If you are having your wedding reception anywhere other than a hotel it is almost certain you will be employing the services of a caterer. Unless you have a career in event planning, your wedding day might be the first time you have employed a caterer.

What does a caterer actually do? Here is my opinion on their key roles and responsibilities and how to ensure you choose a good caterer…

It’s Not Just the Food

It is easy to make the mistake of assuming that a caterer’s role is just ‘to make and serve the food and the beverages’. In reality, their responsibilities go far beyond the food.

Two women consulting

These days there are very few caterers who exist merely to drop off the food and run, although historically that’s probably where life started for us all. Twenty-first century weddings are becoming more and more complicated, so modern day caterers have evolved to be more like event managers than their historical counterparts would have needed to be.

Cooking and serving a menu is the smallest (and simplest) part of a caterer’s role and happens on the day, whereas around 80% of their work takes place in the planning and preparation and involves coordinating everything from the staff to the venue, and all of your other wedding suppliers.

The Hub of Your Suppliers

Unless you have hired a wedding planner, caterers should be the linchpin of your entire day. To get the best value from your caterer, place them at the heart of your plans; making them play piggy in the middle is a recipe for disaster.

Your caterer will be the one who needs to tackle a million operational questions that you don’t want (and don’t need!) to be bothered with. They exist to take care of coordinating operational and technical aspects of your wedding day, ensuring that everything runs to time. What time can the florist pick up their vases? What temperature does the cake need to be kept at? Where should the musicians unpack and change? Where shall we park the van? What are the fire plans? Where can we plug in the iron? Who is going to pick up the evening waiters from the train station? When should we pour the champagne to ensure it is cold and sparkling when your guests arrive at the reception?…

Taking Care of Your Guests

A caterer should help the couple define the experience they want their guests to have, advise them on the best way to achieve it and then make it happen. Their role is to focus on the needs of your guests, not to pander to your every whim.

BEWARE of ‘nodding dogs’ or any caterer who just ‘takes orders’. They are inevitably hopeless and will only provide what you ask for not what you need. I was a guest at a wedding that involved a lunchtime mercy dash by the mother-of-the-bride to Tesco to buy condiments because the caterer “wasn’t told to bring them”. That sort of “you didn’t tell me to” excuse by a caterer is unacceptable in my book.

A Trusted Expert During Planning, a Problem Solver on the Day

Venues with caterers will either have an ‘in-house caterer’ or a shortlist of pre-approved caterers for you to choose from. Places on these lists are highly sought after and involve a lengthy tender process where a caterer will have to prove their worth, their abilities and their suitability to the venue.

Caterers with hundreds of weddings under their belt will have great ideas, great advice and great contacts. You should be able to lean heavily on them for help in all areas of your wedding reception. Be honest, let them help you maximise the budget in the areas which mean the most to you and give you a shortcut to good suppliers.

After almost twenty five years in the trade I can tell after speaking to a couple exactly which florist, photographer and musician will be perfect for them, their budget, and for their venue; I love to bring people together.

An experienced caterer not only listens to what you WANT but also knows what you NEED. They will pre-empt all potential issues and hiccups before the wedding and be capable enough to tackle any issues on the day without bothering you. For example, checking the weather and changing drink quantities accordingly (more water is drunk in hot weather) or being able to cope with a guest who suddenly decides they are vegetarian.

A Provider of Absolutely Delicious Food!

Obviously the most essential aspect of the varied role of the caterer! Caterers are passionate about food and excited about ingredients and seasonal goodies. Their ultimate role is to ensure that your guests leave your wedding reception full and happy.

Guest post by Julie Gray of Bovingdons

Image from Bovingdons