Name any celebration that doesn’t involve food. Be honest. You can’t. This is because, like you and your fiancé, food and emotion are inextricably tied. The transcendent joy of a great meal can numb bad feelings and amplify the good. What and when we eat expresses us at our core.
For weddings in particular, the meals we select not only add to the celebration, they tell our guests who we are. Consider the message we send when we serve five courses on fine dinnerware, or when a taco truck rolls up and its horn blasts “La Cucaracha.” Neither is better or worse than the other, but they each convey a mood and signal their own style of party. Your menu reflects your personality and preferences, while also entertaining your guests, because food IS entertainment when done right.
Options are endless in Wisconsin, what with our long tradition of multiculturalism, as reflected in the endless line-up of ethnic fests. Honor your own heritage or dabble in another you are drawn to. Nestle comfortably in classic American fare, whether it be fried and served on a stick, or a hand selected steak, plated and bathed in a balsamic glaze. Consider the possibilities of a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres hour, or a late evening recharge bar with pizzas and dessert. The charm of food trucks. The convenience of a self-serve buffet. The elegance of a seated dinner with wine service. The sky’s the limit!
So, how to choose? If you have fallen in love with and booked a venue, it is possible they will provide a list of preferred caterers, based on their own contracts or previous experience. These purveyors might be a great place to start, particularly if you are looking for a well-oiled machine, at ease in the reception site with great knowledge of set-up guidelines and already has a rapport with on-site staff. Whether employing these in-house favorites or an outside contender, keep the following checklist with you to help iron out the details.
What are my package options, if any?
Can the packages be altered or customized to our taste preferences? Can you provide entrees for my guests with special dietary needs?
Will we have an opportunity to schedule a tasting in advance of booking?
Have you provided your service at my chosen reception venue in the past?
Do you provide beverage service? What are my package options?
Is there an opening or corking fee to consider?
How far in advance of the wedding do you require a final guest count?
When will we need to finalize the menu?
Will you provide flatware, china, stemware, etc.? Do I have a selection to choose from? Can I provide or rent my own if I so choose?
Do you supply or arrange tables, chairs or linens?
What is the ratio of wait staff per number of wedding guests?
How will you and your staff be dressed? Is this negotiable?
Can I contact any references from previous weddings you have catered?
How far in advance must I book your services?
What is your cancellation policy?
How much is your security deposit, and when is the balance due?
With the dollars and cents squared away, your decision now comes down to your personal vision. So dream big, and remember who you are. Perhaps you’re an al fresco luncheon sort of bride. You might be a bib wearing, baby back rib enthusiast. Or are you a candle lit, high-art gastronomist? If you have no idea what that last thing is, you probably aren’t one. But that might be the whole point. Because showing love through food is what we all do, and yes, your meal can be the best way to do that for your guests.