All of your vendors come together to make your wedding day an unforgettable experience for you, your partner, and your guests. And one vendor that has a huge impact on your wedding day experience? Your wedding caterer.
Food (and, let’s be real, drinks) bring people together—and for many couples (especially couples who love to eat!), the caterer at their wedding plays a huge role in creating the kind of warm, welcoming ambiance they want for their big day.
But if you’re one of those couples, the question is: How much should you expect to pay for that ambiance—and the food and drink that goes along with it?
Let’s get right to it: How much should you expect to pay for a wedding caterer?
While there are a number of factors that play into final catering costs (which we’ll jump into shortly), the average cost of wedding caterers in the US is $4,000, with most couples spending between $1,800 and $7,000. Keep in mind that the cost of a wedding caterer will vary depending on a number of different factors, including?.
Some of the average catering costs per person include:
While these averages can be helpful in planning your wedding budget, there are a variety of factors that can impact your total wedding catering cost.
Every wedding caterer is different—and, as such, many wedding caterers will include different things in their packages. It’s important to read your contract to understand exactly what’s included with your wedding caterer’s fees, but generally speaking, a wedding catering package may include:
What’s included in your wedding catering package will directly impact the final price. For example, a wedding caterer that provides linens, place settings, and a fully stocked bar and wait staff along with their food is likely going to cost more than a caterer who just handles appetizers and dinner.
Before you decide on a caterer when doing your wedding planning, make sure you read your contract and understand what’s included in their package. By doing so, you won’t overpay for things you don’t need—and you won’t be surprised when you realize your package doesn’t include the catering support you need for your big day.
In addition to what a wedding caterer offers in their standard wedding packages, there are a number of factors that can play into the final cost, including:
Working with a tight wedding budget? Here are some ways you can potentially cut catering costs when wedding planning:
One of the factors that will play into wedding caterer costs is how you serve your wedding food. There are a few different ways you can present food at your wedding, including:
Full-service. Also known as a plated or sit-down meal, a full-service meal requires wait staff to deliver dishes to guests while they're searing at tables—similar to the service you'd receive at a high-end restaurant. Depending on the caterer, guests may be able to choose between a variety of entree options—or, if you want to keep costs lower, you may opt for a single entree (like salmon or chicken). When it comes to presenting food at your wedding, full-service is definitely the most formal.
Family style. With family style service, guests serve themselves from large plates of food that are stationed at their table. Guests take what they want from each plate, then pass along to their neighbor. If food runs low during the meal, wait staff may clear the empty plates and deliver more food.
Buffet style. With a buffet style food presentation, guests serve themselves from a buffet station that contains the entire meal—for example, bread, side dishes, and entrees. This is a more casual serving style, and can be a great option for larger weddings.
Cocktail style. If you don't want to serve a large, sit-down meal at your wedding, cocktail style—which includes passed hors d'ouevres and self-serve food stations (like a cheese and fruit table and carving station)—could be a good option.
Alcohol is expensive—and the bar option you choose can also play a major role in your total wedding caterer costs. Some of the bar options you may want to explore include:
Open bar. An open bar means that your guests can drink whatever they want (and however much they want) throughout your wedding. This is the most expensive bar option.
Limited open bar. A limited open bar means that guests can drink for free—but there are limits around availability. For example, you might have an open bar that only serves wine and beer (and if guests want cocktails, they'll need to pay cash)—or you might choose to have an open bar for the first two hours of your reception before switching to a cash bar.
Cash bar. With a cash bar, guests pay for their drinks out of pocket. Since guests will be paying for their own drinks, this is the most affordable bar option for weddings (at least for the couple getting married!).
Not sure w? When you're considering which caterer is the best fit for your event, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind, including:
What kind of food does the caterer specialize in? Different caterers specialize in different types of food—and if you have a specific cuisine or meal type in mind, you'll want to go with a caterer who has experience creating that kind of cuisine or meal. (For example, if you're having a traditional Italian wedding, you'll want to hire a wedding caterer that specializes in Italian cuisine. If your wedding meal is a brunch, you'll want to look for a caterer with an extensive breakfast/brunch menu.)
Does the caterer have experience with weddings? Catering a wedding is different from catering other types of events—so before you hire a caterer, you want to make sure they have plenty of experience catering weddings (and ideally, weddings with a similar number of guests to your event).
Can the caterer accommodate dietary restrictions? If you have guests that have dietary restrictions (for example, guests that are vegan or gluten-free), you want to make sure they have food to enjoy at your wedding—so before you choose a wedding caterer, make sure they can accommodate your guests.
Does the caterer host menu tastings? Before you commit to a wedding caterer, you'll want to try their food—so make sure that the caterers you're considering are open to doing a tasting before you move forward.