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Practical Tips when Choosing your Caterer

Choosing the right suppliers for your Italian Wedding is an essential step which will reflect in the small details of your big day. In a series of blogs we are writing about some key things to look out for when choosing a supplier, starting with your caterer.

Caterers are by far one of the most important suppliers for a wedding. Italian Weddings come with high expectations when it comes to food and you do not want your guests to be disappointed. A bad wedding meal will always be remembered, even if the flower arrangements were impressive and the DJ the most engaging.

However caterers do not only provide food and beverage, but they are also organise the set-up of your Italian Wedding Reception. So those details which can make a difference, such as the style of chair, the colour of tablecloth, the particular detail on the glasses or plates to match your theme, the buffet displays, are all part of a caterers services. Therefore, when a caterer’s quote is received it is very important to check exactly what this includes.

The typical Italian Wedding reception starts with Prosecco, spritz and soft drinks on arrival and a buffet of aperitifs to entertain the guests for around 1 – 1.30 hours. The buffet selection is chosen by the couple but always tends to be quite rustic and to include a selection of cheese and cold meats, breads and focaccia, bruschetta and fried vegetables. The products vary according to the region of Italy as all caterers use local and fresh products. Be wary of those caterers who would only offer a few tray-served canapés. An Italian Wedding aperitif should leave your guests feeling no further food is needed for a while!

Very rarely a starter is offered once the guests sit down as the buffet would have already made your guests’ bellies satisfied. Therefore the seated meal starts with two first courses – you will have a choice between different pasta dishes, risotto, ravioli or crespelle – and it is followed by a main course with sides. Second rounds should be offered as well, for both first and second courses. Whilst this should not be expected as a definite must, find out whether your caterer offers second round and question why in case they don’t.

Italian Wedding Receptions are supposed to be interactive and relaxing so rather than keep your guests at the table for longer than necessary, desserts are served on a buffet together with coffees and after the cutting of the cake. Your guests can chat, relax, enjoy further drinks and dance while having access to a selection of desserts throughout the whole evening. Midnight munchies are never necessary at Italian weddings as the amount of delicacies served during the whole reception is enough to keep anyone going for almost two days. If a caterer suggests midnight munchies then be suspicious of their portions!

Italian caterers offer packages which may vary in what they include and make sure you understand exactly what is covered in their quote and what is not as this would make a big difference on the final cost. A wedding reception is possibly the biggest expense in a wedding. You want to get it right but also within your budget. Most caterers offer a ‘finished’ price which includes all the above and some wine during the seated meal. This is always in the region of half a bottle of wine per person. Italians are big on food, not on drinks, so any extra is charged for separately and trying to negotiate more drinks included in the cost per person is a lost battle. Cost of a bottle of house wine is around 12-15 euro and house wine means a locally produced delicious nectar most of the time!

The evening open bar is almost never included and caterers offer packages based on what drinks and the amount of them you want to offer to your guests. In Italy cash bar doesn’t exist as the bride and the groom cover the whole food and beverage costs. This is a surprise for many foreign couples who need to work within a budget and wish to pay for certain drinks only or wish to put an amount behind the bar and leave the rest to their guests. According to the wedding venue it may or may not be possible to organise a cash bar so if this is an important requirement for you, mention it at the beginning as it may rule out some suppliers of your list.

Standing reception and seated meal tables and chairs, glassware and crockery and kitchen equipment should all be included in the quote provided by a caterer. Some caterers offer you a variety of tablecloths, chairs or china to choose from, while some only offer one standard kind. In this case, any upgrade in linen or set up would have an extra cost. Always make sure you understand what set up is included. If you have a specific theme in mind for your wedding reception, this may make a big difference on your final spend.

A catering quote is always based on an average of 7 hours service. Staff is always included in the quote provided, unless you require a longer service, in which case an extra fee per member of the staff per hour will be applied.

Also, caterers should always provide different menu options for guests with dietary requirements at no extra cost, however still make sure this is the case. Children often do not pay if under the age of 3, however do find out the options and costs for youngsters over 3 years old.

Lastly, most caterers include an Italian Wedding Cake in their quote. The typical Italian cake is one layer only, a fruit cake or a millefeuille with Chantilly cream and fruits or chocolate – the choice is yours. American wedding cakes, with 2 or more tiers, are very often charged at an extra cost.

The choice of caterers at your disposal varies according to the Italian Wedding Venue chosen. Some venues have an onsite restaurant and kitchen which provides the whole service. In this case you are tied to use them and most likely will not have a selection of set ups to choose from. Ask this to the venue before confirming it as, if you are not happy with the colour of tablecloth, style of chair or china they include and need to hire them externally, this could impact on your budget.

Other Italian Wedding Venues are open to external caterers but have a list of their preferred suppliers you must use. In this case it is advisable to get quotes from most of them to compare and make an informative decision.

Also, caterers’ quotes never include vat, which in Italy is 10% on food and beverage. Always make sure you factor vat in your budget.

As Italian Wedding Planners, we provide you with a list of recommended caterers. Those are caterers we have worked with in the past, which we trust and recommend. We are not tied to any particular vendor and we will always be happy to source for more options if you feel none of the suggested can provide the finish and style you have in mind. Where we engage with new suppliers, we always qualify each caterer individually, by spending time with them, requesting references and sampling their food. We only work with Italian Wedding Suppliers who reflect quality and will represent our high level of standards and expectations.

If you are considering a Wedding in Italy and would like to speak with one of our professional Wedding Planners, please contact us directly.

Alice Guarnaschelli

If you wish to find out about getting married in Italy contact us at info@italianstyleweddings.co.uk

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