I don’t know about you, but I need something to look forward to at the moment. As I write this we are into week seven of Lockdown. So, it was a welcome relief to receive a request to be a wedding caterer in 2021. It was such a blessing to be able to think about next year when, hopefully, some semblance of normality will resume.
Prescriptive Menus or Free Choice for Clients?
As I spoke with my client, I made me realise how much you need to balance giving a couple options to chose from and yet allowing them freedom to think creatively about their day. What you don’t want is to resort to a frustrating exchange of “what do you want?” “well, what can you do?” That quickly dissolves the client’s trust that you are experienced enough not to mess up their day.
Over years of chatting to couples I have realised that most people want to start off with being given a little bit of structure. Then, as budget and guest requirements change, the event mutates and alters along more creative lines through discussion. This is to be expected, as the number of weddings one plans in a lifetime can normally be counted on one hand! In addition, couples start off with high expectations and soon learn that boring things such as budgets and staffing requirements really can hinder their expectations for their special day.
So, before I give a quote, I have my prospective clients fill in a form with as much detail about the practical arrangements for their day as possible. I include sample menus to choose from but make it clear that there is freedom to think creatively and divert from the list. After I have received the form, I can then ask plenty of questions to refine that their expectations are.
Here are some of the key questions I ask to help customers think outside the box when it comes to planning their big day.
Fine Dining or Casual Dining?
There really is no rule book on how you organise the catering for your wedding day. Although a lot of people opt for the classic three course meal (normally chicken!), a lot of people are really starting to think outside the box in terms of what they offer their guests. So, the wedding breakfast might start with a mixture of pakoras and samosas, followed by gourmet curries and Indian sweet meats for dessert. Others opt for a luxury buffet with homemade quiches and fruit platters. Still others want a hog roast. It really is up to you.
Obviously, a three-course meal that is delivered to your table by waiters is going to cost far more than asking your guests to help themselves. A lot of people don’t realise that if they want a restaurant style sit down meal, the catering company is going to need to hire more staff to serve the guests. This drives up the cost.
If you think that you really want hot food for your guests, an easier way to reduce cost is to have the hot food placed on one table in a buffet style. Guests can then queue up to be served. This would mean the catering company requires fewer members of staff to serve the guests. This cuts down cost.
A wedding breakfast or Afternoon Tea?
Please take into account the time of year that you are having your wedding. Guests may not appreciate a heavy, hot three course meal in the middle of Summer. A lot of couples having Summer weddings are opting to have light refreshments on arrival, followed by an Afternoon Tea of sandwiches and cake. They then add in a hot meal in the evening (such as a hog roast) as the temperature drops.
Conversely, a wedding that takes place near Christmas can be made to feel festive, nostalgic and cosy with the inclusion of mulled wine and luxury mince pies.
Canapes or a Champagne Reception?
Think about what time your wedding service is happening. If you have got an early slot (say 10am), please do not expect your guests to wait until mid afternoon for an Afternoon Tea. Add in a canape reception on arrival to your venue. Hungry guests are not happy guests.
Alternatively, a late afternoon wedding service might mean you can save money and only serve one meal, say at 5pm.
Luxury or Basic?
Think about the makeup of your guests. Those with children cannot keep children calm and entertained for long periods of time if they are hungry. A lot of wedding dishes are more suited to adult palettes, so let your caterer know you need a tray of basic ham and cheese sandwich for the kiddies too.
Good catering requires a good working relationship
A client should expect a caterer to offer practical advice when needed but be flexible to adapt to their needs. A caterer should expect to have a positive dialogue with their client to ensure they can plan the best outcome for them. Ultimately, good wedding catering boils down to a good relationship between client and caterer.
I am really looking forward to catering this wedding next year. What a relief to have something positive to look forward too. It’s a reminder that life goes on, no matter what our nation is going through. People will carry on getting married no matter what Coronavirus throws at us. Here’s to many more weddings to come!