You're Engaged! Selecting You Caterer

Picking up where we left off (see our tips on selecting your ceremony & reception venue and hashing out your wedding budget), your next step may be selecting your caterer. The reason we say may be, is because if you've chosen a venue with an in-house or exclusive caterer, your selection has already been made for you. 

So let's break down the different types of catering verbiage you may run into on your wedding planning journey:

In-House Caterer
This means that your venue has a caterer on-site. Typically these types of venues would be hotels and banquet halls, but is not always the case, as event venues owned by caterers are becoming more popular (especially in Chicago!).

Benefits: All of your rental equipment (tables, chairs, dinnerware, flatware, glassware, etc.) and linens are usually included, meaning you won't have to outsource another vendor to bring those in. 
When do you have your tasting?: You typically don't need to have your official tasting until about 2-3 months out from your wedding date. 

Off-Premise Caterer
You may have noticed when you chose your venue, that it just came with the space. No food! And besides a select few venues, no beverage or rentals either. Which means you need to bring in a full-service caterer. Finding a caterer should generally be your next step in wedding planning after you book your venue. And although the venues don't have rentals on-site, your caterer will work with you and a third party to bring in everything you need (tables, chairs, linens) as well as what they need (serving trays, ovens, garbage cans! salt and pepper shakers, etc.) on the wedding day. It may sound a little intimidating, but it's usually very hands-off for the couple, besides selecting linens and some dinner choices. 

Benefits: The opportunity to bring in a caterer of your choice (unless the venue has an exclusive caterer list - see below!), which allows you to have more variety or a more personalized cuisine of choice.
When do you have your tasting? As soon as you select your venue, you'll want to begin meeting with caterers -- which means tasting the food now! Many caterers in Chicago will offer a complimentary tasting (or for a small fee) before you book. We suggest meeting with 2-3 caterers MAX. It's A LOT of food, and you don't want to get too overwhelmed with the process. 

Exclusive Caterer List
When a venue has this kind of list, it means you can only work with a pre-approved caterer off this list. 

Benefits: This may sound restrictive, but if you google "Chicago Caterers", your results will be overwhelming (just like any other "Chicago Wedding ______" google result will be!). When the venue created this list, they chose reputable companies who they like working with and are familiar with the space. 
When do you have your tasting? Again, as soon as you select your venue, you'll want the caterer to be the next thing you move on to.

BYOB Vs. Beverage Packages
If you have an "In House" caterer, it's basically guaranteed that they will be providing the alcohol for your wedding. When you select a venue where you are bringing an off-site caterer, some venues allow you to bring in your own alcohol from a beverage supplier such as Binny's, as long as the licensed catering staff handles the serving of the liquor. This can be a big money saver for couples!

Otherwise, your caterer will be the one who is supplying the alcohol, much like an in-house caterer would. Some venues though, require you to purchase alcohol packages directly through the venue. Packages are usually listed hourly packages per person, for instance, a four hour bar package might start at $27/person for a base package. Not only do you have to purchase the alcohol through the venue, but the venue will usually supply the bartenders, which is typically charged by the hour for each staff member. 

It's the little things such as these that can quickly add up the total in for your food & beverage/venue budget. Which is why we are here to explain, read over contracts, and assist you along the way! This is a lot of info to process... so contact Sweetchic now and let us do all the heavy lifting!

Courtney HartComment