Jenna
Beginner October 2020

Catering Is So Expensive!?!?!?

Jenna, on November 8, 2019 at 12:32 PM Posted in Planning 1 43
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My fiance and I are having a hard time finding an affordable catering company. Seriously I have messaged up to 30 vendors if not more, and more than 20 of them would cost us over $20k. I know we have a 200 guest wedding but doesn't that seem like a lot? We found one for around $12k which is much better. Am I doing something wrong when searching? Is this normal? Any suggestions!?!?! HELP!

43 Comments

  • Neeva
    Dedicated April 2020
    Neeva ·
    • Flag

    Unfortunately the price of food is super expensive for weddings and varies based on a lot of factors. Buffet is cheapest generally or some people opt to do heavy appetizers/stations to keep price down but guests may leave hungry. You may want to look into those. For 200 people it may be difficult to find a cheaper place since small caterers or Costco would be more difficult.

    I would say that price seems reasonable, but keep looking!

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  • Lauren
    Super September 2019
    Lauren ·
    • Flag

    Have you looked into all inclusive venues?

    Ones that provide the space, tables, chairs, linens, china, glassware, catering and alcohol? Usually places like those are less expensive per person than trying to find all those vendors separately.

    In general half of a wedding budget goes to catering and on average in high cost of living areas catering is around $100 per person for semi-formal/formal sit down multi course dinners.

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  • Kelly
    Champion October 2018
    Kelly ·
    • Flag
    In my area $100-$200+ per person is the norm for catering that isn’t drop off catering from a restaurant. We paid about $135pp for 5 courses and that didn’t include alcohol or linens/silverware/plates etc. If you’re having a more casual wedding I would look into Mexican, bbq, or Italian restaurants as they are usually cheapest.
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  • Megan
    Super November 2020
    Megan ·
    • Flag
    In my area (Philadelphia, PA), for my venue specifically, the prices of the preferred caterers varied very widely. Like I’m talking one quoted us $20 pp while another was $120 pp.

    It varies by region, by type of food, and what else is included in the rental. (Other things too I’m got sure missing)

    For instance, we chose a caterer in the middle but they are providing linens and dinnerware, whereas the $20 pp company offered linens and such for extra.

    Can you ask your venue about preferred or recommended caterers?
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  • V
    VIP July 2019
    Veronica ·
    • Flag
    It definitely depends on your area. It also depends on if you want a sit down meal or buffet. As well as the type of food you plan on serving. Our venue had plated meals that started at $105, but I wanted buffet style. They made a custom menu for us that was buffet style and it was $76 per person. That cost included alcohol, cake and a late night snack. We also only had 90 people even though we invited 150. Our catering was through our venue rather than a separate company.
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  • Peggy
    Master November 2019
    Peggy ·
    • Flag
    My quote for 80 people for a bbq buffet and alcohol was $6000. We only have a final count of 49 so it was reduced to $4,000. But yes it’s really expensive.
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  • Chloe
    Devoted October 2020
    Chloe ·
    • Flag
    We also were running into the this issue with catering, we’re in the NYC tristate area so already things are ridiculously expensive. We are having around 185 guests so we know it will probably be costly but we don’t want to spend more than $15k (which we thought was a reasonable amount lol!) After reaching out to about 20 caterers and receiving quotes of $20k+ we only found TWO that fell within our budget.
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  • Allison
    Dedicated May 2020
    Allison ·
    • Flag

    We haveabout 80 guests anticipated and we're paying about 8k for catering. Where is your venue? Could you get someone less fancy to cater like a chain restaurant? I recently heard of someone having Chipotle cater you could make this look really nice as a taco bar, etc.

    • Reply
  • R
    Savvy April 2020
    Ruby ·
    • Flag
    Maybe trying an up and coming caterer like from a culinary institute.
    • Reply
  • V
    Veronica ·
    • Flag

    Catering prices will vary wildly depending on where you are in the country and what services are included. Our per person food price for an approximately 100 person wedding was $32, and then service cost about $10 per person for a buffet. We opted for disposable plates and silverware, I think if we had those or had plated service we definitely would have hit at least $75 pp. If the $100 pp price includes service, linens, plates, and glassware, that is really not an insane price.

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  • Taylor
    Super October 2020
    Taylor ·
    • Flag

    I can do a buffet for 200 people at around $3k. A lot of it depends on what you're wanting to serve and how formal but there should be more inexpensive options than that... Where do you live??

    • Reply
  • Amber
    Expert September 2020
    Amber ·
    • Flag
    I feel your pain girl.. I'm in the same boat.

    Catering and flowers I believe costs the most within wedding planning. Someone suggested a food truck idea to me so that's a idea.

    We were going to do the restaurant next to our venue to so they can't charge us for a distant fee.
    • Reply
  • Katelyn
    Dedicated October 2020
    Katelyn ·
    • Flag

    I agree with what others have said - it really depends on your location. I am from Toledo, OH and am getting married in Tecumseh, MI. Our cost per person is under $25 per head for food only - that is an absolute steal for my area (and that is the upgraded package). I can't imagine paying $20,000 for just food but that is common for a lot of people!

    • Reply
  • Kyleah
    Expert March 2020
    Kyleah ·
    • Flag

    We have around 180 guests and are paying roughly $4,000 for catering. I know it's super cheap - we are getting married in a small town. We're also doing buffet style which helped cut costs down!

    • Reply
  • Kaysey
    Dedicated February 2020
    Kaysey ·
    • Flag

    I feel your pain with this. My fiance and I are a little more than 3 months away from our wedding and it took us forever to find catering that we thought was reasonably priced. A lot of it has to do with where you live/where you're getting married and what you are looking for. I looked at both buffet and formal sit-down dinner options and we ended up deciding on a buffet because we think it gives our guests more of a variety, and it ended up being cheaper than a sit-down dinner. We are expecting 125 guests and are paying around $2,000 for our food. That is partly because we are not going with our venue's catering because they were crazy expensive. Mainly it is because one of my bridesmaids has a close friend who owns a catering company and gave us a good deal. One thing you could do is reach out to friends of yours and ask if anyone knows someone who caters. We weren't expecting a discount from our caterer but we got a huge discount for everything we're getting.

    I'm not sure if you are looking for a more formal dinner or buffet style but when my sister was planning her wedding she was expecting around the same amount of guests as you and she was quoted between $8k and $10k for her formal dinner she had for her guests. Depending on how formal you want your reception/dinner to be, the price can vary.

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  • Jenna
    Beginner October 2020
    Jenna ·
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    View Quoted Comment
    Connecticut !
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  • Jenna
    Beginner October 2020
    Jenna ·
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    We’re in a super small town too! That’s why I’m so shocked!!! So much money! That’s over half of our budget!
    • Reply
  • Cristy
    Rockstar May 2020
    Cristy ·
    • Flag

    Nope. It sounds like what it costs to host 200 people. It is a lot of money, but when you have a large guest list, this is what it costs. If you read the forums on the topic of saving money, or spending less, one of the common themes you'll see is that people advise you to cut your guest list. Since in most weddings, the catering/beverage is often 50-60% of your total wedding budget, this makes sense. This is why we are keeping our guest list smaller. I would love to invite 200 people, that would be so fun. But I could never afford it.

    Unless you don't spend money on anything else for your wedding (decor, music, flowers), which isn't realistic, the only way to save money is to cut the guest list.

    I have read about people going with less fancy food as a way to bring down the catering costs as well. Like, instead of a fancy plated meal, you could do a Mexican food buffet (for example).

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  • V
    Veronica ·
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    View Quoted Comment

    Unfortunately, I think very small towns can be more expensive than mid-sized cities. My sister got married in a city of 2.5 million, and I got married in our hometown of 100,000, and she had many more options for catering and was able to have pp costs that were something like 12%-20% of what we spent. Also, raw costs of food tend to be higher in small towns unless the caterer has all local, farm to table type sources for food. Are a lot of your guests local? One thing people don't consider very much anymore is doing an afternoon wedding without a full dinner. I think a lot of people feel bad doing it if their guests are traveling, but if everyone's local it's not as big of a deal. Also, as a PP stated, food and alcohol normally are at least 50% of the budget.

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  • V
    Veronica ·
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    View Quoted Comment

    Are they all local vendors to the town, or would some be traveling? If they didn't break out travel costs in the quote, that could be where the higher prices are coming from. If they are traveling, they are accounting for it somewhere.

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