Decide what is important. Is it at the country club where your guests will be served an impeccable four course meal? Or would you prefer under the gazebo at your local park where you’ll munch on family favorite recipes? This will vary of course on the formality and personality of your wedding.
Budget big time; your food will take up a huge portion of your wedding budget so stay on top of everything. Look for hidden fees like the cost of paper versus linen napkins and chair rentals. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting for your money and what, if anything, you have to provide. Putting things off or waiting until the last minute for an accurate head count will only worry and frustrate you and the caterers. Etiquette calls for a response date of three to four weeks for a sit down meal. Buffets are normally two to three weeks. Make sure you give yourself time to make lists and phone calls if need be.
Discuss with your caterers what style you are going for. Make sure they understand your vision, and be as clear as possible. Their job is to work with you and they want to make you happy. Be sure to listen to them as well; they are fountains of knowledge and know quite a bit about wedding planning (even beyond the world of hors d’oeuvres and truffles). Ask your caterers if they have any particular items that set them apart from other companies. Is there a signature dish that they know will wow all of your guests?
If you know that you have vegetarian guests be sure to offer an entrée for them. Be considerate of your guests’ needs along with your own. You should know and love what you are serving! You will want to enjoy every aspect of this glorious day. You worked diligently on the details of everything else for your wedding; your food should be no different. This is not the time to "wing it"! Be sure to sample your choices before serving, don’t choose something because it sounds fancy (oh yeah, it happens). If you don’t know that it tastes as lovely as it sounds, then don’t serve it.
Menu cards add a lovely touch to a formal sit down meal. This is no an item that you can order as soon as you know your menu. Make sure you have a fairly accurate head count so that you do not end up with too many or too little cards. The cards need not be super elaborate, just have the bride and grooms names along with the wedding date and a rundown of the meal in the order it is to be served. A simple three course meal example is below. As you can see, details really set the tone of the expected meal!
Jennifer and Carlos
Mixed Field Greens with Brie, Walnuts, Cherry Grape Tomatoes and Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.
Medallions of Beef Tenderloin Peppercorn Merlot Turnip Potato Gratin French Green Beans and Crispy Fried Shallots.
Wedding Cake with selection of coffee and teas.