Choosing your wedding caterer is one of the most important decisions you’re going to make. Especially if you’re a foodie like me. That’s why I asked Libby Summers, from leading Southeast caterer – Caper & Berry, for her top tips on all things wedding catering. With experience catering for all kinds of weddings – from high-end, fine dining meals for ten, through to unforgettable, rustic, marquee gala dinners for 300 – Caper & Berry create delicious and distinctive food, with a stress-free service. And I should know…I’ve had the pleasure of eating their amazing food!
In the coming weeks I will share more expert advice from Libby, but for today’s post we’re discussing her top tips for choosing your wedding caterer, menu tastings, and evening food…
What should couples be looking for, when choosing their wedding caterer?
I think it’s probably very similar to looking for wedding planners. Work with people you like and trust, because they’re going to be the people who are there on the day delivering your vision and ideas. Caterers can be a really key part of your wedding. You’re going to see them throughout the celebration, so you need to make sure you’re comfortable with them. It’s so important to have trust between the caterer, planner, and bride – to make sure everyone’s on the same page on the day, ready to deliver a truly fantastic event. And it also helps if their food is exceptional.
We like to be bespoke with what we offer, at Caper & Berry, depending on the season. We think carefully about what the client loves and create menus that represent the couple. It’s possible to incorporate ideas and fashions to make the food personal to them. Whether that means taking inspiration from the couple’s summer travels in Italy or their Hong Kong heritage.
Should couples have a tasting with their caterer?
Absolutely. You wouldn’t buy your wedding dress without trying it on – the same applies to food and catering. At Caper & Berry, we offer tastings before booking. We have a beautiful cottage in the middle of the countryside where clients come and sit down with us, for a good few hours. We go through a selection of canapes, starters, mains etc. It’s also a great time to go through the logistics, talk about styling, and discuss anything and everything they will need for the day.
There’s always room for tweaking at the tasting stage, to make sure we can provide the right wedding catering for the couple. We always say: if you want it saltier, bigger, smaller…whatever you need, we can adapt the dishes to create what you want. If necessary, the client can also have a second tasting after booking.
What is your top tip for a tasting?
Make sure the caterer isn’t doing anything really spectacular at the tasting, that they’re not going to be able to replicate at the wedding. We guarantee every dish we create for the tasting is served with the same cutlery and crockery we will use on the day. And we don’t dress the food or do anything differently at the tasting than is possible at the wedding – because it’s all good and well cooking for two people and making an absolute showstopper that entices the couple to book in the moment, but if a caterer can’t deliver the same on the wedding day then they’re not doing anyone any favours by pretending. We make sure every dish is served beautifully at a tasting, but that we can also recreate the same dish for 300 people in a field, without worry.
We’ve actually taken beef wellington off our menu for this reason, even though everyone loves it. Because we realised it wasn’t possible to ensure it was up to standard if the wedding day timings are running late. We want to make everyone’s life as seamless and as easy as possible, so we’ve designed something different, that is truly spectacular and blows beef wellington out of the water – our gorgeous sous vide fillet of beef. It’s got all the elements of beef wellington, but it is fool proof and we can deliver the same level of quality for just two people or for huge numbers in the middle of nowhere.
It’s about adapting dishes to still have the wow factor, and giving clients what they want in terms of flavour and style, but eradicating any worry for things potentially going wrong.
What’s your top tip for informing guests of timings?
Even if you don’t have signage telling people what they will be eating, it’s helpful to tell guests when they will be eating and how much. Otherwise, especially if it’s a non-traditional format, you will get some guests reserving themselves for further food that might not be coming. For example, they might not eat canapes in anticipation of a starter – but then discover they will only be eating a main and pudding at the table.
*A little top tip from me, as a creative wedding planner: you can use gorgeous signs to give guests important information. Chalkboards, mirrors, hanging installations – with incredible, modern calligraphy.
When should evening food be served?
It depends what time your evening guests are due to arrive. If you’re not having evening guests you can serve food much later, such as 10 or 11 o’clock, depending on what other things are going on. If you’ve got evening guests it needs to be earlier, because often they won’t have eaten. At Caper & Berry we assist with your timings and plan when would be best to serve food.
*Another top tip from me: try not to plan your evening food service for the same time as a live band. Everyone will leave the dance floor and then the band is wasted. Plan evening food for during a break or after the band have played.
How much evening food should couples provide?
Budget depending, if you can cater for 80% of guests (including both day and evening guests), that’s a really good effort. But don’t think of the evening food as another meal. People don’t want a sit-down meal, or even a full buffet, they just want something. There’s a reason kebab shops are popular, because at that time of night you want something a little bit naughty, a little bit dirty. People want carbs to soak up the alcohol.
Pizza has been flying out the door for us this year. We have converted a Land Rover Defender to include a stone baked pizza oven – it’s so cool. But you can be creative, we had a couple two years ago who had a ‘sausage off’ to celebrate their American and German roots. At the bar we had two pots for guests to vote for their preferred country. It was so simple, but people really engaged with it.
What’s your top tip for working with a caterer?
Get personal and build a relationship with them. It’s only then they can start making suggestions that are going to really fit around you, your day, the time of year and seasonality…things like that. Don’t be afraid to communicate – no question is silly. We do this every day, but how often do you plan an event for 100 people? We know you want to please everyone – so let us help guide you. Also, don’t be afraid to say “no, I want something else”.
My bonus top tip is to use a wedding planner. A lot of people don’t realise how catering isn’t just about the food – there are a lot of logistics involved too. We are very much hands on deck, delivering your wedding day. We adore working with wedding planners because it means we can focus on our expertise of catering, whilst the planner focuses on looking after the client and making sure their vision is being delivered. It means we can get on with the background stuff, and the wedding planner can ensure the couple and guests have an incredible day. We do cater for a lot of weddings without planners, and therefore step into the role, but when a wedding planner is involved it makes things so much easier for everyone.
I hope Libby’s top tips for choosing your wedding caterer have given you some food for thought (pun intended). For the next part in this mini-series I’ll be sharing Libby’s advice on the cost of wedding catering and if/where you can save money.
If this post on choosing your wedding caterer has got you salivating and dreaming of delicious wedding food, or you would like more advice on choosing your wedding caterer, then get in touch to discuss my services – I’d love to chat.