When to Book a Wedding Caterer

Let’s take a look at when to book a wedding caterer—and, just as importantly, what to ask when you book: Everything you need to know about when to book a wedding caterer.

By Deanna deBara

wedding food platter
Photo by Brian Jarreau Photography

Staying organized is one of the key elements of successful wedding planning. You want to make sure you’re organizing your to-dos on your wedding planning checklist—and then checking off all of those items at the appropriate time in the months, weeks, and days leading up to your wedding.

But if you’ve never planned a wedding before, knowing the appropriate time to tackle certain wedding-related tasks can be a challenge—and that includes when to book a wedding caterer.

Because your wedding caterer plays such a huge role on your big day—from dazzling your wedding guests with an array of appetizers to keeping the signature wedding cocktails flowing all night long—you want to make sure to book your wedding caterer well in advance. But when’s the right time?

When to Book a Wedding Caterer? Photo Credit // Hailley Howard Photography

When Do You Book a Wedding Caterer?

The first step in the wedding planning process is choosing your wedding venue. Booking your reception venue will not only lock in your wedding date, but it will also give you the information you need to start booking other vendors (for example, some venues allow you to work with whatever vendors you’d like, while other venues have a short list of preferred vendors you’ll need to choose from).

But once you’ve booked your reception venue and have that information, the very first wedding vendor you should plan to book is your wedding caterer.

Ideally, you should plan to start researching your wedding caterer between 10 and 12 months before your big day, with the goal of booking your caterer between six and eight months out. If you’re planning your wedding on a more condensed timeline, a good rule of thumb is to book as soon as possible.

Why Should You Book Your Wedding Caterer So Far In Advance?

There are a number of reasons you should book your wedding caterer as far in advance as possible, including:

  • Wedding caterers get booked quickly: Because many couples book their wedding caterers when (or immediately after) they book their venue, caterers tend to book dates far in advance. Book a wedding caterer ASAP to make sure they have availability on your wedding date. This can be even more true if your wedding venue has a short list of wedding caterers to choose from.
  • You need time for interviews and sampling: is such an important part of an event. You want plenty of time to interview every potential caterer, sample their food, and make the choice that’s right for your wedding day—and that means giving yourself plenty of time to schedule interviews and tastings with a few different caterers.
  • You want plenty of time to craft your food and drink menus: You also want plenty of time after you book to come up with the perfect food and drink menu—and the further in advance you lock in your wedding caterer, the more time you’ll have to do so.
  • If you book a wedding caterer that doesn’t include alcohol, you’ll need extra time to find a bar service: Different wedding caterers provide different packages. Some include alcohol and bartenders; some don’t. If you end up booking a wedding caterer that doesn’t include bar service, you’ll need time to find and hire a licensed bartender for your wedding—and the sooner you book your wedding caterer, the more time you’ll have to find your bartender.
When to Book a Wedding Caterer? Photo Credit // Yasmin Khajavi Photography

What Should You Ask Your Wedding Caterer Before You Book?

Though it’s important to book a wedding caterer well in advance, you shouldn’t rush the process. Before you commit to a wedding caterer, ensure they’re the right fit for your big day by asking the right questions.

But what exactly are the right questions? Here are a few things you should definitely ask your wedding caterer before you book them for your wedding reception:

  • How much experience do you have catering weddings?
  • Have you ever catered a wedding at my venue?
  • Do you specialize in any type of food or cuisine?
  • Will my wedding be your only event that day?
  • What’s included in your wedding catering package?
  • Is setup, serving, and breakdown included in your package?
  • Can you walk me through a sample wedding menu?
  • What staff will you provide on my wedding day?
  • Can I see examples/photos of your previous wedding work?
  • What is your payment policy?
  • Do you have references I can speak to?

Asking these questions will help you better understand your caterer, their packages, and what they can bring to your big day—all things that will help you make the best decision for your wedding reception.

Book Your Wedding Caterer In Advance

Bottom line? There are a lot of things to do when you’re planning your wedding, but one of the first things you should do after booking your venue is book your wedding caterer.