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How to Choose A Caterer for Your St. Augustine Wedding

Mealtime at your wedding reception is a great opportunity for your guests to bond and connect over food before hitting the dance floor. The two of you as a couple can also sit and enjoy a moment together after a whirlwind wedding day and months of wedding planning. Creating a unique and memorable dining experience starts with selecting the perfect wedding caterer. The Lightner Museum Weddings & Events team is sharing our tips for how to choose a caterer for your St. Augustine wedding!

 

How to Choose Your Wedding Caterer
Clara and Peter share a kiss over dinner | Photo by Stout Studios

 

1. Check Out Your Wedding Venue’s Preferred Vendor List

If you’re following a traditional wedding planning timeline, most couples choose their wedding venue prior to selecting a caterer. Some venues have an in-house catering team, while others allow you to choose an outside wedding caterer that best suits your needs. Those venues that do allow outside catering often have a preferred vendor list with caterers that they trust to provide quality service for your event. Here at the Lightner Museum, we offer a preferred vendor list with many of St. Augustine’s best wedding caterers.

Brandy Boulette, Director of Operations for The Treasury Venue Collection—which manages weddings and events at the Lightner Museum—shared why the venue has a preferred catering list. “Preferred caterers are required at our venues because they play such a big and important role in any event. These preferred caterers have been in the venues multiple times, are familiar with the flow of the spaces, and are full-service. With their experience, they will have great insight about what they have seen in the past that has been successful, what might not work as well, and what would be the best way to serve the clients and their guests.” 

 

What criteria are required for wedding caterers to be on a preferred vendor list?

 

Brandy Boulette shared the must-haves for caterers to be on the preferred vendor list at the Lightner Museum. Vendors are required to…

  1. Provide strong customer service (Client experience is the #1 priority!)
  2. Have insurance
  3. Offer tastings
  4. Have experience with the venue
  5. Provide well-trained staff
  6. Have well-written contracts
  7. Be team-oriented & work well with other vendors.

 

If you happen to find a caterer that is not on your venue’s preferred list, be sure to contact your venue right away and ask what their policy is for choosing an off-list caterer.

We asked Brandy what the policy is at the Lightner Museum if someone wants to work with a caterer who is not on their list. “The caterers meet with the Events Team to tour the venue, go over policies, and learn more about the order of events at the venue. It is very important that the caterers understand all the logistics of where to load in, what the venue supplies, and what they will need to provide the day of the event to be successful. The caterer must also provide letters of recommendation from other venues, a certificate of insurance, and an outside caterer fee. The ultimate goal is to make sure the caterer is fully prepared to best serve the client.”  

As a general rule, it’s important to ask your venue what the requirements are for vendors. A great opportunity to ask these questions about vendors is during a venue tourIf you are interested in getting married at the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, click here to schedule a venue tour. 

 

How to Choose Your Wedding Caterer
Lauren and Logan’s tasty appetizers | Photo by We Are the Bowsers

 

2. Determine Your Preferred Style of Catering

After you have spoken to your venue about catering requirements, it’s time to research and select which style of catering you prefer. It’s important to have an idea of what catering options you’re interested in, so once you start contacting catering companies, you can ask all the right questions.

Each catering style serves a different purpose and ranges in the level of formality. There are four main wedding catering service styles, which include plated, buffet, food stations, and family-style service. 

 

  • Plated Sit-Down Dinner: Plated dinners are known to be the most traditional style of catering for weddings and events. Guests sit and chat while their dinner is served to them by servers. This style of service typically requires that guests provide a preference for their dinner entree with their RSVPs. Another popular option is to do a duet plate with two entree options, such as surf and turf. This option allows couples to skip the RSVP menu choice cards. 
  • Buffet-Style Dinner: With a buffet, the caterer usually sets up long tables filled with different entrees and side options. Guests have the flexibility to choose which (and how much!) food they wish to eat. 
  • Food Stations: Also known as action stations, food stations are popular at weddings where the couple wants a more interactive experience for their guests. Separate themed areas are available for catering staff to custom-make dishes for guests, such as pasta stations, taco stations, sushi stations, and grilled cheese stations.
  • Family-Style Dinner: This catering style is hands-on for guests and allows them to serve themselves at the tables. This easy-going and relaxed style of catering creates a warm and fun atmosphere for your guests.

 

There are pros and cons of each style of catering service. Some caterers even offer combinations of different styles of service to meet the needs of their clients. To learn more about the different styles of catering, click here!

 

 

3. Start Reaching out to Catering Companies

Once you and your partner have narrowed down which catering styles you are most interested in, it’s time to start researching and contacting catering companies. There are often several great catering options to choose from, so it’s really a process of narrowing down which one is best for your needs.

Part of the process of narrowing down catering options is to understand what exactly makes a good caterer. One of the things that we think makes a good caterer is the ability to customize menu options. Every company is different, however, generally speaking, many catering companies can create custom menus. Menus can be customized based on dietary needs, which may include vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and more. Menus can also be customized based on the couple’s style, taste preferences, cultural backgrounds, or personality. 

Oftentimes, catering companies will have a preset menu on a brochure or online but also have custom dining options. “We have a preset menu that we share with clients upon inquiries. Then we can create a custom menu during a tasting that is determined by their palate, wedding style, and taste preferences. We want to make sure their menu is cohesive and fits together so they aren’t serving a range of food items that don’t make sense,” says Peter Kenney, Chef and Owner of Purple Olive

In addition to the menu and dietary options, there are some other basic criteria for a good caterer. Norberto Jaramillo, Chef and Owner of La Cocina International Restaurant added thatconsistency, temperature control, and timing” are also a part of what makes a good caterer. When serving food in a large setting, temperature control, in particular, is very important. 

 

Questions to ask a Wedding Caterer
Lauren and Logan’s wedding reception | Photo by We Are the Bowsers

 

4. Questions To Ask A Wedding Caterer

Now that we are hungry and ready to find the perfect wedding caterer, it’s important to ask the right questions. Catering professionals all offer various menus, catering styles, and service options. These questions will help you narrow down your search to ensure you choose the right wedding caterer. 

  1. Do you have our wedding date available?
  2. Do you offer our preferred style of catering? 
  3. What is your most popular dish?
  4. Do you allow food customization or menu changes?
  5. What upgrades do you have available? 
  6. Do you have options for dietary restrictions or allergies?
  7. With my price range and guest count in mind, what can you provide? 
  8. Do you offer dessert options?
  9. How many servers do you provide for the style of service that we are interested in?
  10. How is pricing broken down?
  11. Do you have a reschedule or cancellation policy?

 

When it’s time for you to book your wedding caterer, you want to feel prepared. With this information, we hope you feel ready to start your search! If you need further assistance finding a caterer for your St. Augustine wedding at the Lightner Museum, feel free to reach out to the Treasury Venue Collection team.

Stay tuned as we share more tips and information about planning your perfect wedding!

 

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How to Choose a Wedding Caterer

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