Because there's more to planning a menu than dreaming up your favorite meal

Before you start spending hours pinning images of hors d'oeuvres and entrées and plotting out your reception menu from first course to last, check out these must-know tips from wedding caterers. Here, they dish on what you need to know about the food you're serving (and how to serve it!), and more!

"While Pinterest is great for ideas, replicating a dish can be difficult, costly, and inconsistent if your caterer hasn't done it before. Caterers have their own specialty, so create a menu with proven winners and pepper in a few Pinterest items to challenge them." – James Schrader of Palace Catering in Tulsa, Oklahoma

"Look for a caterer with whom you feel connected. Make sure the vendor understands you, your vision, and truly cares about what you want - and can make thoughtful suggestions to help logistics and flow." – Jen Hartley of Caribou Club in Aspen, Colorado

"We wish our clients knew that being open about their budget is really important! We aren't here to take advantage of them but rather to create the very best possible event, no matter the budget." – Marissa McCue of Gourmet Galley Catering in North Stonington, Connecticut

"Most times, when a caterer is more expensive than another, it is because of their quality. Quality ingredients, all sauces and stocks made from scratch, hand butchered meats, fresh pastas and bread, created the day it is needed -these things all contribute to the quality of the food you are purchasing. You must ask about these specifics to understand a caterer's pricing." –Hartley

"Not all caterers are alike! Chances are, the couple is using a caterer for the first time in their life. It is understandable that they may think that chicken is chicken and service is service. However, that's not reality. There are many things that differentiate one caterer from another besides price, though, unfortunately, price may be the deciding factor. Before you pull the trigger on the least expensive option, ask if all food is prepared on location, or if it's prepared in advance and placed in containers to keep warm. If you're a foodie, you'll want to make sure that your food is prepared on site." – Meryl Snow of Feastivities Events in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"Even in our global market, food and services are very regional. My restaurant and catering business are somewhat limited to the products that can be delivered to my back door." –Schrader

"The further the kitchen is from the room where guests will be dining, the greater the risk of cold food and longer service times. This can be corrected with more bodies serving, but these kind of details must be communicated to the caterer, early and often; the same goes for any sets of stairs, as they increase the chances of error." –Hartley

"The larger your wedding reception, the simpler the food. If your guest list is more than 300 people, consider the details. An entrée with seven components is much more difficult to perfect than a dish with four components." –Schrader


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