size of the operation. Some professional caterers are quite used to servicing many events within the same day, while other smaller operations are not. It depends on the context but is still worth investigating either way. 

4. What is your most affordable option?

Many people believe that “just getting a few appetizers” will be the most cost-friendly approach; however, in many cases that just isn’t true. Appetizers, while smaller, tend to be more labor-intensive, and oftentimes use more specialized ingredients.

5. What is your most extravagant option?

While budget is a concern for many, for those who have more leeway this question should, at the very least, make for an interesting answer. 

6. What is your average price range? Plated, family style, or buffet?

Plated tends to be the most expensive per person. Decreasing from there is family style, followed by buffet. The reason for this is that making dishes in larger batches is usually more cost-effective, plus you need far less waitstaff to run a family-style buffet than you do to run a plated event.  

7. What will the waitstaff cost?

Unless you’re planning on setting up and serving your own meal, even the smaller events will require a waitstaff of some kind. As this cost will definitely affect your bottom line, it should be taken into consideration from the get-go

8. What are your extra charges? Deposit, service charge, expected gratuity?

With any caterer, food costs are simply one component of their total price. Most caterers will require a deposit of some kind, as well as a service charge or expected gratuity. Similar to eating in a restaurant, tipping is part of the bill. Discuss these charges with potential caterers upfront, so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises further down the line. 

9. What is your policy on cleanup?

Each caterer has a different take on clean-up, so it’s smart to ask about it upfront. 

10. Do you have any service or food minimums?

Depending on the size of the company, there might be a minimum affects order amount. With a smaller company, this minimum is bound to be lower, while with a larger one it will most likely be higher.

11. Are there overtime fees for staffing?

You don’t want to get stuck with a huge added cost if your event goes longer than planned. It is, after all, a party – and what good party ends exactly on time?

12. What is your refund/cancellation policy?

Life happens. So getting to know your caterer's cancellation policy before signing a contract with them is just good contingency planning. 


On Safari Foods has repeatedly been voted "Best Wedding Caterer " in Seattle. We take you from "I will" to "I do" and beyond.

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