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Drive your caterer crazy with these questions

By Heather Lee, Brides.com
updated 10:00 AM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
Weddings don't just celebrate the union of two crazy kids in love -- they also blend some sticky etiquette questions into the mix. For instance, will your guests be expecting dinner and drinks? Here's how to get the message across without stirring up too much fuss. Weddings don't just celebrate the union of two crazy kids in love -- they also blend some sticky etiquette questions into the mix. For instance, will your guests be expecting dinner and drinks? Here's how to get the message across without stirring up too much fuss.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Refreshments take up the largest slice of most wedding budgets
  • It's important to choose your caterer carefully and ask questions before you sign a contract
  • Permits, licenses and allergy accommodations are all on the table
  • Ask who is responsible for which tasks and how much it's all going to cost you

(Brides.com) -- Food and drink will consume the largest portion of your wedding budget, so it's incredibly important to choose the right caterer for your celebration. Before you sign a contract, go ahead and pepper them with questions. Here is a comprehensive list of all the questions you should probably ask to ensure you're communicating exactly what you need.

Tip: We recommend printing out this list of questions and bringing it with you to caterer meetings!

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The Wedding Date

• Is my wedding date available?

• How many weddings will you cater that day?

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Background Information

• How many weddings do you cater per year?

• Have you done events at my wedding venue?

• Are you licensed, with health permits and liability insurance?

• Are you licensed to serve alcohol?

• Will I need any special permits for my event? If so, will you handle obtaining them?

• Will you provide a banquet manager to coordinate the meal service or an on-site coordinator who will run the entire event? If so, can we meet this person before the wedding?

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Kelsey and Isaac: June 23, 2012, in the backyard of Kelsey's yoga teacher in Orem, Utah Kelsey and Isaac: June 23, 2012, in the backyard of Kelsey's yoga teacher in Orem, Utah
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Food & Presentation

• What is your signature fare?

• Do you specialize in certain cuisines?

• Given my budget, guest count, and wedding style, what food choices would you recommend?

• Where does the food come from? Can you source organic or sustainably farmed ingredients?

• What can you do for guests with allergies and dietary restrictions?

• Will the food be prepared on-site or be brought in already prepared?

• How will you handle last-minute requests?

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Drinks:

• Do you provide alcoholic beverages and bartenders? Can you accommodate specialty cocktails?

• What brands of alcohol will be served?

• Can we provide the alcohol and you provide the bar labor?

• Do you charge a corkage fee if we provide our own wine or champagne?

• How do you charge for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages? Per consumption or per person? Which is more cost-effective?

• Is the champagne toast after the ceremony included in your meal packages or is it extra?

• Will your staff serve the wine with dinner?

• How long will alcohol be served?

• Is coffee and tea service included with the per-person meal charge? What brands of each do you offer and do they include decaf and herbal tea options?

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Catering Packages and Payment:

• Do we have to work off a pre-set menu or can you create a custom menu for our event?

• If I have a special dish I'd like served, would you accommodate that?

• Do you offer event packages or is everything a la carte? What exactly do your packages include?

• Can you explain the price differences between sit-down meal vs. buffet vs. stations vs. cocktail-style reception vs. family-style?

• How much do you charge for children's meals?

• How much do you charge for vendor meals?

• Do you do wedding cakes? If so, is this included in the per-person meal price or is it extra?

• If we use an outside cake designer, do you charge a cake-cutting fee?

• If I decide not to serve cake, what are some other dessert options?

• Do you do menu tastings and is there an extra charge for this?

• Do you handle rental equipment such as tables, chairs, etc.?

• What types of linens, glassware, plates and flatware do you provide?

• Do you provide rental upgrades (i.e., chair covers, lounge furniture, Chiavari chairs, etc.)? What would be the additional fees?

• When will I receive a written contract?

• How much of a deposit do you require and when is it due? Do you offer a payment plan?

• What is your refund/cancellation policy?

• How far in advance do I need to book you?

• What information do you need from me before the wedding day?

• When would I need to finalize the menu?

• When will you need a final guest count?

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Logistics:

• What are your water, electrical, and equipment needs?

• How long will it take your team to set up and break down the event?

• What is the ratio of servers to guests?

• What time will you and your staff arrive at the site?

• Will your team handle all table settings? Will they light candles and put out place cards and favors?

• What is your policy on cleanup?

• How will your staff dress?

• How do you handle tips for your staff?

• What do you do with leftovers?

For more food and drink news, advice and opinions, visit Eatocracy at its new home

Reprinted with permission of Conde Nast.

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