Know to Know:  How Much Will Your Wedding Cost?


In the ten years that I, personally, have been in the event industry, it has become clear that my role is not just as a hospitality professional but also as an educator.  Most of my clients have never planned a large event, mitzvah, or wedding reception, and therefore do not have as much of an understanding of event logistics as is often times necessary to determine the best vendors for the job.


Besides locating a venue, clients generally approach the caterer first in the process of planning their celebration.  Many of the inquiries I receive are as follows:


Hi!  I’m getting married in 2014 and want a served meal.  What are your rates, and when can I come in for a tasting?


First of all: Congratulations!  How wonderful and exciting – Putting on the Ritz would love to play a part in making your wedding day amazing.


Second:  Whooooooaaaaa…..We need some more information before jumping right into rates.


How much for a served meal?

How much for a served meal?


The thing to keep in mind is that everything affects the per person rate for off-premise catering, so these are the details that I need to obtain…


1.  Are you having your ceremony on-site?  This factors in for several reasons.  As on off-premise caterer, we are usually the ones setting up and breaking down your ceremony chair.  In fact, we are often times the ones providing you with your ceremony chairs.  This requires additional staff, additional hours of time at the venue, and possibly the cost of the chairs and the delivery.


2.  Do you have a venue in mind?  Many venues are caterer-friendly.  Others, however, are a bit more challenging.  They might not have an appropriate kitchen, or the kitchen might be located on an entirely different floor that isn’t accessible by elevator.  Tables and chairs might not be included.  It might be 2 hours away from where we are located.  And if the party is taking place at a private residence or another site that does not typically host large functions, a walk-thru is definitely needed to determine what potential obstacles might need to be overcome.


3.  What time will your reception begin and end?  While a four-hour reception (including the cocktail hour) is the norm, plenty of events last five hours.  And even though the meal service might end well before the end of the reception, your off-premise caterer needs to remain on-site.  We are the ones who continue to clear glasses and plates from the tables.  We are the ones who break down the room and return it to the exact condition in which it was found.  And paying a staff of 15 to work an additional hour adds up.


4.  Is there a budget range in which you are aiming to stay?  THIS IS PARAMOUNT.  Soooooo many times I encounter clients who give me an initial response of “affordable,”  “reasonable,” or “not sure – let’s see what you come up with.”  Vague responses such as these can potentially end up wasting the time of both client and caterer.  A budget range gives us a tangible idea of what we can realistically offer you, and an initial proposal that is along the lines of what you can actually afford is much easier to amend and revise.


5.  How many guests are you anticipating?  This not only assists us with the pricing ($10,000.00 goes a longer way with 150 guests than it does 250), but also in determining if your location of choice can appropriately accommodate the type of meal service you have in mind with the expected head count.


6.  Is there a particular type of food or cuisine you would like to feature?  Anything to avoid?  Any details that allow me to customize the menu to better suit your preferences and needs are well-received by me!  If you envision featuring upscale comfort food, as many Asian-inspired dishes as possible, or avoiding mushrooms at all costs, please share that.


7.  Will the cocktail hour take place in the same space as dinner and dancing?  An entirely different set up and break down will need to be completed, especially with the bar.  Being able to anticipate the staffing and equipment needs will allow me to include that pricing in the initial proposal versus needing to add it in later down the road.


The finished product!

The finished product!


There is plenty more minutiae to be discussed throughout the planning process, but the answers to these questions will get us both started on the right path.  And once a menu proposal has been created, I would love to invite you in for a complimentary tasting!  Begin your process here!



Cate Buscher, POTR Event Specialist