One of the most important elements of planning your wedding is planning all food and beverage needs. If you’ve chosen a venue like a resort or hotel then all food and beverages automatically goes through them; however, if you’ve chosen a unique venue like a farm, museum or other type of DIY place that does not have an onsite caterer you have a lot of options to consider. Options are fun! It allows you the opportunity to customize your menu so that it reflects you and your style. It also allows you to tailor it to a specific budget you’re trying to stay within. The most important thing to consider when choosing a caterer is full service versus non-full service.
Full Service vs. Non-Full Service Catering Options
For weddings I LOVE and prefer to work with full service caterers. Their main goal and priority is wedding and event catering so they are well versed in how to properly take care of their clients. They include experienced serving staff and provide a captain that run their end of the show and can easily accommodate staffing for buffets or plated service. They will often include in their quotes set up and clean up fees and stay until the very end of the event. They can completely customize menus to fit your tastes and (ideally) budget and even add on cocktail hour hors-d’oeuvres, dessert bars, cakes, late night snacks and more. And if you chose not to hire a planner they will also help with rental needs and help with some other logistical items.
Non-full service caterers usually include restaurants and food trucks. I’m a big food truck fan! They are fun, local and totally unique and they can create a very local, urban vibe for your event. Restaurants are also great because they are usually on the more affordable end and you can choose one that appeals to a very specific flavor palette you have in mind. When choosing these types of caters please keep in mind that they are NOT usually full service unless you specify and contract otherwise. Unless contracted to do so, these types of caterers arrive, set up, serve your guests at a buffet and then pack up to leave. They do not help with setting up your venue or cleaning up at the end. They don’t necessarily bus your tables or walk around making sure guests are taken care of.
With that said, if you choose a non-full service caterer you’ll want to make sure your venue provides or you hire separate staff to help with table, chair and linen set up and clean up, service staff to bartend, fill water glasses and bus dirty plates and glassware from tables. It will also be essential that a strike staff is hired to make sure the venue is left clean so that you and your family members are not stuck cleaning up at midnight once the wedding guests have left.
Remember your wedding is a time to celebrate and it’s important to weigh the full costs and benefits when choosing vendors – including your caterer. While hiring a full service catering staff may seem like a more expensive option in the end it may be less expensive than hiring lots of other staff to assist with the evening and I PROMISE making sure all your bases are covered will save you quite a headache on the wedding day!
Here are some of my favorite full service caterers in Tucson:
Carte Blanche Catering a.k.a. Cafe ala C’Art at the Tucson Museum of Art. Contact owner, Mark Jorbin, for information, menus and quotes.
Blue House Catering. Contact owner, Ron Wassel, for information, menus and quotes.
Annette Hartman Catering. Contact owner, Annette Hartman for information, menus and quotes.