Charleston is a gem, and one of my absolute favorite American cities. Besides its charming waterfront views, the Holy City boasts a culinary scene fit to please the foodie in each and every one of us. Whether you dream of a farm-to-table cuisine or good ol'e southern cooking, there's no shortage of yummy eats coming out of this city, and what better time to showcase this than during Charleston weddings? With so many caterers to select from and so many different flavors of the Lowcountry, what exactly should you be asking Charleston wedding catering teams before signing on the dotted line?
For some insight, we've reached out to a couple of our favorite Charleston caterers and asked them what they would want their clients to know. What did we discover? Keep reading to find out.
1. What is included in your pricing?
Whoa there, big vague question! Comparing different caterers isn't always apples to apples, so you need to know what is actually included in your bottom line. It’s likely that the “per-person” charge for your surf & turf is covering much more than just the cost of that steak and crab cake. Additional services like staffing, fees, and taxes are often included in your menu pricing, but you're going to want to make sure of this so you don't have to worry about getting hit with extra fees in the days leading up to your walk down the aisle.
Beyond food, some catering companies will offer you rentals, and therefore they would be responsible for the setup and tear down of those items. Some will come equipped with a liquor license and offer you bartenders who can stock and serve a full bar, while others are strictly food and don’t set up and tear down anything other than their work station. You need to know what you can expect from your caterer on your wedding day so you can be sure all your bases are covered when it comes to enlisting the right help to make sure your day goes off without a hitch.
“A lot of DIY brides put a lot of expectations on the caterer, such as set up and break down. This needs to be fully discussed beforehand,” Chef Chris Casner of Just Eat This! tells us.
2. How much should I be budgeting per person for my wedding day menu?
Probably one of the most dreaded conversations in the whole wedding planning process, but we can't just ignore the wedding budget conversation. You'll need to do some legwork yourself before you consult any caterer. How many guests will you be inviting? What kind of meal will you be serving: plated, buffet, or family style? What would you like to serve for your guests to eat? And what can you afford to spend, either per person or in total, for your wedding meal? Lastly, where does the menu fall on your list of wedding budget priorities? After you have answered these questions, then talk to your caterers about what you are looking for and ask about the kind of services they might be able to offer that fit into your vision.
“I get a lot of questions about how to 'trim the budget' and my best response is… cut the guest count. It’s the single best way to save money. It's hard to trim the list, but if you look at the average inclusive cost per guest for a wedding in Charleston, it can be between $80-$150 per person,” Tanya Gurrieri of Salthouse Catering shares.
3. How many times (if ever) have you worked at my venue?
Every wedding venue in the area has its own policies on catering, and if you're booked at one of the many locations that allow you to bring in the professional of your choice, you're going to want to be sure that your caterer is aware of any restrictions they will need to accommodate. Preferably, the Charleston wedding catering team you ultimately decide on has experience working at your particular venue and knows what they can can and cannot do at each location. Some venues even have a preferred wedding vendor list, and you may be required to use only the caterers that they’ve vetted.
“I think asking the caterer if they've ever catered at the venue is a good question, although if they haven't catered there before, it doesn't mean you should avoid them,” writes Chef Chris Casner.
So is it really crucial that your caterer has experience working at your venue? No, but it's not a bad idea to ask them if they'd be willing to take a look at the venue so they can arrive on your wedding day informed of the flow of the room, where & how big the catering kitchen area is, et cetera.
Additional Questions to Ask About Charleston Wedding Catering:
- Can you accommodate various dietary restrictions our guests might have?
- Do you specialize in a particular wedding cuisine? If so, can we see what your menu options look like?
- Do you offer different pricing options for vendor meals and children's menus?
- Are you also able to provide a wedding cake? If not, who would you recommend to hire?
- If we opt to get my wedding cake from another vendor, will you charge a cake-cutting fee? If so, how much would it be?
- Do you offer couples a complimentary tasting of their menu? If not, how much would it cost to have one?
- If your staff is not responsible for cleaning up after our wedding, who would you recommend for us to hire for this task?
- How many servers will you need to accommodate our reception? What will they be wearing?
- If my event goes longer than the contracted time, what are your overtime charges?
- Does your quote include gratuity and service charges?
- What is the cancellation policy, both if you cancel & if we cancel?
So, first talk budget with your fiancé, pick a wedding venue, then find the perfect wedding caterer for you. And just like communication will be what makes your marriage successful, communication is what will make the relationship with your wedding caterer successful.
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