If you mistakenly hire a caterer that is terrible, everyone will remember how terrible the food was.
Food has that effect on people so when looking for a caterer, tread carefully and select someone after lots of consideration (and hopefully a taste test).
There are four steps to hiring a caterer for your destination wedding
- Research both online and off-line and put together a list of 10 or so caterers.
- Call each one to ask preliminary questions about basic costs, availability, and menu choices. Take the best three or four caterers and move on to step three
- Visit each caterer to do a menu tasting and ask additional questions. If you can’t personally go to do a menu tasting, and send a local wedding planner who can report back to you.
- Decide on a vendor based on your budget, food quality, and overall presentation.
In this article, we’re going to go over each of the steps above in more detail so you get a better understanding of how to select a caterer for your destination wedding.
Before you begin, make sure you have your reception venue, date and time of wedding and your budget.
Let’s start with the research.
Do the initial research
There are several resources you can use to find caterers that work at your destination. Research using Google, Pinterest, and get recommendations on forums (Weddingwire has a good one). In addition, get a list of recommended vendors from your wedding venue.
If you have difficulty finding someone qualified, you can also try calling the tourism department or going to the official tourism website to see if they have any recommendations for wedding caterers. You’ll find that the folks that work at the tourism department are very informative, friendly and eager to help.
Once you have ten or so caterers, start placing some initial calls to narrow that list down to a manageable number.
Call each vendor and ask preliminary questions
During your initial call, don’t get too specific about every detail. Just work on larger issues like pricing, availability, menu choices, and reputation.
When asking for menu prices, start by asking whether the caterer can work within your wedding budget. Let them know how many people you expect, and what wedding venue you will be using. In most cases, caterers whose prices are well above your budget will automatically take themselves out of the running.
Among the 10 or so caterers you started with, expect at least one or two to not be available for your dates.
While many caterers are able to customize the menu to your needs, there will be a few that only specialize in a certain type of cuisine that is not to your liking.
Ask for references from each caterer. See if they will provide the name of another vendor that would vouch for their services.
Having done the preliminary research, your list of caterers should now be no longer than three or four. Now it’s time to start tasting the food, asking more questions, and comparing what each has to offer so you can make your final selection.
Schedule menu tastings
One of the biggest mistakes couples make when planning a destination wedding is they don’t go on an advance scouting trip (Why Visiting The Location Of Your Destination Wedding Is Important).
Doing so provides them the opportunity of meeting every vendor (and scoping out the destination itself).
Being there in person will give you the opportunity to talk to each caterer face to face and to try out the food.
Questions to ask your caterer
While it may sound excessive, you need to ask each caterer between 30 to 40 questions before you can determine if they are the right person for the job. After all, this is your wedding day and no detail is too small.
The questions fall under the following five categories:
- Cost Questions
- Equipment and Set up
For the entire list of questions to ask, read “Questions To Ask Your Destination Wedding Caterer”.
Things you should be looking for when talking to each caterer
- Was the caterer excited to see you? Did he seem genuine about it? Did he/she even show up?
- Did the caterer answer all your questions?
- Did the caterer engage in the conversation or was he/she aloof about the whole thing? You are looking for a caterer who asks a lot questions and provides lots of suggestions and tips that you have not thought of.
- Was the taste testing put together with a lot of attention to detail? How much time did they spend preparing and making sure that everything was to your satisfaction?
- Was the chef/caterer open to your suggestions, customizations? Did he/she seem like they just wanted to do things their way or were they open minded about suggestions.
- While you are asking the questions above, make sure to take very detailed notes. The last thing you want to do is to try and remember what you liked or disliked about each caterer.
But what If I cannot go the wedding location ahead of the wedding?
If an advance trip is just not in the cards, consider calling a wedding planner that is based out of your wedding location. Hire them for a day to conduct the taste tests for you. In many cases, the wedding planner may already know who the best caterers are based so it’s worth it to get them involved.
Having taken the above criteria under consideration, you should be able to put your notes together and compare each vendor on their own merits.
Remember that no one vendor will be perfect so don’t bother trying to find one. Instead, look for someone who is open and caring. Someone who you feel would go out of their way to make sure the catering portion of the wedding is perfect.
Planning a destination wedding is a fun, yet sometimes frustrating experience. Hopefully, the steps above will make it easier for you to locate a destination wedding caterer for your event.
What should you read next?
Read “Questions To Ask Your Destination Wedding Caterer”