There are a lot of grounds to cover when finalizing the contract with your wedding caterer. From the rentals to the menu options to the cost, here are our takeaways for what the contract should include.
- Name of wedding venue and contact information.
- The date, location, start time, and length of your wedding. If your wedding site has multiple banquet rooms or ballrooms, refer to which spaces you will be using with the specific name of the rooms.
- The expected number of guests for your wedding, and the last date to make any changes to the menu and finalize the head count.
- The type of service you want, such as sit-down or buffet style. Be as specific and detailed as possible; if you want a family-style reception or passed appetizers during the cocktail hour, write it out in the contract.
- The number of courses to be served for the reception and cocktail hour.
- The menu for each course, including acceptable substitutions, should ingredients be unavailable on the wedding day.
- Special arrangements for children or guests with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarian or gluten-free meal options.
- If your caterer is providing edible wedding favors for guests, include where and when the to-go snack will be available.
- When your reception meal will be packaged to-go and where it can be found. Some couples don’t have enough time to properly eat their meal during the reception, so they have their meal packaged and sent to the wedding suite where they can munch after-hours.
- Proof of a health license from the state.
- Proof of liability insurance, liquor liability insurance, and their carrier information.
Rates and Fees
- Cost per adult guest. Ask if the price includes taxes and other fees.
- Cost per child guest and vendor. Most caterers will charge lower prices for children as well as for the DJ/musician band and other day-of vendors who need meals.
- The method used for determining the going rates for a buffet-style or tray-passed event; will you be charged by the guest or by the plate?
- The maximum market price you agree to pay for specialty or seasonal items like fine fish, lobster, or crab.
- Overtime rate.
- If applicable, corkage fee and cake cutting fee.
- An estimate of the total cost for the reception.
- The deposit amount.
- The due date for the remaining balance.
- Schedule of the payment plan.
- Policy on refund and cancellation.
- List any rentals and supplies that the catering company will provide, such as china, serving platters, linens, and so forth.
- Total rental cost for items provided by the caterer, if it is not already included in the total catering price.
- The ratio of bartenders and waitstaff to each guest. The number of workers needed depends on the type of meal. For a sit down meal, you want one server for every one to three tables; for a buffet-style meal, the number of servers per guest could be lower.
- The name of the person responsible for overseeing the staff and the name of his/her backup, in case an emergency arises.
- The name of the person who is in charge of setup, cleanup, and breakdown, as well as price for these services.
- The appropriate attire for bartenders and servers.
- The flat rate or cost-per-hour for bartenders and servers, including charges for overtime.
- If your caterer is making the cake: size, style, design, flavor, and cost of your wedding cake.
- The size, style, design, flavor, and cost of the groom’s cake, if you decide to make one.
- Any additional service fees or cake-cutting fees.
- If applicable, the packaging arrangements of the wedding cake for guests to take home.
- The preparation and freezing arrangement for the top tier of the wedding cake, if you choose to save the top for your first anniversary.
- The type of beverages and the brands that will be served. If you choose to serve some premium liquors, specify the number of bottles and if there’s a certain time or place you want them served.
- Times for when each type of alcohol should be served: red and white wines during dinner, champagne during toasts or with dessert, etc.
- The type of nonalcoholic beverages, mixers, and condiments that you want to include at your bar. Get a written list of items that the caterer will provide (shakers, ice, garnishes, stirrers, etc.) and what they will cost (if anything).
- The type of nonalcoholic beverages you want to serve during dinner, including coffee and tea
- A breakdown of the cost per bottle or drink if you are purchasing alcohol from your caterer.
- Policy for buybacks. Example: you ordered seventy bottles of wine but only opened fifty. Ask at what price the caterer will ‘buy back’ the unopened bottles.
- Details of when and where the alcohol should be delivered to the caterer, if you are supplying your own liquor.
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