Close on the heels of choosing a venue, we started looking for caterers. We knew this would be the next difficult price point – with an initial budget of $10,000 for 80 guests, that meant our caterer bill would need to fall somewhere in the $3,000 range – including rentals, since our venue only comes with round tables and a bunch of plastic lawn chairs.
Luckily, I’m awful good at doing homework, and I’d already searched all the major wedding sites and blogs for a list of caterers in the area where we’re getting married. I started firing off emails, and had the following responses and impressions:
- Mattison’s was one of the first to respond, and offered an unbelievably extensive menu. We knew we wanted buffet, we knew we wanted to provide our own beer and wine (and no liquor), and we knew we were providing our own cake from a third-party vendor. Their food and beverage fell to about $4,000 after the chef reduced the price of some items, but with rentals, labor and service charges, the proposed total was more than $7,000 – and that would be before gratuity. Time to keep looking.
- A rep from Milan called me to go over some details, and followed up with an email containing a link to their Facebook page. I never heard anything after that.
- Nellie’s Deli was the next to respond – and they’re the ones we went with.
Why we booked our caterer at the 1st tasting we went to
Right away, Nellie’s sounded like a great fit. The catering manager I dealt with in the beginning, Nina, was personable over the phone and enthusiastic about our menu ideas (Italian buffet with passed hors d’oeuvres). After getting some of our details down – date, number of guests, style of wedding, thoughts on booze and dessert – she promptly emailed us a detailed proposal a few days later. This included 4 passed hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour, a served salad, and an Italian buffet with one meat, one pasta, one extra starch, one veggie, and bread. Mmm… bread. They also included estimated rental costs (padded folding chairs nicer than those at the venue that could be used for the ceremony and the reception, linens, table service, barware), service charges, AND gratuity, so we could get a really good picture of our total estimated outlay. And after all was said and done, we were right around $5,000. Not quite the $3,000 we were budgeted for, but by then, we had started receiving some engagement money and had some generous parental offers of assistance.
So our next step was a tasting and initial meeting with Nina. Sorry, since this was back in January before I started blogging, I have no photos to share with you, but it’s probably just as well, because they’d make your stomach growl. We sampled 8 different appetizers, chicken parmesan, and two kinds of pasta. It was all sooooooo good! Then we started to get the full scoop on everything Nellie’s offers, and we REALLY got excited. This includes:
- Complimentary wedding coordination – as in, in-depth meetings with the owner/coordinator, a thorough walk-through with our catering manager with ideas for room layout etc., as many calls and meetings as we’d like beyond that, consultation on décor and other visual options, and a rehearsal and ceremony coordinator.
- We bring them alllllll our stuff the Tuesday or Wednesday before the wedding – booze, décor, escort cards, favors, whatever – and they take it to the venue and deal with it so we don’t have to. UM, YES THANK YOU.
- In-house help with escort cards and loaning of certain décor items like a birdcage for the “card box.”
So, yes, we booked our caterer after having talked to two others and having gone to ONE tasting. We’re let’s-get-it-done, cut-to-the-chase kinda folks. As you’ll later learn, I bought the second wedding dress I tried on, and booked the first DJ and photographer we learned about (both friends of bridesmaids), the only florist I’d ever heard of, and the 2nd venue we visited in person. Not necessarily recommended for all, but it worked for us.
Hey, when you know, you know – right?
Did you book any other vendors right away? Did you just *know* they were the one? Or are you much more patient and calculating than I am?