We’re picking brains around here and this week, we’re lucky to have taken an hour of Beth Albright’s busy day. She is the Director of Development for a catering company in Dallas, TX - Food Glorious Food. She works directly with couples planning their wedding - both on the catering side, and as a venue contact. Beth might be the person that you meet on your first site visit to a venue - to see the space, and to talk about the venue’s policies. Some venues have on-site catering, some have preferred or required vendors lists for you to choose from, and some venues let you bring in a potluck. Which venue to choose is a very important decision! Beth breaks it down for us and answers lots of questions regarding food, beverage, and rentals while she’s at it.
The more you know, the better! In terms of visiting venues in order to narrow down your options...don’t schedule visits until you are prepared, at least as prepared as you can be. Pick a couple venues to see after you check out their offerings online. And when you go to do a site visit, know your basics: overall budget, approximate guest count, and things you ABSOLUTELY do/don’t want in a venue.
With ‘in house’ catering - like at a hotel, the fees are typically all tied into the food and beverage costs. So you may see that the hotel offers a budget ‘Silver’ wedding package and it’s $75/person for your 300 guest wedding. That seems like a lot, but you aren’t paying rental fees for the ballroom, rentals and staffing. A hotel will likely draft a ‘minimum’ for your to meet in your initial proposal...something like $20,000. You are commiting to spending AT LEAST $20,000 at this hotel on your wedding, one way or another.
Working with a caterer that has worked at the venue A LOT is always a good bet. Then they know about the physical logistics of loading in for a wedding. And how long it takes, how much staff they need, etc. This is why an in-house caterer, or a single contracted caterer that works at a venue is a good, safe bet. They know what they are doing specifically at that venue. If you have a hearty budget and want things to be easy-peasy, this is a good way to start!
Your venue may include a ‘wedding coordinator’ in their rental package. Dig into this a little and ask them exactly what this person will do on the wedding day, and in the weeks leading up to it. We recommend you hire a professional wedding planner...even if only for a ‘Month of’ planning package. It’s worth it. Beth agrees.
Ask specifically about the hours included when you are on your site visit for a venue. Does this time frame include set-up and strike? How much does it cost for an additional hour? What about if you go into overtime on the event day? Does the music have to stop at a certain time?
A catering company - an off-premise catering company - has more flexibility with the menu options and pricing than a hotel chain will.
If more than 50% of your guests are going to drink at your reception, and you have a choice between Open Bar and charging On Consumption - pay for the open bar hours. Odds are, you will get more bang for your buck this way.
Lots of specific catering advice is dropped in this episode. We talk about apps, soup, action stations and why everyone loves a late night snack. Take heed if you’re planning your wedding menu!
Tipping! No one expects it, everyone appreciates it. Beth tells us how to best tip your catering staff, and what that ‘service charge’ line in your catering proposal really means. (Hint: it’s not a tip for the staff.)
Links we referenced
Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples: ‘wedding version’: http://cadsaboutmatrimony.com
Beth Albright, Food Glorious Food: http://www.foodgloriousfood.biz
DEC on DRAGON: DEC on dragon
“Start with what is included with the building rental. Tables, chairs, linens, lounge furniture, valet, security, staff...every venue is going to be different when it comes to what’s included.” - Beth
“If everyone could hire a wedding planner - a good, trained wedding planner - that would be amazing. You want that one person that is the decision-maker for everything.” - Beth
“Certain times of the year, I have more flexibility to adjust my menu prices and my equipment rentals. Off months are July, August, some of September…” - Beth, on the seasonal aspect of weddings in Texas
“That’s something to ask: If we are going to pay for 50 bottles and we don’t drink them all, do we get them back at the end of the night?” - Christy, on the details of your bar package. (In Texas, you can’t take those bottles home with you, btw.)
“You can carve this meat, this meat, or this meat!” - Christy, on action station options…
“People do not turn down pigs-in-a-blanket. People do not turn down stuff wrapped in bacon.” “Anything in bacon!” - Christy and Beth agree on pork products
“Be clear on your decisions before you email your vendors to make the change.” - Christy, on good communication skills
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Let us know if you have any questions you need answered on the show or if you want to share your own wedding planning experiences!