There are many reasons why people attend weddings, but one of the biggest draws? The food, of course! That's why hiring a reputable and experienced caterer is such an important part of the wedding planning process. If you've booked an all-inclusive venue, the catering team is already in place. But if you have to book an outside caterer, you'll want to have a list of questions to ask a wedding caterer at the ready. After searching WeddingWire's vendor directory and reading reviews of caterers near you, you can narrow down a list of potential caterers you're interested in and set up some meetings and interviews. Once you've found a caterer who checks all the boxes, you can move forward with planning the food experience for your big day.
Check out our list of the most important questions to ask a wedding caterer.
Are you available on our wedding date?
Be sure to ask this question in your first correspondence with a potential caterer. If a caterer isn't available on your wedding day, you shouldn't move forward with an interview—however, you can ask them for recommendations of other local caterers with a similar style.
Tell us about your experience. How many weddings do you cater in a year?
While it's important to choose a wedding catering company that has experience working events, there's no right answer to this question. A catering company can be great whether it's been in business for three years or 30—but you'll want to make sure that they can handle a wedding with your guest count, and seems knowledgeable about the industry.
Have you ever worked at our wedding venue?
If a particular wedding caterer hasn't worked at your venue, it's not a deal breaker (unless your venue has a list of approved caterers, and the one you're considering isn't on it). But it's certainly nice to hire a caterer that understands the ins and outs of your venue if possible. You can follow up by asking if your caterer has worked with any of your other vendors, like your wedding planner or florist, for instance, as a rapport between pros can make things even more seamless on the big day.
Do you specialize in a particular type of cuisine?
Some caterers specialize in a specific type of cuisine, whether it be organic, vegan, kosher, halal, South Asian, African, and more. If you're looking for a particular type of food, make sure your catering has experience with that cooking style.
Which meal service styles do you offer?
Do you want a buffet or plated dinner? Family style or cocktail style? There are certainly pros and cons (and price differences!) to each. Find out the types of wedding reception meal service styles your catering offers and ask for their suggestions as to which one would work best for your event.
Around how much would catering an event with our guest count cost?
About half of your total wedding budget will go toward your venue and catering, and it's a good idea to have a food and drink budget in mind when meeting with a catering company. And because most caterers charge on a "per person" basis, you'll also want to have an estimated headcount at the ready so the caterer can provide you with general pricing information.
What's included in your packages?
It's not only essential to find out how much a caterer's wedding package costs, but also what's included. Are there different set packages or is the menu customizable? How many appetizers, entrées, desserts, etc. will be served with each? Certain caterers may have different package "levels" with different offerings, so make sure you carefully read through each one to decide which package is best for your event.
Are your menus customizable?
Most caterers have a list of food choices for each course—a few appetizer, entrée, and dessert options you can choose from. How flexible is your caterer with making adjustments to suit your tastes? What if you want an entirely custom menu? This may not be an issue for you if you like the offerings in your caterer's packages, but if you have specific tastes and ideas, you'll want a caterer who is open to changes.
How do menu tastings work?
A few months before your wedding day, you and your future spouse will enjoy a menu tasting with your catering team. Your caterers will serve different appetizer, entrée, and dessert options so you can sample and select your favorites. Some caterers offer the tasting before you sign a contract, while others require a signed contract before the tasting.
Can you show me some sample menus and/or photos from past weddings?
Just like asking a wedding photographer to see samples of their work, you should ask any wedding caterer you're considering for sample menus and photos from past weddings, especially if your tasting won't take place until after the contract is signed.
How do you handle dietary restrictions and allergies?
If you and/or folks on your guest list who are gluten-free, have a nut allergy, or are vegan, it's important to find a caterer who can handle these and any other dietary restrictions. You might also ask if children's meals are available if there will be little ones present at your reception.
Do you give guests the option to pick their entrées?
If you're planning on serving a plated dinner, ask how guests typically choose their main course. Often, guests will provide their meal selection on their RSVP card, but some caterers allow guests to order at the reception, restaurant-style.
Do you provide alcohol?
Most catering companies provide alcohol and bar services, but if you're able to source the alcohol yourself, it can mean big savings (though you'll want to find out if your caterer and/or venue charges a corkage fee). If your wedding caterer has a liquor license and is handling the bar, ask how you'll be charged—per guest or by the amount of alcohol consumed.
Are you licensed and do you have liability insurance?
Don't skip this one. It's essential to make sure your caterer is licensed and follows local health department regulations. Liability insurance is also important, particular liquor liability insurance if your caterer is providing bar services.
Can you provide the wedding cake?
Having a caterer who can provide a wedding cake is certainly convenient, but be sure to look photos of your caterer's past cakes to make sure their confections fit your style. If not, you can source an outside cake baker to create the sweet treat of your dreams.
Do you provide rentals?
You can't have a wedding meal without plates, silverware, napkins, glassware, and more. Your venue and/or caterer may be able to provide rentals, or you can hire an outside rentals company to make sure you have every fork, tablecloth, and serving dish accounted for.
Can you provide vendor meals?
Your wedding vendor team will be working hard on your special day, so be sure to provide them with a hot meal at some point during the event (it's also included in many vendors' contracts). Most caterers will handle this for you, but it's important to ask and confirm.
What's the server-to-guest ratio?
Most experts recommend one or two server for every 10 guests if you're serving a plated dinner, one server per 25 guests for a buffet, and one bartender for every 50 guests.
Are there any additional fees we should be aware of?
Be sure to read any contracts carefully before signing, and pay special attention to any additional charges, such as corkage and cake-cutting fees. Gratuity (also called a service fee) is typically included in wedding catering contracts, but it's a good idea to double check.
What is your cancellation policy?
In the days before COVID, couples rarely asked about vendors' postponement or cancellation policies. However, times have changed and this is definitely a question you must ask your wedding caterer. Is there a refundable deposit and how long before your wedding date would you need to cancel in order to receive your deposit (or a portion of it) back?