One of the biggest expenses of your wedding will be food and beverage (or, as those in the industry say, F & B). Affordable wedding catering is hard to come by, but there are ways to make it financially feasible to feed and water your wedding guests. To ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck from your wedding caterer, make sure you are making full use of their services. Here are five service offerings that you may not be aware your caterer can provide for a nominal fee or, better yet, for free. (Disclaimer: Some caterers will definitely charge for one or more of these services, so make sure you ask! Even if they charge a nominal fee for some things on this list, it could still be cheaper than finding a different vendor for each service.)
1. They do more than just food
Smart wedding caterers know that there are more profits to be made in diversifying their service offerings and becoming a one-stop-shop for their clients. Therefore, many caterers will offer couples a wide variety of services — such as floral arrangements, linens, dinnerware, chair covers, table décor, and more — to monopolize on business opportunities. If your caterer doesn’t offer one of the services you’re looking for, then ask for a referral to a vendor that they recommend, because they are your best bet for finding a reliable company who may be kind enough to extend a referral discount for your business. You’ll be surprised how bargain shopping for wedding vendors will make you a much better negotiator later on in life.
2. Help you create a theme
If you have a specific wedding theme or color scheme that you’d like the food and beverages to tie into, ask your caterer whether they can make this possible. Matching your needs may come with a fee, so try and work with your caterer on some viable and affordable options that will help bring it all together. Remember, it never hurts to ask for a favor or discount here and there, just be careful to not become an entitled “bridezilla” in the process and ruin your chances of any kickbacks from your vendors.
3. Create custom wedding menus
Chances are, you’re going to have guests who either have food allergies, specific dietary restrictions, or require special menus (aka kids). If the number of custom meals is relatively low compared to your total plate count, then most caterers will throw in a vegetarian meal or gluten-free meal for free. A great option if you’ll be having a decent number of kiddos at your wedding is to setup a small buffet with mac n’ cheese, chicken nuggets, finger sandwiches, and some fresh fruit for the little ones to fill their bellies. Wedding caterers understand that one (menu) size doesn’t fit all, so they’re willing to work with couples to accommodate those few guests who require special menus (e.g. your sister-in-law who is now gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, allergic to nut products, and survives on air and sunlight alone).
4. Provide bar set up and bartenders
If your caterer can offer bar and/or bartending services, then definitely try and work out a deal into your catering package. Providing alcohol for your wedding guests is a cost that should not be overlooked or underestimated, regardless if you’re planning on having a cash bar or an open bar. Sometimes, caterers who offer bartending services will have leftover alcohol from a previous wedding that they may be willing to offer you for a discounted price (“may” being the operative word, here). Again, it doesn’t hurt to ask, because every little savings counts when it comes to paying for your wedding. You don’t have to go all out on a full bar, either. If money is the issue, then your guests will be happy with wine and beer, because some booze is definitely better than no booze. Plus, some people don’t know their limit at weddings and go a little overboard on the hard alcohol, so you might be doing everyone a favor by limiting the bar to wine and beer.
5. Complimentary cake cutting
Ever wonder who cuts and serves the wedding cake after you smash it into your new husband’s face? More times than not, it’s your catering staff or wedding coordinator and it’s usually complimentary, but not always. If your catering vendor does not offer free cake service (cut, plate, and serve to tables), then try and negotiate complimentary cutting and plating service only (i.e. guests come up to the table and grab a piece of cake that has been plated) into your catering package. If all else fails, turn to your wedding coordinator or a reliable family member/friend who can carry out this unexpectedly skilled and daunting task.
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