Whether you have been planning your wedding for a while, or recently engaged, you have probably figured out that your reception is going to eat, quite literally, a large chunk of you budget.
The wedding budget builders will tell you that 4 items are going to take nearly half of your budget: reception venue, food and beverage costs, rentals, and cake. If you have picked a venue that does not include catering, then you will probably find yourself looking at catering websites and menus, trying to figure out what it is going to cost. And it is very likely you may experience some sticker shock in the process. The best way to wrap your head around the cost is to imagine that you are taking your closest 100 . . . 200 . . . or even 300 friends and family to dinner, and you are coving their bar bill as well. And here’s the real kicker, it is likely that your catering cost will be more than a similar menu at your favorite restaurant simply because that meal is having to be transported to your venue and may require rented equipment for service once it gets there.
When it comes to catering, there are four pieces that will make up the total catering costs.
MENU COSTS The menu cost is going to be the cost of the meal you have chosen to serve. Typically, you can expect to spend between $4 and $10 per person for cocktail hour, and depending on the style of service, it is common for the meal to range between $20-$28 per person. Just like at any restaurant, certain items are more expensive. Chicken and pasta tend to be less expensive entrée choices, while beef and seafood tend to be more expensive.
BAR COSTS The cost of beverage service is likely to rival the cost of the menu. Typically, bars can be either hosted paid for by the host (that would be you) or cash paid for by your guests. For weddings, hosted bars are the most common option. Once you have chosen to have a hosted bar, the next question is: are you going to chose an open or consumption bar. Open, means that you are paying a flat fee to cover the cost of all the alcohol consumed by your guests during a set period of time. Alternatively, a consumption bar is a bar where you will be charged by the actual beverages consumed by your guests. There are pros and cons for both. The most common length of time for an open bar is 4 hours, and to give you an idea, our house open bar is $16 per person.
STAFF This is the people from the kitchen staff to the servers to the bartenders to the dishwashers that will handle the food and beverage service. We frequently tell people that the more items that need to be picked up and put down, the more staff your event will require. It is common for the staffing cost to equal 20%-25% of your food and beverage costs.
RENTALS Tables and chairs, china and glassware, and linens are just some of the rentals that your event may require. Beyond the rental pieces your guests may see, behind the scenes your event may require a kitchen prep tent, and warming ovens and grills. The rental piece is the hardest piece to generalize because so much of it will be dictated by your individual event needs. If your eyes are swimming at this point, take a deep breath. While there are a lot of moving pieces and parts, your caterer will be able to help you navigate the process.
If you are ready to start the process, we would love to setup a time to talk to you and put a customized catering proposal together.