Cooking Mama / Thoughts / Wedding

Catering: Decision Made, Crisis Avoided. (Also, some helpful tips!)

I was blogging everyday here but then I watched my first episode of Bridezillas and it almost convinced me to call the whole wedding off.

When I wrote before about catering it was because we realized that we were behind schedule and our choices were limited. This is surprising to me, given that our wedding is in October, but I’m beginning to understand that you can never plan a wedding too early. I wrote about some of the ideas we had here and how excited we were to try out Eden’s Catering.
The Sunday after I wrote that post we drove to Smithfield, NC to do a tasting. We sat down to very small little trinkets of food… But slowly and surely the plates got bigger and bigger and food was piled higher and higher. Napkin and I were in awe. Everything was vegan and delicious but we didn’t understand why were being treated to a four course meal under the notion that this was a tasting (and presumably free?) Also, absolutely no business was being discussed. We kept trying to get the ball rolling but the head chef simply would not have it until we were done eating… So we just kept eating.
After we thought we were going to burst, the head chef sat down with us and start talking menu options and everything else except what we needed to know. Listen, no one likes to talk money… I hate it. I avoid it if at all possible but it’s necessary at times. Times like when you’re trying to budget catering at your wedding. I started asking questions about prices, packages, what was included in the packages… But Cheffy kept dodging.
So finally I said, “This is our budget. What can we do with xx amount of money?”
It was like we were suddenly in a different restaurant or something. The atmosphere totally changed. We were basically told that working with him for xx amount of dollars was impossible. That his prices started at DOUBLE our budget. We asked what he was willing to do to help us, how we could meet in the middle but he shut us down saying things like, “weddings take money,” “you won’t find anyone to do your wedding that cheap” (we already had, by the by) and “I don’t know what I can do.”

Now before I go any further I want you to know that the overall experience was NOT bad. It was a little confusing, yes… But Napkin and I really loved that this tiny vegan restaurant in pork town, USA had done as well as it had. (Nine years in business!) The food was excellent, the message was excellent. And maybe if you’re planning an excessively expensive wedding you could afford Eden’s. But we simply couldn’t. And maybe if you’re a wedding planner by trade or you are working with someone who knew what questions to ask and how to get the right information you could go with Eden’s. But we simply didn’t.

So we all awkwardly said goodbye and as Napkin was standing up Cheffy came back as gave us a fifty dollar bill for our sampler. We paid it happily, of course, the food was awesome… But we also think that if we had ended our meeting with Eden’s shaking hands and signing contracts… our meal would have been free.

That was that.

Napkin and I left Smithfield so full we thought we were going to die. We were also a little disheartened. We love food! We want to love the food at our wedding! What were we going to do? We thought about it for a little while, laughed about the whole thing and then promptly fell into food comas when we got home.

The next morning I did some asking around and research on the ole’ internet but couldn’t find anything new. Then, while checking my facebook page, someone had posted pictures of a fundraiser they had been to and I saw this:

“Self!” I said, “That’s beautiful! What a spread!” Then I read the caption:

Catering by Angie’s.

This was our standby! Our second choice! I immediately revisited their website where, serendipitously, they had just added a new gallery. Take a look:

These were just some choices of the gallery that’s posted on Angie’s website. Then, I searched the internet for reviews and found that Angie’s is five star across the board, easy to work with, a 31 year family owned business and totally willing to work with you on the menu.

And most importantly they are all inclusive. Plates-wait-staff-champagne-toast-cake-cutting-bartender-cocktail-hour-vegetarian-menu all inclusive. Oh! Most-Most importantly, their pricing was laid out on the table. And affordable! So take a second look at some of the photos… because that is who will be serving you come my wedding day. We did it! I guess the lesson I learned is this, listen to Mrs. Napkin… who found Angie’s and suggested them to us from the get go.

So those of you who are planning your own day or helping someone do just that… here’s a list of questions I found to be incredibly helpful when talking to caterers (Learned mostly from from my mom and Mrs. Napkin:)

  • Does the caterer specialize in certain types of food or service? (They should provide you with sample menus to review.)
  • Can the caterer arrange for a tasting of the specific foods you’re interested in prior to hiring? (They should.) Schedule a tasting if you get a good vibe.
  • What is the caterer’s average price range? Are costs itemized depending on the foods you choose, or is there an all-inclusive flat rate? What would that include (linens, tax, and gratuity)? Does the caterer have printed price sheets for food selections? Check your budget.
  • How involved is the caterer in a typical reception — does she work like a wedding coordinator or banquet manager, cuing the band, telling the couple when to cut the cake, adjusting the schedule if guests don’t seem ready to sit down to dinner?
  • Will the caterer provide tables, chairs, plates, table linens, silverware, salt-and-pepper shakers, and more? Ask to see these items to make sure they’re acceptable. Do you have to rent tables, place settings, or other equipment? Or will they arrange for the rentals?
  • Who is the main contact? Will the same person you work with when planning also oversee meal service on the day of the wedding? (You want this to be the case.)
  • Will the caterer work any other weddings on the same weekend, the same day, or at the same time as yours? (You want to be sure they will devote sufficient attention to you.) You may want to pass on a smaller outfit who indicates they have another job or two scheduled for that day.
  • Does the caterer handle all table settings? Will they put out place cards and favors?
  • Will the caterer provide wait staff? How many would they recommend for the size of your wedding? What will the waitstaff wear? (Top caterers say they always use their own serving personnel, even if the site’s staff is available, because they understand the caterer’s way of doing business.)
  • Will the caterer be willing to include a recipe you provide, like a special family dish, or an appetizer with some sort of sentimental significance? Can they prepare vegetarian, kosher, kids, or halal meals for just a few of your guests?
  • Where will the food be prepared? Are there on-site facilities, or do you, the caterer, and the site manager need to make additional arrangements? If the caterer must bring in his own equipment, is there an additional fee?
  • Does the caterer work with fresh (not frozen) food? (This was a big one for us!)
  • Does the caterer have a license? (This means her business has met health department standards and has liability insurance — make sure this includes a liquor license if you’re having a bar.)
  • Can the caterer provide alcohol? Or can you handle the bar separately? If you can provide it, is there a corkage fee? How and when will you get the alcohol to the caterer? If the caterer will provide it, do they have an flexible wine list, and can you make special requests? How is this list priced? (I’ll blog about what Napkin and I decided to do about this soon.)
  • How will the caterer arrange the food on the buffet table or on plates? Can you see photos of previous work displays? (You just did!)
  • Can you speak to previous clients? (Online reviews make this less awkward and easy!)
  • Does the caterer also do wedding cakes? Can you use an outside baker if you desire? Is there a cake-cutting fee?

So there you have it! We are on our way to buffet style, heavy hor deurve heaven!

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