Negotiating with the Caterer: Five things you should know

Without the proper planning, you could spend so much money on your wedding caterer that you might have to live off leftover wedding cake for the first year of your marriage. Arm yourself with five expert strategies to keep your costs low.

1. Set your budget first.
Before you pick up the phone, decide with your bride on the number of guests and the amount you’re both willing to spend per head. You shouldn’t have to exclude Uncle Lester because you want to serve filet mignon instead of meatball subs.

2. Show your low card.
Give your caterer a per-head figure that’s about 15-25% lower than the budget you agreed on. A clever caterer will try to upsell you into a slightly nicer menu, which will still fit inside your original budget. You’ll often get better menus for cheaper prices than couples who don’t attempt to haggle.

3. Always get the “door” price.
Within the industry, a “door” quote includes all of the elements that make the party happen. When you figure out your cost per guest, the “door” price factors in waiters, linens, cleanup, and more. If you don’t ask up front, you’ll get an extra bill for all those hidden fees.

4. Cut staff or swap ingredients.
When looking at the kinds of menus your caterer can create, consider swapping out table service for a buffet setup. In many cases, you can feed the same amount of people with less waste, and fewer waiters means more food for your money.

5. Be ready to walk away.
Remember that caterers work in a highly competitive industry. If you feel you can’t get what you want at the price you want, walk away from the deal and find a vendor that wants your business.

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