So you’re getting married – congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful, perplexing world of wedding planning. There’s a lot to think about and we totally understand if your head is spinning; we’d like to offer some helpful advice as it relates to wedding catering (an area know a little about since we cater nearly 70 weddings a year).
A great place to start is with your overall budget and your priorities rated by weight. Priorities matter because, unless you’re the heir to an incredible fortune, you’ll likely find out your budget is too low to get everything you want, so knowing what are you willing to spend more on and what are you willing to cut from the get-go is just realistic. Just like buying a car or sofa, a practical budget will guide you to the right options.
Many times when couples thinking of catering they think of food, and what they want to spend on the meal for their wedding (comparing it to the cost they may spend at a restaurant for the same meal). What you may not realize is that many full service caterers (including FIG) also provide staff, rentals, and pre-event planning coordination. Let’s breakdown each of these areas for a better understanding of the overall price…
Food and Menu Planning
You’ll likely find a great range of prices when comparing caterers. Many factors go into the overall cost of catering, but here at FIG you’ll see that our prices reflect our mission to provide hand-crafted food with locally and sustainably sourced ingredients. Sustainable and local does sometimes mean more expensive, but the good news is that is also means incredible quality and lower environmental impact.
At FIG the cost of your menu is driven mainly by your style of service and the protein options you want to offer guests. Our most affordable menus are typically plated meals. This runs counter-intuitive to what many couples expect, but is because at FIG the food is the star and we put money into it so we charge you accordingly. Most caterers have very low food cost or they hide the true cost of your food in the rentals and staffing (areas you may not know as much about). Buffet and family style meals are more expensive than plated meals because we need to have more food. Buffet stations and hors d’oeuvres stations tend to be the costliest menus because of the variety of items, the reliance on higher cost ingredients (like meat, seafood, and cheese), and increased kitchen prep time.
Protein selections also drive menu price. Obviously serving an all vegetarian menu will have the least impact on your wallet and the environment, but, if that’s not possible, consider lower priced proteins like chicken, duck or pork. Just like shopping at the grocery store, premium products cost more to serve at your wedding. Feeding guests filet or halibut is going to be substantially more expensive than chicken or whitefish. If you’re looking for creative way to save, this is a huge factor. Don’t assume that cheaper menus equal lower quality or boring – there are so many delicious ways to serve items that are less premium! Check out this menu as a perfect example:
At FIG, hors d’oeuvres range in price from $8-$14+ per person. Plated dinners generally start at $34 per person, buffet and family style meals at $38 per person, and buffet hors d’oeuvres stations at $40 per person. These prices do not include rentals, staffing or bar costs.
Rentals and Decor
As mentioned above, FIG provides most of the equipment and rentals needed for your event. The standard rentals work for most and are the most budget friendly, but there are so many ways to add creative touches to the overall look and feel of the wedding. This is where priorities come in as rentals can easily range anywhere from $20-$100+ per guest.
Venue selection has a big impact on your rental needs. Venues that offer tables and chairs as part of their rental fees can save you anywhere from $5-$20 per person on the rental bill. If you have your heart set on real wood tables or eclectic furniture a venue that has these would significantly reduce your rental bill.
FIG provides staff to cover most aspects of your event – we’ll set-up your venue and simple decor, serve all of the food & beverages, and cleanup when the party is over. Your wedding quote will include a crew of staff we feel will provide exceptional service and meet both yours and your venue’s needs. Sometimes upon first glance this might seem like a lot of staff, but when you think about the fact that we usually start with a blank slate, build an entire event in a few hours, and clean it all up by the end of the night, it’s pretty amazing that a crew of people can pull this off! Staffing usually ranges from $24-$34 per guest.
Bar & Alcohol
The bar is one area about which many have strong opinions, but this can also be a huge place to save money (or not, if it’s your number 1 priority). If you don’t drink/don’t care that much about alcohol consider not even serving it (add a fun Beverage Stand, like below) or only offer beer & wine at the bar (not table side) to reduce both liquor and rental needs. Most guests are happy with thoughtfully selected beer & wine (whether that’s local, craft beer, delicious wine, or Old Style because your dad is a Chicagoan through & through). If your crowd would rebel without “the hard stuff” consider limiting selections by offering a specialty cocktail made with your favorite spirit and offering only that spirit. FIG allows BYOB when it’s allowed by the venue, but that won’t always save you money (and it’s undoubtedly more hassle). Look at all options before deciding on your bar.
FIG Drinks bar packages start at $16 per person.
FIG Event Managers are not a full service wedding planners, but as a full service caterer they do help with many aspects of your reception (and ceremony, if it’s in the same location) including helping you develop a timeline (and stick to it), designing a floor plan, and coordinating with other vendors. And, guess what, we don’t charge anything for these services!
If you have a lot of decor, many vendors to wrangle, a large or unruly family, or details that go above-and-beyond our scope you should consider hiring a planner. Think about whether you need someone who is more design focused or is a true-Type A personality that will keep you in line. Full service planning or day-of coordination may make sense for you if you’re too busy to answer emails or just don’t want to think about all of the details that go into making your wedding what you want it to be. Planning services can range from $1,500-$5,000+.
So what’s the T?
The bottom line is that when working with FIG for your wedding, you can expect prices to start at $125 and go up from there if you opt for higher end menu options, additional food items (like late night snacks), or specialty rentals. Our Event Managers are happy to discuss your personal budget in depth to determine if FIG is within your overall wedding budget. We will build you a bespoke proposal featuring seasonal menus, rentals and staff, and outline ala carte packages like dessert, late night bites, alcohol, and specialty rentals.
Please don’t take this blog as the be-all end-all guide as many caterers do things differently than us. Also, we’re in Chicago in 2017 and although we’ve tried to make the information relevant it won’t apply to every situation.