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Anchorage, UT Wedding Caterers, Planning Food for a Wedding, Finding a Wedding Caterer

Anchorage, UT Wedding Guide

Caterers; Wedding Caterers

Determining the food for the reception will be one of the most important decisions you and your groom will make.  This can be one of the most memorable or disastrous things guests remember about the wedding.  Take the time and effort to choose a good caterer and one that will work with you to ensure your dream is fulfilled and you get what you want.

Before looking for a caterer, determine date for the wedding, an estimated count of the guest list and a location.  Depending on the venue, the caterers may already be chosen for you.  If planning the reception at a hotel, country-club or a large event location that has a staff on hand, you may be required to use their services.  If the venue does not have a full-time staff, you can choose an outside vendor.

Make Your Choice Early

Timing is a big factor in getting the caterer you want.  Many times good caterers are booked at least a year in advance, so choose them as soon as you have determined a date. Depending on the skill and knowledge of your caterer, consider moving the date of the wedding to coincide with their availability. The quality and quantity of the food served has a large impact on the success of the wedding. Guests will leave with fond memories if the food was excellent and there was plenty to satisfy.

Your caterer will be your consultant and expert to help create a menu and atmosphere that everyone will enjoy. After planning the wedding, attending showers and rehearsals and the ceremony is completed, you and your groom will want to relax and enjoy the remainder of the wedding. Ensuring the food served is delicious and flavorful will finalize a perfect day. Begin early to find the right caterer and ensure the food selection is one you'll remember as much as the event itself.

Finding a Vendor

A number of resources can help find the caterer that is right for you., Valley Yellow Pages online local directory, is a great website that will direct you to quality caterers in your local area that are ready to make your day the best it can be.

If you already know what type of food you want to serve, review catering menus online to see whose selection and experience best suit your preferences. Then apply the tips and advice found in this section to help determine what to look for in making the final choice. Select several caterers upfront in case your first choice has a conflict on the wedding date. If have no set preferences for finding a caterer, consult the guidance and help in this section to help start the process to find the perfect caterer for the wedding.

Selecting the right caterer is a major decision in the wedding planning process. Take the time and do the homework to ensure your caterer is experienced and can deliver the meal you desire. Seriously consider leaving meal creation to the experts. Even if you have the expertise required, depending on the size of the guest list, the time required may be more than you can provide.

Get References

As you begin the search, look to those who have been there before.  Talk to friends and family who have experience with local caterers to help narrow down the options and save time in the long run.  Ask recent brides who they used for their catering and if they loved it. Discuss the service as well as the food. There is more to a caterer than just good food.  How they conduct themselves and the quality of service they provide are just as valuable. Reception managers, photographers, musicians, and florists have worked a ton of weddings. Ask them for references as they have reviewed a number of caterers.

Ask your caterer for references of those who have used their services, specifically for weddings.  They should happily provide five or more references for you.  When you call the references, ask them about the service, professionalism of the staff, any hidden charges, clean-up problems, etc., in addition to the quality of the food.

Schedule an Appointment
Caterers; Wedding Caterers

Once you have an initial list of caterers, schedule an appointment to sit down with them and determine the one that is right for you.  Each caterer has different skill sets and offers a variety of different services that may or may not fit your needs.

Before the appointment, develop a list of questions to ask each caterer.  This will provide a direct comparison you can use to determine the one that best fits your wedding reception needs.  Caterers hold a lot of responsibility and if the right one is found, they can save a lot of time and worry.  Take the time to ask them a number of questions before making your final decision.

What You’ll Need to Know

  • Can they provide a list of references?  Weddings in particular?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • How many weddings have they planned in the last six months?  Have scheduled for the next six months?
  • Have they catered a wedding at the selected venue?  Choosing one who has can help eliminate errors and take advantage of someone who already knows the space.
  • Do they have more than one event scheduled on the date?  If so, how many?
  • Who will personally be handling the wedding?  Ideally, you will want to work with this person exclusively.
  • Will this person be on hand during the entire reception?  What duties and services will they perform at the reception?
  • What type of food do they specialize in?
  • Are they open to creating a special family dish, based on a recipe?
  • Can they prepare special meals such as kosher, vegetarian, or kids?
  • Do they have special pricing for children?  Less than full price?
  • What is the average cost-per-person or the estimated cost-per-person based on the guest count?
  • Is the cost of set up, take down and cleaning included?
  • Is the food used for the meal fresh or frozen?
  • What is their typical server to guest ratio?  How large of a staff do they anticipate for the wedding?
  • Do they require only their staff to work the wedding or will they work with the staff already at the venue?
  • If not, what are the additional charges to provide these services?
  • What is the standard attire of the staff?  What will they be wearing on the wedding day?
  • How will they serve for a buffet style?  How will they serve for a sit down menu?
  • Do they provide tables, chairs, linens for chairs and tables, full plate service, glasses, silverware, etc.?
  • Do they provide china or plastic ware?
  • Will they handle table settings in distributing place cards and favors?
  • How long will they need to set up?
  • Do they haul away all trash at the end of the event?
  • What is their typical portion size?
  • How will they handle any leftovers?
  • Do they offer cake decorating?  What is the average cost per serving?
  • Do they charge a cake cutting fee if an outside cake vendor is used?
  • Do they have a license to serve alcohol and are they insured?  Do they also have liability insurance?
  • Can additional alcohol be provided to supplement the caterer’s supply and bring down some overall cost?
  • Can the bar be handled separately or do they require the caterer’s bartender to be utilized?
  • Do they charge a corking fee?
  • When will they need a final menu and final guest count?
  • At what point do overtime charges begin to be included?
  • How much of a deposit is required?  What will the remaining payment schedule look like?
  • How do they prefer payment?
  • Is tipping of the staff included in the payment?
  • Do they offer a cancellation policy and if so, what are the terms?

Get Some Samples
Most caterers allow you to sample their food prior to selection as the caterer.  Take advantage of this offering to ensure you are comfortable with their food quality and can anticipate the final taste.  If they don’t provide a sample, ask to sample the final menu once it is determined.  This provides an expectation of how it will taste and peace of mind, prior to the wedding day. As catering is one of the highest vendor costs of the wedding, the caterer should be willing to offer an upfront taste prior to the wedding.

If possible, attend a wedding or event where the caterer is serving. See first hand how the food tastes and how the staff performs.  Does this adequately meet expectations and make you excited for your reception? Take advantage of this opportunity as nothing will provide more security in your selection than seeing them work and experience their food first hand.

Determining the Menu

In choosing the menu, consider the style of food service as well as the actual food that will be served. You may have some strong preferences when it comes to the type of food served and how it is served to guests. Discuss these with your caterer to determine the menu that is optimal for the reception.

Buffet or Sit-down
Budget is a factor in selection, and a buffet style menu and service can provide cost savings.  It will be up to you and your menu, as to which you prefer.  Take the formality of the wedding into consideration; a sit-down service featuring a four-course meal is more formal and traditional.  If you have a beach or country setting, a less formal buffet luau or BBQ is more appropriate.

Ethnic Choices
Perhaps you have a favorite ethnic food or want to bring in the family heritage with more traditional ethnic dishes.  Make sure your caterer specializes in these types of dishes to ensure the taste reigns and the food is remembered.  If there is a unique style to serving or eating international foods, incorporate that into your wedding.  A sushi bar with chop sticks can be both appetizing, as well as unforgettable.

Comfort Foods
You can’t go wrong with mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese.  Many couples today are opting for a menu that is based on comfort foods.  This can be a memorable menu and one that is enjoyed by a wide variety of guests.  Menu and formality should not compete and remain within the style of the wedding.

All About the Couple
Consider choosing the menu based on your first date or where you've planned the honeymoon.  This provides a unique insight into the couple for those attending and makes the memory last beyond the wedding reception.  Making your menu personal helps you enjoy the experience and ensure the personality of you and your groom shine through.

Serving Alcohol
Caterers; Wedding Caterers

Along with the menu, alcohol and how you want to serve it will play a large part in the catering needs.  Depending on how the bar is set up can have a significant impact on the budget.

License Required:  Before choosing who will handle the bar, make sure they are licensed.  Most caterers provide this service, or will refer you to someone who can.  If, in the course of discovery, you find the caterer does not have a license, opt for someone who does.  Working to find a bartender who is insured requires more time and effort than you want to spend.

Open Bar:  If planning an open bar, plan on a very high alcohol bill at the end of the night.  Generally, open bar includes mixed drinks which has a significant impact on the budget.  Depending on the caterer, you can set a budget for the open bar and after it is reached, drinks become beer and wine only.

Specialty Bars:  If alcohol is important but an open bar is out of reach, consider the recent trend of specialty bars.  These bars feature a specialty or signature drink that is set up in different areas of the reception and is the only alcohol offered.  One bar could be margaritas, another Bloody Marys, and another martinis.

Champagne Reception:  Focusing on one alcohol alone can ease the budget.  This centers on champagne exclusively.  In terms of planning the quantity, plan on one-half of a bottle per guest.  Determine whether you anticipate a lot of toasts, as you may need to order a little extra.

Wine and Beer Bar:  Another alternative to the higher price of an open bar is to offer wine and beer exclusively.  This allows guests to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while making the cost a little more manageable.  Determine a limit as to how much alcohol is distributed.  Once it is reached, alcohol is no longer served.

If planning a more formal affair, consider trading the beer for sparkling wine or champagne.  The combination of the two alcohols provides a classy and elegant appeal, while keeping costs lower.

Cash Bar:  A consideration for adding mixed drinks is to offer a cash bar.  Guests are asked to pay for mixed drinks, while wine and beer are free.  This allows anyone who might want something stronger to have it and still not weigh down the budget.  The choice is made by the guest.  This is an acceptable approach, but some etiquette followers hate this idea, claiming you should never ask your guests to pay for anything at the wedding.  You should not however, expect guests to pay for coffee or soft drinks.  Those should always be offered at no cost.

Ultimately, the choice of alcohol and how it is served will be up to you and your groom.  Review the guest list and determine what type of bar provides the best offering.  If you don’t invite many who drink or you choose not to offer alcohol that works as well.  There is no rule that it must be included as part of the reception.  It really is a personal preference. 

Handling Leftovers

Discuss up front with the caterer how they should handle leftovers.  If planning a buffet, there will be no leftover food due to the need for constant replenishment during the timeframe specified.  There will only be leftovers if a certain number of meals are agreed upon.  The food will need to be kept refrigerated and cannot be left at room temperature for an extended period of time.Work out in advance with the caterer where they should place the food; in a refrigerator at the venue, or ice chests you bring.  This will ensure you take home everything you paid for.

Get Something to Go:  Most likely, you and your groom will be too occupied or too excited to eat.  Once the festivities have died down and you relax for a moment, you may find yourself hungry once you get to the hotel.

Ask the caterer in advance to prepare you a meal to take with you and eat it later. Planning a doggy bag up front provides a back-up meal for you and the groom in case there was no time for eating.

Keeping Costs Down
Caterers; Wedding Caterers

Food and beverages are one of the most expensive single tickets for the wedding.  You want to have a nice and memorable meal but that doesn’t mean it should be required a second mortgage in order to afford it.  Consider some alternatives that help manage costs, but still make the reception very enjoyable.

Earlier Meal:  Instead of an evening dinner, consider moving the wedding earlier and offering a wedding brunch or lunch.  Dinner is the most expensive meal and an earlier affair will offer an exotic and appetizing meal, but at a lower cost.

Reduce the Number of Courses:  For a sit-down meal, keep the number of courses to no more than three.  This places the focus on quality rather than quantity, while keeping the budget down.

Simpler Meals:  For dinner, work with the caterer to offer a simple, yet elegant chicken dish verses filet mignon.  Keep dishes more simple, like an elegant pasta dish or fish.  Make sure the food you select is easy to find and in season.

Provide the Alcohol:  Check with the caterer to see if they will allow you to bring the alcohol.  Some caterers require you to use their supply, but if allowed, you can save money and eliminate any mark-up.  Check if they charge a corking fee.  You can also return any unopened alcohol for a full refund.

Review the Guest List:  As you are paying per guest, review the guest list again and eliminate any fluff.  This is the one area that can really affect the budget.  Keeping this manageable will go a long way in keeping within the budget

Get It in Writing

Before signing the final contract, review it several times to make sure it includes everything you need.  Focus on the contract as a document that protects you verses something that is for the vendor’s protection.  Make sure the contract includes:

  • Dates, times, locations and contact information.
  • Specifically outlines what the caterers are supplying, food counts, and guest list number.
  • Outline menu selections specifically.
  • Delivery, set up times and take down times and costs involved.
  • Detailed explanation of caterer responsibilities.
  • Deposits and payment schedule.
  • Identify the cancellation policy and what refund would be available.
Review it a few times before signing, make sure everything is included.

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