Frugal Fridays: Avoid the Built-In Caterer

The MAJOR cost involved in a wedding is definitely the reception, and normally the largest percentage of cost involved with a reception is the caterer.  While there are many ways to cut catering costs (serving only hor d’oeuvres or going with a buffet as opposed to a plated dinner), the biggest way you can save is to go with a venue that doesn’t require you to use their “preferred caterer.”   

Since we are having our wedding and reception on my parent’s land, there is no required caterer, but many outdoor or unconventional venues will allow you to bring in your own caterer, or choose how you want to provide food.

The Facts:  Preferred caterers can price gouge unbelievably because once you sign a contract with your venue, you are automatically using that catering company.  Once you are locked into their services, you don’t have much negotiating power because you don’t have the opportunity to leverage other caterer’s pricing and make them win your business.

The Idea:  Go with a venue that doesn’t require a specific preferred caterer (this can also save you money in many areas because some venues require that you use ALL their preferred vendors including catering, sound, dj services, wedding director, etc.).  Examples of unconventional venues that may not require certin caterers are local parks, local farms and plantation homes used for weddings, rooftop spaces on top of corporate buildings, church fellowship halls and pretty much anywhere you are allowed to pitch a tent and throw your own reception!  The possbilities are endless!

The Savings:  By choosing your own caterer, you can price shop and compare caterers in your area, or even look into local culinary schools.  Most culinary schools require their students to do a certain number of work hours and many of them cater weddings and events as practice.  Their price is reflective of the fact that they are still in school (big time savings!) but the quality is outstanding!  We shopped around for caterers and actually settled on the caterer that I use at work because their prices are unbeatable!  Just as an example, a friend whose wedding requires a specific caterer will be spending $26 per person on an average buffet style meal – salad, main dish, side, tea and water.  With my caterer, I will be spending $8.95 per person on a buffet style meal with salad, main dish, 2 sides, rolls, tea and water.  This is a cost savings (between myself and my friend) of $17.05 per person and for me that means $2,983.75 because we are expecting approximately 175 people.  Certainly well worth choosing to do our wedding outdoors (based on our budget). 

Extra Tip:  Do be sure that your caterer has both the experience and staff to cover your event, and ask them if they will be booking any other events that day (to ensure that they definitely have the means of covering your wedding).  My catering company does multiple weddings every weekend during wedding season, and they have a large staff of people so we are certain that they will do a great job.  You definitely do not want to be worrying about food or beverage on your wedding day so leave it to experiences professionals.

In other news, I am going bridesmaid dress shopping tomorrow for round 3, so I will let you know how that goes on Monday!

Happy Weekend & First Day of Spring (tomorrow)!


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