Wedding and Event Catering

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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

How do you find a good caterer?

Reviews, interviews and menu tastings will help you find the right catering choice for your big day. Start by screening possible wedding caterers based on past reviews. If a caterer you are interested in has a review that concerns you, ask them about it; how they respond will be very telling. Next, ask about their availability for your wedding date.

If the wedding caterer is available on your date, it’s time to talk about menus and prices. Be clear about what your maximum budget is find out what choices this will allow you. Caterers may custom-create a menu for your event, or they may have menu templates within different price ranges that can guide your decision. A clear budget gives the caterer clear parameters within which to work and offer creative suggestions. Schedule a menu tasting to confirm you love your wedding menu. Once you have a menu and date, and have paid a deposit to reserve the caterer’s services, confirm additional details including when the food will be delivered to the site, what kind of service will be provided, how many servers will be onsite and for how long, and who is responsible for setup and cleanup. The more specific your contract, the fewer worries you’ll have on your wedding day. Get more smart hiring tips here.

How much does a personal chef cost?

Hiring a personal chef usually costs anywhere from $40-$100 or more per person. Request free cost estimates from personal chefs in your area so you’ll know exactly how much it will cost to hire one for your needs. For an accurate quote, be sure to let the chefs know the number of people they’ll need to feed, what you’d like on the menu and other relevant details. 

To learn more about the factors that impact the cost to hire a personal or private home chef, read our cost guide.

What should you look for in a caterer?

A delicious meal is a critical element of a successful wedding, with happy guests fondly remembering your fabulous wedding food. The right caterer for you will be:

  • Available: Even the best caterer is no good if they aren’t available on your wedding date. Ask early before you get your heart set on someone.
  • Affordable for you: Find a caterer that you can afford. Having a spending plan ahead of time will mean you won’t overspend on food.
  • A good personality fit: Wedding planning is stressful, so work with someone that you can get along with and communicate with easily.
  • Experienced and recommended: Ensure the company has a proven track record with events of your size and the references to back it up.
  • Transparent about money: Steer clear of shady pricing. Find a caterer who is very clear about costs and is happy to talk you through budgets and pricing options.
  • Transparent about food: Find someone who is clear about where they source their food from and where it is prepared.

How much does it cost to hire a caterer?

Catering prices depend mainly on how fancy you want the food and service to be and how many guests you’ll have. When you’re first looking to hire a caterer for your event, consider how many guests you’ll have and your total food and drink budget. The national average for event catering is $340, but catering prices can range into the thousands depending on your menu, guest count, and service.

Event catering is a broad term that covers everything from fully prepared, ready-to-eat food that the hosts plate and serve themselves to full-service, multicourse meals, including rental of linens, glassware and other items, with service staff organized by the catering company. Usually a caterer will determine cost based on the type of event you’re having, how many guests will attend, the level of service you desire, and what type of menu you’d like to have. For example, if you have a set catering budget, say $1,500, and you plan to have 50 people attend, that means you have $30 per person for food. If you have the same budget with 100 people, you have $15 per person for food. In this way, the number of people you want to attend your event and the level of food you want to serve them determines how much catering will cost.

How much should catering cost per person?

Catering prices can range from about $10 per guest on the low end to $150 or more per person on the high end. Catering costs represent the quality of food, presentation, variety, ingredients and service. But catering prices are more than the cost to cook the food that will be at your party; they also include the cost for the company to do business. Here is a simple breakdown of catering prices:

  • Menu: The food you serve your guests will directly affect the price per person. Organic ingredients, complex recipes, elaborate presentations, or high-ticket items like lobster or filet mignon all add to the cost.
  • Service: Buffet, family style, plated dinners — how you serve the food affects the cost per person. For example, a true plated meal can cost about twice the price of a staff-assisted buffet because of staffing costs. Hiring waiters, bartenders and cleanup crew will all be calculated into the per-person catering price.
  • Drinks: Providing beverages and alcoholic drinks for guests greatly increases your catering budget. Hosting an open bar can cost as much per person as the meal.
  • Rentals: Seating, plates, glassware, etc., will all have an effect on the cost per person for catering. For example, a plastic conference table that seats 10 costs about $6 to rent on average, while a wooden farmhouse table is about $80 to rent on average.
  • Business costs: Any catering cost will also include the cost for the company to do business such as insurance, employee wages, commercial kitchen space and more.

How much does wedding catering cost per person?

Wedding catering costs will always vary based on the number of guests you’re inviting, the menu you want to serve, and the way the food will be served to your guests. As you interview wedding catering companies, you’ll be presented with a cost per person for various menus. On the low end, wedding catering may cost approximately $15-$18 per person. This would include prepared food only, with no setup or service of any kind. The starting price for a simple buffet meal with minimal service typically averages $22 per person. Opting for the same menu with all organic ingredients could raise your costs to about $33 per person. A moderately upscale menu (finer ingredients, more elaborate presentation) could range from $24 to $34 per person. High-end wedding catering cost truly has no limit. Lobster, filet mignon, specialty seafood, organic ingredients — menu choices like these can boost your cost per person up to $150 and more.

How much should catering cost for a wedding?

The cost of wedding catering will reflect the level of service, the menu you choose, the luxury you desire and the number of guests you invite. Where you live also plays a major role in your wedding catering costs. The regional cost to do business and local cost of food will affect your catering bill. There is no set price for wedding catering, because each wedding and each menu is different. This is why many caterers provide a per-person price. This allows you to break down what it costs to feed each person based on the menu you want. Working with your caterer, you can adjust menu items, service level and more to accommodate your budget and guest count. Keep in mind that wedding catering costs are not just for the food. The bill reflects all the components that go into commercial food catering: a commercial kitchen, ingredients, staff, insurance, marketing and more. Here are some examples of average costs:

  • Three-course plated meal, moderately upscale, for 125 in Los Angeles: $14,000. Because of staffing costs, a true plated meal costs about twice as much as a staff-assisted buffet.
  • Buffet meal, standard menu, for 100 in Los Angeles: $5,000.
  • Per-person cost for hors d'oeuvres, dinner and nonalcoholic beverages: $24–$37, depending on menu selection, in Southern California.
  • Drop off prepared food for 50: $1,000 in North Carolina. Price does not include any service, setup or breakdown.

How do you serve food at a wedding?

Food service at your wedding will affect your catering costs and influence the atmosphere of the reception. Buffet style is more informal; plated meals are a bit fancier; family style encourages sharing. Read about the different food service styles to select your preferred wedding catering choice.

  • Buffet: Caterers can drop off prepared foods for a DIY and budget-friendly buffet option where you set everything up and food is entirely self-service. For a fuller-service buffet, the caterers set up food, oversee the buffet throughout the event, and clean up afterwards. For food only, prices per person might average $16-$18, while a service buffet may start around $20-$22 per person. Adding food stations can increase per-person costs by at least $3-$5.
  • Family style: Servers bring large platters of food to guest tables in courses. It’s less formal (and less expensive) than a plated meal, but more formal and higher-cost than a buffet. You’ll need large tables to accommodate the platters, so plan accordingly when renting furniture for the event.
  • Plated: A plated event is a formal dining experience; waitstaff serve your seated guests for each course, fill their drinks, and attend to them throughout the dinner. A plated dinner is typically the most expensive option for both food and service.
  • Food trucks: Similar to buffets, with food trucks your guests get their own food and bring it to their table. A food truck gives a relaxed and playful vibe to your reception.
  • Cocktail reception: If you don’t want a formal seated dinner, you can opt for a wide assortment of passed appetizers at an extended cocktail hour reception.

Do you tip a wedding caterer?

Tipping 15 percent to 20 percent on a $3,000 catering bill can feel daunting — especially in light of all the other costs of throwing a wedding — but tipping your wedding caterer is standard practice. Be sure to ask your caterer about their specific policies. Many catering companies include gratuity as a line item on their bill. If tipping is not automatically included in your total, a good approach is to tip all the people involved the day of the event rather than paying one lump sum to the catering company. For each server and bartender, you can tip $20-$50, depending on how long they were onsite and whether they did exceptional work. You can also tip the chef; experts suggest $50. It’s also a good idea to tip the catering manager, the point-of-contact person who keeps the catering service running smoothly the day of your wedding, ensures all the food looks beautiful and is plentiful, and resolves any mishaps. Industry pros recommend tipping the catering manager $100-$200. If gratuity is not included and you’re tipping individuals, set aside $200-$500 in cash to be safe.

How do you find a personal chef?

You can find local personal chefs by searching on Thumbtack. Once you enter in your details (how many guests the chef needs to feed, the date, your zip code, etc.), you’ll see a list of chefs who fit your needs.

Reviews for Dallas chefs
Charlondra T.
Chef was very professional and responsive from the beginning of our initial consultation to the end of my event. Thank you Chef Tootie!
Cajun Cravings DFW CateringCajun Cravings DFW Catering
FindTheDinner E.
Working with chef Tootie was really nice. Very profesional and punctual, clear and easy, wonderful table dessing and amazing dinner. Thank You chef.
Cajun Cravings DFW CateringCajun Cravings DFW Catering
Lorraine M.
Chef Niko was such a great pleasure to have as our chef! He was extremely responsive from the very first until the last second. He made sure to accommodate us and give us the best quality and buffet style for TACO TUESDAY! We will most definitely ask him to be our chef again. He was very professional, responsive, catering, and a joy to have! Thank you for your hard work Chef!!!
Fresh & Simple: By Niko CruzFresh & Simple: By Niko Cruz
Martha H.
Great evening thanks to the chef. Each course was fantastic.
Chef Khanh Fine DiningChef Khanh Fine Dining
Thumbtack Customer
Matt did a fabulous job, was personable, and excellent chef. went smoothly nad professionally. Hiring a chef, and getting Matt, made more sense than i could have ever imagined.
Matt Reddick Personal ChefMatt Reddick Personal Chef
John W.
Everything was great!! Chef Cassy’s fried collard greens are amazing!
Chef Cassy's CreationsChef Cassy's Creations
Rebecca S.
Chef Jared cooked a delicious meal for us at the Airbnb we rented for a 12 person Bachelorette party. He was easy to work with and professional. And the food was delicious!!! (Strawberry ice cream was to die for). It was so nice to not have to worry about being in the kitchen while entertaining, and Chef Jared even did all of the cleanup. HIGHLY recommend hiring Chef Jared!
JaredPierre Private Chef and CateringJaredPierre Private Chef and Catering
Kim J.
Dinner was excellent and Chef Brian was great to work with! Highly recommend him!!
Metro Eatz fine diningMetro Eatz fine dining
Ariel C.
Chef Bizz created an amazing dinner for my husband’s birthday dinner. Everything was absolutely delicious! He took care of everything and all we had to do was sit back and enjoy the experience. Chef Bizz even cleaned the used kitchen space and dishes before he left! We were extremely impressed with the overall experience and are looking forward to working with Chef Bizz again!
Kreated by Chef BizzKreated by Chef Bizz
ML / JP S.
Chef Khanh did a great job - we will use him again for sure !
Chef Khanh Fine DiningChef Khanh Fine Dining
Michelle C.
We had the best night ever!! Food was incredible! Chef Bizz is the greatest.
Kreated by Chef BizzKreated by Chef Bizz
Chantelle s.
I meant to write this sooner but Chef Bizz was amazing. I surprised my fiancé with the dinner I’m which Chef Bizz exceeded my expectations with the food and the cocktails. My fiancé still talks about it to this day. Highly recommend!
Kreated by Chef BizzKreated by Chef Bizz
Jason p.
Chef Ely was amazing! She made our evening very special. The food was incredibly delicious! Her service and eye for detail in regards to the cuisine was outstanding! She was great from the planning to the plating We would highly recommend Chef Ely!
Dine RepublicDine Republic
Joel M.
Chef Cassy is a pro. Excellent food, preparation and professionalism. a joy to have in our home.
Chef Cassy's CreationsChef Cassy's Creations
William M.
Absolutely a fabulous experience with a very engaging executive chef. If there were 10 stars I would give it.
Metro Eatz fine diningMetro Eatz fine dining
Zain B.
We were hesitant to get a personal chef seeing as we hadn’t done it before, but after our experience with Chef Niko we were incredibly happy we did. Prior to the date, Chef Niko was very responsive and extremely communicative about availability and what to expect for the meal (we had the pleasure of booking him for Valentine’s Day). He sent us an idea of what he was thinking for the menu as a first draft and was open to any and all changes due to taste preferences, dietary restrictions, etc. After a little back and forth we had the finalized menu set. For the actual meal, Chef Niko was well prepared, providing everything that was needed (including plates and cutlery). He was prompt to set up and went at our pace when going through the courses. Now for the most important part, the food. Through and through each course was immaculate - Chef Niko gave a little description of what he prepared before serving and each course exceeded our expectations. Overall, he was a delight to have in our kitchen and made our first experience with a personal chef incredible. 10/10 would recommend to anyone looking to hire a personal chef and will definitely be asking for his services again!
Fresh & Simple: By Niko CruzFresh & Simple: By Niko Cruz
Fa W.
Chef Tootie and her staff were awesome. Easy to work with, fast, attentive and of course the food was delicious!!!
Cajun Cravings DFW CateringCajun Cravings DFW Catering
James G.
Chef Frasier was able to put a wonderful dinner together for my wife and sister-n-law for their birthday! Wow what a great experience, thank you🙏. Food was great and that bread pudding dessert was out of this world! I highly recommend! Well done Chef! My crew is happy.
The Classic Man Cooking LLCThe Classic Man Cooking LLC
Shirley B.
Da Chef was excellent. He really listened to my vision and made it come to life. The food was 10 stars!
Hip-Hop G Grill by DaChef ShadigidyHip-Hop G Grill by DaChef Shadigidy
Isha P.
Chef T.L. is amazing! I hired him for my husband's birthday dinner and we had so much fun! Prior to the dinner, we had a consultation where I was able to tell chef exactly what I was looking for. We decided on Mexican food and oh my god, it is probably the best Mexican food we've ever had and there was plenty leftover to eat the next day! Chef T.L. is also so personable, it was so nice to just chat and get to know each other while watching him cook. He arrived exactly on time and came with all of his own pans and equipment. Overall, I would definitely recommend Chef T.L. to anyone and everyone!
T. L. Hooker Personal & Private ChefT. L. Hooker Personal & Private Chef
Erika R.
Chef Bizz is great to work with. Food, presentation and timeliness were on point. We’ll be using his services in the near future.
Kreated by Chef BizzKreated by Chef Bizz
Rajesh S.
Roger and the Soiree Chef Group are simply outstanding. We cannot say enough good things about the care they took with respect to the arrangements, special dietary needs, execution on the day of the event and the kindness, courtesy and good humor with which they provided their services. Also, the quality of the food is exceptional. The savory item menu was prepared in detail consultation with us, and the presentation of the items was aesthetically very sophisticated. The pastry chef's creations are divine. We would recommend the Soiree Chef Group with great enthusiasm and look forward to working with them in the near future. KS and RS, Dallas
Soiree Chef GroupSoiree Chef Group
Alyssa A.
Chef Daniel and his lovely wife showed up 15 minutes early and served us the most amazing meal! Every course was a crowd pleaser and they work like a well-oiled machine. Very impressed with both the food and service we received, and definitely know who to go to if we need a personal chef/catering again!
Creole Cowboy CateringCreole Cowboy Catering
KellyAnn S.
Brian cooked the most delicious meal for me and my friends celebrating a milestone birthday. He is the best chef! Highlight recommend!
Metro Eatz fine diningMetro Eatz fine dining
Wavybandz S.
Chef Myra was so awesome, the food was amazing! She hooked it up, I couldn’t of asked for a better experience! Highly recommend.
Chef MyraChef Myra
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