Tips for Hiring a Caterer for Your MA Wedding Reception

A little known fact about planning your wedding reception menu is that you will spend more money on the food than you will for anything else – even renting the reception hall. Because choosing a reception menu is so important, it pays to take your time, ask questions, get references and do your due diligence before just hiring someone to cater what just might be the most important dinner of your married life.

To help you learn what to ask when contacting local Massachusetts caterers and bakeries for your special day, use the list of questions and information below to help you make an informed decision. When it comes to creating a wedding reception menu and hiring professionals to pull it off, make sure to assert your preferences and don’t let anyone push you around.

Specialty Foods?
Ask the caterer if they specialize in any particular foods. Most professional organizations will give you some sample wedding reception menu ideas to check out and will let you try some lf their specialty foods before you hire them. Some local Massachusetts caterers have built their business around a specialty food item or because of their ability to cook ethnic or cultural foods, such as Polish, Irish, Portuguese or Mexican. Their expertise in this area could be what helps you make your final decision.

Price Range?
Don’t be afraid to ask about price. Remember, the food you serve at your wedding reception, will be the biggest ticket item of the evening. Ask for an itemization or find out if there is an all-inclusive flat rate available to help control costs. A printed price sheet for add-ons or extra food selections is also helpful, so make sure you ask about it. Take the information home with you to consider it carefully to make sure you stay on budget.

Wedding Reception?
Will the caterer be at your wedding reception? How involved will they actually be in your event? Some caterers offer to do everything from announcing the cutting of the cake, managing the buffet, cuing up the band and getting everyone to sit down and eat at the scheduled time. If the caterer doesn’t take care of these managerial things you will need to find someone to do it. A wedding coordinator or sometimes the site manager of the wedding reception hall can fill this role.

Reception Supplies?
Ask if the caterer will be able to provide any tables or chairs if the wedding reception venue does not supply the items you need. Also ask about plates, silverware, linens and other essentials, such as sugar bowls, salt and pepper shakers, etc. You need to know ahead of time whether or not you will have to rent these items separately or if the items provided will work with your wedding reception decorations and if they will be approved for use by the reception hall.

Catering Contact?
Find out who you need to speak with to coordinate your wedding reception menu plans and preparations. Find out if the person you speak with to inquire about costs and availability is the same person you’ll be working with on your wedding day. You will need to know if your personalities and energy match so you can feel confident in your choice. There are lots of local Massachusetts caterers to choose from, so make sure you feel comfortable with the one you hire.

Wait Staff?
How much staff will the caterer be bringing to your wedding reception? When choosing a reception menu that is complex or has a couple of courses, it’s important to know how many wait staff personnel will be there. Most professional caterers prefer to use their own staff even if the wedding reception hall provides staff as part of the hosting package so they can execute the dinner according to their own preferences.

Personal Menu?
Some couples like to include a special item that comes from an old family recipe. Make sure to ask the caterer before you hire them if that’s what you want to do. Some will cook the recipe according to your directions or invite you to have a special table of family favorites on the side. Also ask about any special diet menu items, such as sugar-free desserts for diabetics, vegetarian options, kosher foods or anything else that is required to accommodate your guests.

The Food?
Will the caterer prepare the food ahead of time and bring it to the reception hall? Will there be any additional fees for special equipment? Make sure to coordinate your caterers needs with the requirements of the venue to ensure there aren’t any conflicts. Does the caterer use fresh or frozen foods? Do they have a license, liability insurance and a liquor license if you will be providing bar service at your reception?

Any References?
Make sure to ask for references and actually call them. Find out how many guests they had, what type of menu they chose and if they would recommend them to other couples. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have to alleviate any concerns or worries about your wedding reception menu.

The Cake?
Some caterers will also provide the wedding cake. If not, they can usually recommend a baker that they have worked with in the past. Referrals are a great way to get connected with reputable, responsible and professional service providers that will work together to enhance your special day. Ask about extra desserts, such as cheesecakes, tarts, candies, cupcakes or other items that you want available to your guests. Again, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegan and other allergy or diet-specific items should be asked about and requested at this time.

The more time you spend talking with local Massachusetts caterers before hiring someone to take care of your wedding reception menu, the more at ease you will be about this important aspect of your wedding day. Speak with the site manager of the wedding reception hall you have chosen to ask for referrals to caterers that they have personally worked with if you don’t know where to start. They will likely know the good ones from the bad ones through experience, and can steer you to the best possible choices for your wedding reception.