Tips for Planning Your Wedding Catering

We’ve been to thousands of weddings, and here are some of the key things we tell our couples to consider when planning their wedding meal.

Wedding planning can be a whirlwind of excitement, decisions, and emotions. One crucial aspect of your wedding day is the catering. It’s an opportunity to delight your guests with delicious food and create a memorable dining experience. However, planning your wedding catering can also feel overwhelming, especially when you consider factors like menu selection, budget allocation, and logistical details. But fear not – we’ve got you covered!

Danielle Conner, our Director of Catering, has been coordinating and catering for weddings for over 10 years and she’s been present for over 100 events a year. That is a LOT of weddings to compare and contrast and gain ideas from. This has led her to a list of practical and efficient tips for planning your wedding catering that will help you make informed decisions, optimize your budget, and ensure a seamless and enjoyable dining experience for everyone involved.

So let’s dive in and discover how to make your wedding catering journey stress-free and successful:


Choosing the Right Venue

The choice of venue sets the stage for your wedding and significantly impacts your catering options. When selecting a venue, it’s essential to consider various factors that influence the overall dining experience. Here are some key considerations:


Considerations for Selecting a Venue

When searching for the ideal venue, there are several aspects you should keep in mind:

  • Capacity: Ensure that the venue can accommodate your desired number of guests comfortably.
  • Catering Restrictions: Some venues have exclusive partnerships with specific caterers or may have limitations on outside vendors. Be sure to inquire about these restrictions before making a final decision.
  • Amenities: Check if the venue provides amenities such as kitchen facilities, tables, chairs, and linens, as this may affect your budget allocation.
  • Ambience: Consider the ambiance of the venue and how it aligns with your vision and theme for the wedding.

By thoroughly considering these factors, you can select a venue that not only meets your logistical needs but also enhances the overall dining experience for your guests.


Maximizing Budget Efficiency through Venue Selection

Choosing the right venue can also help optimize your budget allocation for catering. While budgeting is often a challenging aspect of wedding planning, an efficient approach can make a significant difference. Here are some tips for maximizing budget efficiency when selecting a venue:

  • All-Inclusive Packages: Look for venues that offer all-inclusive packages combining space rental, catering, and other services. These packages often provide cost savings compared to separate arrangements.
  • Off-Peak Dates and Times: Opting for off-peak dates and times, such as weekdays or morning/afternoon weddings, can often result in lower venue costs.
  • BYOB Options: Some venues allow you to bring your own alcohol, which can help reduce beverage costs.

By carefully considering these options and discussing them with potential venues, you can allocate your budget efficiently without compromising on the quality of your dining experience.

39 West Catering Tip:  By partnering with our sister company, Forest Hall, we are able to offer you a one-stop shop for venue and catering.  plus you save $500 on the venue fee.  If Forest Hall isn’t the right fit, we have a suggested venues list with our other favorite venues in the area.  We provide bartenders at no-charge so if you are BYOB-ing it, there is no additional cost!



Menu Selection Made Easy

Curating a menu that caters to your guests’ tastes and preferences is an essential part of planning your wedding catering. It’s what leaves people raving about the food, and the wedding, afterwards.  Your menu choices should strike a balance between sophistication and familiarity, ensuring a delightful dining experience for all attendees.  But ultimately, the menu should be about what you and your spouse like.  Don’t ever put something on your wedding menu that you won’t eat—this is your day!


Understanding Guest Preferences and Dietary Restrictions

Before finalizing your menu, it’s crucial to consider guest preferences and dietary restrictions. Collect information through RSVP cards or online forms to ensure you can accommodate various dietary needs. Common dietary requirements include vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free options. By providing diverse menu choices, you’ll ensure that all guests can enjoy the meal while feeling catered to and included.

Furthermore, take into account regional culinary traditions, cultural backgrounds, and personal preferences when designing your menu. Incorporating elements that hold significance for you and your partner will add a unique touch and create a more meaningful dining experience for everyone involved.

39 West Catering Tip:  Asking about dietary needs doesn’t mean those guests need to have their own special meals.  We can customize any of our dishes to meet dietary needs, and many of ours are already allergy-friendly  However, for the most concerning or needs, we can craft a special plate as needed at no additional charge.


Striking a Balance Between Sophistication and Familiarity

When selecting dishes for your wedding menu, aim for a balance between sophisticated fare and familiar favorites. Offering elegant and well-presented options creates a sense of luxury, while incorporating familiar comfort foods ensures that everyone finds something they enjoy.

Consider offering a variety of appetizers during cocktail hour, ranging from classic favorites like barbecue meatballs and stuffed mushrooms to innovative selections such as toasted crostini topped with beef tenderloin and pesto. These small bites provide an opportunity to introduce new flavors while still appealing to a wide range of palates.

For the main course, opt for versatile options like grilled chicken breast with tomato garlic cream or sliced beef with mushroom brown sauce. These dishes provide a touch of elegance while still providing familiar flavors that guests will appreciate.

Finally, complement your main courses with well-executed side dishes such as creamy mashed potatoes, honey-glazed carrots, and gourmet mac and cheese. By combining sophisticated elements with comfort food classics, you’ll create a menu that satisfies diverse tastes and preferences. Not a huge fan of salad?  Ask for an additional side-dish instead, which might better round out your meal.

39 West Catering Tip: While both tray-passed and stationary appetizers are an option, we recommend you start your wedding reception on a high note with passed hors d’oeuvres.  They add an element of fun and elegance, allowing guests to mingle while savoring bite-sized delights. 




Efficiently Allocating Your Catering Budget

Budget allocation plays a significant role in planning your wedding catering. To optimize your spending, consider the following strategies:


Evaluating Value for Money Options

When choosing catering options, it’s crucial to assess the value for money they offer. Compare different packages and menus from various caterers to ensure you’re getting the best quality within your budget.

Look for testimonials and reviews from previous clients to gauge the quality of the caterer’s offerings. Additionally, request tastings before making a final decision to sample their culinary creations firsthand.

Remember that value extends beyond the price tag; consider factors like portion sizes, presentation, ingredient quality, and overall dining experience when evaluating catering options. Investing in exceptional service and high-quality ingredients can elevate the overall ambiance and leave a lasting impression on your guests.

39 West Catering Tip:  We always make sure you have plenty of food for your guests, and takeout containers for the leftovers.  You can even freeze many of our items afterwards, saving you money on food once you are back from your honeymoon!


Smart Cost-Saving Measures Without Compromising Quality

While creating a memorable dining experience is essential, it doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Implementing cost-saving measures strategically can help optimize your catering budget without sacrificing quality. Here are some practical tips:

  • Consider incorporating vegetarian or vegan options, as these often cost less than meat-based dishes.
  • Be selective about beverage options and focus on signature cocktails, beer, and wine rather than an extensive bar selection.  End signature cocktails after the cocktail hour to spare the funds.
  • Cut the Cake- literally!  Forgo a traditional and expensive wedding cake in lieu of a fun dessert that everyone loves, such as donuts, ice cream bars, or a candy display.  If you want the photo-op, you can still order a small cake for that purpose.
  • Communicate openly with your caterer about your budget constraints and ask for their expertise in optimizing costs while still maintaining a high-quality dining experience.

39 West Catering Tip
: Consider cutting the China, especially if it’s not included in your catering cost.  Most caterers, like us, will provide you with high quality plastic-wear and save you on average $500-$700.  Just think of what you could do with that money instead!  Worried about how your tables and photos will look?  Ask us for some ideas on how to make plastic-wear work just fine.

By utilizing these cost-saving measures, you can allocate your catering budget more efficiently while still providing an exceptional dining experience for your guests.


In the end: A memorable dining experience makes for a memorable wedding!

Planning your wedding catering doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By following these practical and efficient tips, you can curate a delightful menu, optimize your budget allocation, and ensure a seamless dining experience that will leave a lasting impression on your guests.

Remember to select a venue that aligns with your vision and can accommodate your catering needs. Tailor your menu choices to suit guest preferences while striking a balance between sophistication and familiarity. Efficiently allocate your budget by evaluating value for money options and implementing smart cost-saving measures. Finally, coordinate closely with vendors and maintain clear communication to guarantee a smooth logistics process.

Don’t hesitate to seek advice and guidance from your caterer throughout the planning process. They have extensive experience in handling wedding events and can offer valuable insights into logistical considerations and menu selection.

By approaching your wedding catering with a practical and efficient mindset, you’ll create an unforgettable dining experience that perfectly complements your special day. So relax, enjoy the journey, and savor every moment of this beautiful chapter in your life.

Plan ahead, stay organized, and embrace the process of planning your wedding catering. With careful consideration and efficient decision-making, you can create a memorable dining experience that reflects your love story and delights your guests.

No matter where you are in your wedding-planning journey, 39 West Catering offers free Wedding Catering Consultations to help you lay out the best catering options based on your vision, and venue.  Schedule yours today using the QR code below!