A Caterer Weighs In on Saving Money

These tips are for everyone wanting to save a bit of money. And who can’t do with that? Okay, if you’re a partner at Goldman Sachs, saving money may not be top of your list, but for the rest of us trying to get the most for our money, a few pointers from someone in the know can always help.

But before you go to your caterer

Essential to your planning is for you and your spouse-to-be to have a well defined idea of what you would like in your reception–your vision and your venue need to be agreed upon before you go jumping into planning your food.

But Maggie, we don’t have a well-defined idea. We just don’t know, I mean, we kind of know we have 45 guests who will want to eat, but what do we do?

That’s perfectly okay. Sometimes many couples get so caught up in the cost of things, they forget to take a deep breath and weigh their options before they flip out. But don’t flip out. Read these tips and then you’ll be ready to plan. Promise. And you’ll save some money to boot.

Tip #1 If you sit down, prices go up.

It’s just one of those things, but a formal, sit-down reception, even though you may be serving burgers and fries (which are fun and good by the way) will raise the price of your affair–a lot. And that’s because there are more working parts like: chairs, tables, linens, centerpieces, plates, silverware, servers and valets. A buffet station will be less expensive than a sit-down. Even if you have butler-passed trays of food, with casual seating, you will spend less than a formal sit-down dinner.

Tip #2 Keep the bar simple.

Ask your caterer, if they are the ones providing the alcohol, to keep it simple. Beer, wine and maybe one mixed drink as the “special” drink of your reception will help contain costs. While technically not a mixed drink, Paul and I served Bellinis (along with beer and wine) at our wedding–they were a huge hit, especially with all my girlie friends. Do some research on a fun cocktail and make it your “special” wedding drink.

If your caterer does not provide the alcohol, purchasing it yourself and decanting the wine will look beautiful and no one has to know how much you spent on those bottles of red. Trust me, there are many good, good wines out there for under $10 a bottle, some under $8 a bottle as well.

Tip #3 Think more turf than surf.

You may love seafood (I am a clamophile) and you may want to shower your guests in scallops, shrimp and lobster tails, but it will cost you. Seafood is spendy purely because of the economics of it. Your seafood, which first has to be caught in the wilds of the ocean, passes through a few middlemen before it gets to market where your caterer will finally purchase it for preparation. Mark-ups follow along the way, and if you want fresh over frozen, that’s going to raise your costs as well.

Tip#4 Keeping your expectations about cost firmly grounded, will keep you happier.

I like to bring up Costco here as a perfect example of why keeping your expectations grounded will keep you happier and sane. Costco has a great deal of buying power behind it, coupled with human power and because of that they can produce take-home foods for a really good price. Take their chicken pot pie, it’s tasty-good and at around $12, it easily serves 8-10,if not more, and that’s a great deal. Your caterer cannot do this because your caterer does not have the immense buying power of Costco or Sam’s Club.

Also, keep in mind your caterer is developing a menu, specifically to order, shopping, cooking and then delivering food for you and your guests, and that is a job worth paying for.

Tip #5 Consider drop-off service as an alternative.

If you are a DIY bride or a Bride-on-a-Budget or maybe you’re just having an intimate wedding with few guests, then do find a caterer who offers drop-off service. Drop-off service means just that, your caterer drops-off the food at your reception and the rest is up to you. Food will usually arrive on di