It’s a decision with lasting impact. Your wedding caterer will wear many hats, both before and during your wedding day. Planner, chef, server, designer, vendor coordinator, question fielder, problem solver: you name the need, and your caterer will rise to the task. This is why choosing the right company for your budget, personality and culinary tastes is so vital. To help with your selection efforts, we sat down with Nicole Mattiello, marketing and development coordinator at Providence-based Pranzi Catering & Events, to go over some vital considerations before making the contract plunge.
Q: So a couple is engaged and starts wedding planning. Their chosen reception site allows them to choose their own caterer – how do they begin? When searching online, what are some key indicators of excellence to look for?
A: After booking a venue, a couple should gather a list of preferred caterers, particularly those that are familiar with the venue. Most couples then head online to research caterers from their list. The initial look of the company’s website is very important. You want to look for a clean but somewhat trendy website that is organized and easy to navigate, since these qualities are reflective of the company’s overall style.
Couples should search for pictures from actual events to get an overall idea of how the company displays a wedding. Are the table linens to the floor? Are the place settings and glassware set properly? Do the stations and buffets look organized and nicely decorated? Is the caliber of catering to your liking and standards?
Most importantly, you want to look for images of the company’s food to see how they present their products. Caterers also typically act as event planners, so check out their social media handles for more pictures and inspirations. Lastly, ask about their “team.” A large amount of sales personnel may denote a very big caterer and you could get lost in the shuffle; too few sales personnel and they may not have the capacity or experience needed to handle your event.
Q: How important is the tasting? When does this usually fall in the process?
A: The tasting is a fun and important day in the wedding planning process! Most caterers customize the tasting and prepare the exact menu that you and your guests will be enjoying on your wedding day. In addition, you can have a conversation with your event coordinator and sometimes even the executive chef! Never hesitate to ask as many questions as you may have!
A tasting is usually booked 6-9 months prior to the wedding. Some caterers require you to place a deposit before scheduling your tasting; however, many are able to accommodate a tasting prior to signing a contract so that you can book with confidence after sampling their food.
Q: Can you name a few key questions that a couple should ask of their future caterer?
A: A good question to ask is whether they cook the food onsite. Some items have to be prepared prior at the catering commissary, but you want to make sure they are not cooking all the food at a different location and then transporting it to the event. It will not be as fresh for your guests that way.
Also ask about their familiarity with your venue. Do they have any pictures of events at that venue? Do they work with the venue personnel closely?
Another good one: Does the catering company send a day-of coordinator to ensure a smooth and efficient wedding? A seasoned catering company has a great team of coordinators who are familiar with wedding timelines and working with other vendors such as photographers, florists, officiants, etc.
You’ll also want to know what other amenities and services they offer aside from just food and beverage. Are they a full-service catering company? Will they supply all the linens, china, glassware, cake, staffing, etc.? Do they have other services such as rental equipment (tables, chairs, tents) or event décor? The more items you are able to get from one vendor, the better. This prevents confusion from working with multiple vendors, assures time efficiency and is more cost effective.
Q: Pranzi offers not only catering but also planning and floral services…can a caterer truly plan a wedding? How do these different roles work in the hands of one company?
A: Event planning often falls on the shoulders of the caterer and, yes, a caterer can plan a wedding in its entirety if they have the experience and knowledge to do so. At Pranzi, we offer planning services right from the start so our clients know they will be well taken care of. Having the food, beverage, décor and florals all coming from one place helps streamline the look and feel of an event. The event planners at Pranzi schedule an in-depth meeting (or meetings) with clients in order to create not only the perfect menu but also the perfect overall look.
Q: What is the best way to stay within your catering budget?
A: Primarily, catering will be the bulk of your wedding expenses. Setting a reasonable budget is very important, and knowledgeable caterers will help recommend good budgetary constrictions. Figure out what your event needs apart from food and beverage: in other words, assess what is included with your venue rental fee versus what your caterer needs to provide. Is gratuity included or is the catering contract inclusive of a staffing fee? Does the caterer offer any specials such as a complimentary champagne toast, signature cocktails or wedding cake if booked by a certain date? Are there any off-season discounts or promotions? Remember: contracts should be flexible even after you put down a deposit.