Slimming Down Your Catering Budget

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Cortney and Scott Finley's guests dined on barbecue and burgers from Sweet Carrot and OH! Burgers food trucks.

Catering often amounts to the single biggest expense of a wedding. Whether you serve bottomless champagne and caviar or PBR and pigs in a blanket, saving on catering is one of the best ways to trim costs and get the most bang for your buck. Everyone knows the old-fashioned cost-cutting classics like trimming the guest list, but wouldn't it be more fun if you could invite everyone and feed them well? Here are four insider tips from local catering experts to help you spend smarter-without making your guests suffer for your thriftiness.

1. Think outside the box. Getting creative may yield cost-effective, crowd-pleasing solutions. Sarah Meade, manager for Schmidt's On the Go catering, explains, "If you're willing to go a different route with the food items you choose, you (can) save time, effort and sometimes lots of money. For instance, Schmidt's food trucks are a great way to have a unique menu with a cool vibe without paying an arm and a leg."

Callan Kirgis Hash, director of catering at Brookside Golf & Country Club in Worthington, adds, "For venues that have a cake-cutting fee, ordering cupcakes or bite-sized desserts instead of the traditional wedding cake can save $1-3 per person." That simple step alone could potentially save those with large guest lists well over $500.

2. Pass the apps. Brookside's Kirgis Hash advises, "Offering passed hors d'oeuvres instead of stationary displays allows you to order a bit less and people do not notice as much."

3. Trade the full bar for a signature drink. If a cash bar isn't your style, but a full bar is prohibitively expensive, Brookside's Kirgis Hash recommends serving beer, wine and a signature drink or two. (Bonus points for a recipe that fits your theme.) "This can be controlled by quantity, and if you offer a vodka cocktail and/or a bourbon cocktail people are usually happy," he says.

Should you want a champagne toast but don't have a champagne budget, ask your caterer to offer bubbly on passed trays just before the toasts begin, rather than throughout the event. Some caterers are willing to only charge you for the alcohol bottles that are actually opened, helping to further save on costs should you overestimate the amount your guests will imbibe.

4. Ask caterers to lend or rent linens and decor. Says Meade of Schmidt's On the Go, "Picking a full-service caterer (can often) help you in the end. Many times our brides want us to be able to provide rentals of tents, tables and chairs along with bar service and food. This is more cost effective and less stressful, because you're not dealing with more than one vendor." Brookside's Kirgis Hash agrees. "Using the venue's décor, such as candles or glassware, or booking a venue/caterer that includes table linens,can save on rental costs."