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 Montrose chefs
D'Aysia G.
Chef Keif was an amazing chef! He arrived on time and the food was amazing!
Keif's CateringKeif's Catering
Mobeen C.
The chefs were very professional , punctual and fast . I had a big party and a multi course meal and they handled if like pros . Very satisfied Chef Whitney and Chef Josh were awesome
Pop Up ChefsPop Up Chefs
David c.
Chef Whitney was outstanding. She was on time and the meal was outstanding. I will definitely book Chef Whitney again.
Pop Up ChefsPop Up Chefs
Thumbtack Customer
WOW!! Chef Roy did an amazing job preparing a special dinner for 2. Chef Roy was more than willing to adjust the menu to my liking. It was more than just dinner, it was an experience!! Thanks again Chef Roy!!
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Greg D.
Chef Roy was very professional, skilled, and pleasant to have in our home. I hired him to prepare a private dinner for my wife and I on Valentine's Day. The entire meal was excellent and the evening was lovely. I highly recommend Chef Roy to those considering his services as a personal chef.
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Verna T.
The Chef did an In-depth review of my requirements and I know i’m in excellent hands. She questions and listens to ensure we have mutual understanding of food, cost and delivery. The menu Chef created is inline with requirements of my medical needs and personal taste. Chef Trenica Ashley IS MY FOOD DOCTOR.
Croissant Ville Boutique Style CateringCroissant Ville Boutique Style Catering
Amanda M.
Phenomenal food! Excellent service! Highly recommend this chef :)
Culinary CharacterCulinary Character
Tiffany H.
We hired Chef Keif as a surprise for my best friends virtual baby shower.He was punctual, professional, and my friend said the food was incredible. I recommend hiring Chef Keif!
Keif's CateringKeif's Catering
Thumbtack Customer
On my 8th wedding anniversary I hired Chef Roy to provide his services as a personal chef in my home. Chef Roy was punctual, pleasant, helpful, professional, personable, patient and and all around joy to be around. He prepared an awesome meal for my husband and I to no only enjoy but experince, taking special caution for someone with a picky palet, like myself. I am definitely looking forward to enjoying another meal in the near future prepared by the amazing chef Roy .
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Ben W.
Chef Mark and his awesome staff were exceptional. My guests raved about the delicious food served. I would recommend Chef Mark for all your catering needs.
M.A. PRIMEM.A. PRIME
Lisa O.
It was a honor to have Chef Keif cater my event. Chef Keif worked with me before my big day to create a completely personalized menu and communicated with me to create the best layout for my reception meal. I had two guests that are Vegans, Chef Keif was able to provide dishes to theses guest on a short notice. The staff were on time, very professional and the food was delicious!!! I will definitely use Chef Keif when I have another event.
Keif's CateringKeif's Catering
Thumbtack Customer
Chef B was absolutely AWESOME! The food was excellent. He actually was able to teach my guest a couple of tips when preparing food and beverage! You can't go wrong with Chef B!
Chef B ServicesChef B Services
Thumbtack Customer
Though we started off slow on communication in the end Chef B developed a menu with my clients vision and it was a hit. I had a great experience with Chef B and his team. Thank you,
Chef B ServicesChef B Services
Dolores M.
Excellent service ! Food was great! Chef Ess is very professional
Essential EatsEssential Eats
Ivonne D.
We were looking for a new chef for our foundation scholarship fundraiser within budget and Chef Roy stepped up! The compliments I received about Chef’s food warmed my heart! It was so good folks went for seconds and he ran out of food!!! Thank you Chef for helping make our night a huge success!
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Sue B.
Chef Chris made us an excellent meal, unique and tasty!
Chef Chris JayChef Chris Jay
Thumbtack Customer
Chef Roy was very kind, patient and accommodating. His food was amazing!!! My husband is very picky when it comes to food but Chef Roy blew him away! I would recommend him to anyone!
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Alexa B.
Chef Justin is a professional. He prepared a brunch for a bachelorette party and the food was the talk of the remainder of the trip. His bread pudding is to die for! Justin will guarantee you an amazing experience as your chef. Thank you again!
The Wine DownThe Wine Down
Thumbtack Customer
Chef Roy did a great job. The food received several compliments from our guests. The service was very professional and his team cleaned up afterwards. We would definitely hire Chef Roy again.
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Bridgette C.
Chef Cassi’s Table delivered amazing food to my party! Chef Cassi was professional and very helpful through the entire planning process…from choosing the dishes, or delivering the delicious food. I will definitely use her in the future!
Chef Cassi's TableChef Cassi's Table
Jay G.
we were so impressed by Chef Roy. The presentation was over the top and the food was so good. My wife is a very picky eater and she ate everything on her plate. We intend to use Chef Roy in the future.
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Corey C.
I would recommend chef to any and everyone! Food fantastic, cooked to perfection!
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Julius V.
Chef Keif’s service and food is all A+. Punctual and very professional. Great Staff!
Keif's CateringKeif's Catering
Thumbtack Customer
We had a fabulous time with Chef Roy on Saturday night. He cooked a top notch Cajun meal for my friends bachelorette party. Not only did he tolerate 11 loud ladies, he was very professional and engaging. It was a memorable evening having Chef Roy treat us to a fabulous meal and we are already scheming as to when we can hire him again. Thank you Chef Roy!
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
Lyness H.
Chef Roy was awesome! He was super professional and prompt and made an amazing Valentines Day dinner for my fiancé and I. He was personable and told us some great stories while preparing our meal. The weather was not great so I really appreciate that he still came out and cooked for us. Would absolutely recommend and would use Chef Roy’s service again. Thank you Chef!
Catered Comforts Personal Chef and CateringCatered Comforts Personal Chef and Catering
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