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From Food to Fanfare, a Good Caterer Can Help

The bride who’s looking to create a memorable wedding reception could learn a lot from her caterer.
Whether working with a small or large budget, today’s bride-to-be has never ending options when it comes to the reception. And while the caterer’s specialty is the food, they’ve attended enough weddings to offer suggestions on everything from the table decorations to the lighting for that first spotlight dance.

“A good caterer will not only help with the menu planning, he’ll also help the bride and groom to have a wonderful wedding day,” says Chef Dominique of Chef Dominique’s Catering. “After all, this is a woman’s most important day of her life.”

Working with Your Dreams
Weddings are all about the memories created. Wedding planners like VOW help create the perfect snapshot of the reception, and the caterer is just one person hired to provide those candid images. While not every bride chooses to cater her reception, it can alleviate some of the day’s stress when friends and family don’t have to organize the food themselves.
 
Brides have many options when it comes to catering, from simple hors d'oeuvres to a five-course meal including champagne.

Hors d'oeuvres cost only a few dollars per guest, and can serve as a main meal for a more intimate, mid-day reception. Meat, cheese and fruit trays cost $4 to $6 a person, while two-meat buffets with a couple of sides range from $9 to $14 a person. Those looking for more exotic meals can pay $12 to $30 per guest, depending on the entrée, sides and presentation.


Sit-down meals generally cost more than buffets because of the costs involved in paying servers. Providing champagne or other free drinks can increase the price, so those on a tight budget may opt for a cash bar or stick to non-alcoholic beverages.These are all decisions a caterer can help determine, but not without knowing a few details.

Working with a Caterer
A good caterer will help the bride bring her dreams to life, but only after the bride determines the wedding date, reception location, guest list and budget.

The reception venue determines the menu, as some caterers are limited without a kitchen to work in. A good caterer will meet the bride at the reception site at least twice prior to her big day.

The wedding date also makes a difference. “During the winter we eat more than we do in the summer, which means more food or a different type of food, and that of course determines the cost,” Dominique says.

The age range of guests helps determines the menu. A twenty-something bride hosting a younger crowd that enjoys champagne and dancing should consider late-evening hors d'oeuvres to balance the amount of food served with the amount of alcohol consumed.

Hosting guests from afar and scheduling photos between the ceremony and the reception are both reasons to serve hors d'oeuvres before the main meal.

Beyond these decisions, caterers are often the ones who put out fires before the bride smells smoke. “A good caterer will want to know how to reach the florist, the baker, the DJ, the photographer – everyone involved with the wedding day,” Dominique says. “It takes a huge team to make sure the day goes as planned.”
 
By knowing the day’s itinerary and having this contact information, emergencies can be handled discreetly. Once, Dominique realized shortly before the reception that the DJ hadn’t shown up. A phone call determined a scheduling mishap and Dominique’s crew was soon standing by to help the harried DJ unload equipment, barely beating guests to the venue. The bride never even knew.

“A good caterer is so much more than just a chef – he’s an electrician, a plumber, a counselor, a florist – whatever it takes to make the day go as planned,” Dominique says.      

-By Lisa Schaefer for Chef Dominique's Catering, Sioux Falls, SD

This article was also featured in the 2009 VOW Wedding Planner. To view a PDF of this article, go to the CATERING, CAKES & BEVERAGES section of VOW.