I know it may seem weird that I am talking about weddings in the cold winter month of December, but around this time of year is when I book the majority of the weddings that I will be catering for the following year. Most brides and grooms start planning their wedding anywhere from 6months to 18 months in advance, with the majority falling right at the year mark. Thus, I figured this is the perfect time to discuss a few wedding issues, so today we will discuss the bill.
Since your catering bill will constitute the majority of your catering budget, between 45%-50% it is important that you understand the process. Yes, your catering bill is really going to cost about half of your catering budget. Why is that the case you ask? All I am asking for is for some rice, chicken, and a few appetizers. As a caterer, I always have to explain this part because people don’t understand that the real cost in catering is the service, equipment and your china and other rental items. Food is not that expensive. But when that food is presented in chafing dishes, then has to be put on a plate, served with a knife, napkin, brought to you by a server, placed onto a beautifully set table, with fabulous tablecloth, it adds up quite a bit. So how much will all of this cost you?
I cannot speak for other caterers as everyone determines their own pricing, but here’s a rough estimate of how much you can expect to spend for different kind of receptions. Keep in mind that pricing varies based on a lot of things. For example, if you choose to go to catering hall in Long Island, they may charge you anywhere from $50 to $125 per person. It all depends on the reputation of the place, and what you are looking for. I am an off premise caterer, so most of the pricing I will provide you does not include the rental fee of the space. While I enjoy doing weddings in lofts, and various independent halls, do keep in mind, that sometimes, it may be cheaper to go to a catering hall as the items do add up.
However, if you want to create the wedding of your dreams, with your own décor, food, colors and staffing, an independent space is the best way to go.
TYPES OF RECEPTIONS & PRICE (FOOD, STAFF, CHINA & CUTLERY, DRINKS (not including liquor))
Cocktail Reception: These are becoming more and popular. Even among Haitians. However, they are not for everyone. If you are the kind of person who associates a wedding with food abundance, a cocktail reception may not be for you. Imagine just the cocktail hour at a wedding. This too can be tailored to fit your desires, but usually people who go for a cocktail reception don’t want too much hoopla over food. They want great appetizers presented in a great way, passed, stations or both. They will pick anywhere from 6 to 12 items. Cocktail receptions are great for an afternoon reception. Expect to spend from $35-$50 per person depending on what is needed.
Buffet Reception: Buffet’s used to have the reputation of not being classy and elegant. That is totally out of the window. I always suggest to brides, go for a buffet. You get more bangs for your buck and way more food for that less buck too. If you have a crowd that loves food, go for this because your guests can eat more than one entrée and choose from many different sides. To keep the chaos away on the line, have hosts/hostesses go to each table to guide them to the line. Always have servers when having a buffet reception. If not, it will definitely go from elegant to disaster. People get funny around food. So the best way to manage them, is to have attendants. Expect to spend about $35-$50 as well, depending on number of items.
Cocktail & Buffet: The name says it all. This is what most brides and grooms opt for. This will cost you about $50-$70 per person for food, non alcoholic beverage, staff, cutlery, and china. If you are on the higher end of that price, usually dessert/cake may be included.
Sit Down service: Most sit down dinners come with a cocktail hour. This is the most expensive type of reception for 2 reasons. It requires more staffing and more equipment in terms of warmers, plates, cutlery etc. Unlike the buffet where you can have 1 server for every 30-50 guests, with a sit down dinner, you need 1 server for every 12-15; some places even have 1 server per table. The same goes for the china. For the buffet you mainly have the dinner plate. But with a sit down service, each course requires its own plate and fork. The service is what you are paying for. Also, with a sit down dinner, you have less food. Your guests get to choose one meat and 2 sides unlike the buffet where they can sample everything. However, this is the most elegant service to have. It’s less foot traffic around the room and it keeps things more organized. Expect to spend anywhere from $75-$125 per person depending on what is needed.
Nadege Fleurimond is the owner & business manager of Fleurimond Catering, Inc., an off-premise catering firm serving the NY/NJ/CT/MA areas. She is also the author of a Taste of Life: A Culinary Memoir, a humorous and heart warming compilation of recipes and funny anecdotes. (http://www.nadegefleurimond.com)
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