Are you considering who might be your wedding caterer?

Let’s look at some options..

Catering Options

In general there are three different scenarios when it comes to who’s doing the main catering for your wedding:

  • your venue does the catering;
  • your venue allows third party caterers into their premises;
  • you’re in a dry hire venue and book outside caterers.

Do you know yet what your plan is caterer wise?

your wedding caterer

Venue as the caterer

Many couples choose a package at their wedding venue, be it a hotel or other, which includes, for example, a three course meal. 

It may also include a drinks package of, say, half a bottle of wine per adult and a glass of Champagne or Prosecco for toasts.

For some this is ideal as, assuming guests will otherwise be paying for their own drinks, you know up front what the overall costs will be as soon as you’ve given the final head count to the chef.

Most venues will provide menu options, at varying rates per head, from which you can choose. 

Some are more flexible than others, so if you’re especially keen to incorporate a particular favourite dish, or locally sourced pork, for example, check what level of flexibility is open to you. 

Good chefs generally love a challenge and a chance to change the set menu, however not all, plus some venue wedding coordinators are not given sufficient responsibility to agree to changes.

Always ask, and if it seems your contact may not be in a position to agree alterations ask to speak to the Manager.

your wedding caterer

Outside Caterers allowed in the venue’s kitchen

In some cases, even though the venue offers catering, they will also allow outside caterers if that is what you prefer.

There may be a charge for this on top of what you pay the caterer.

Usually this only happens in cases where the venue is not expert in providing a particular type of cuisine, such as Halal or Kosher or if you want a ‘food truck’ style of catering and they can use the kitchen for preparation and clearance.

These venues may have a finite list of vetted caterers on a Preferred Supplier List whom they allow in their kitchens.

Your venue allows you to choose your caterer

In dry hire situations, whereby you pay a hire free and can bring in whichever suppliers you like, provided you leave the venue as found, you can often choose any caterer you wish.

In other venues, which have kitchens but don’t offer catering themselves, there is usually a list of preferred caterers.

Drinks packages, Bars & Corkage

Using the venue’s packages and bar

If your venue is your caterer, you’re using their bar and guests are purchasing their own drinks outside of the package you’ll know exactly what your overall venue, food and beverage bill will be.

Other options you have are to pay the whole bar bill yourselves, or to pay up to a certain amount, beyond which guests pay themselves.

Either way, I suggest you offer a limited bar, rather than allow guests to  buy anything they want. I’ll come back to that later in the Module.

Using your caterer to run the bar

Many couples choose this option, especially in dry hire venues.

Most caterers offer this service and, importantly, if you are charging your guests for drinks, they will have a license to sell alcohol.

 Bar Companies

You may decide you want to book a mobile bar company, either to work at your venue alongside the main bar (usually this would be a professional cocktail/ mixology bar which the venue cannot provide), or to run the bar for you throughout.

Again, check with them about the degree to which supplying your own drinks is an option and any costs involved other than staffing and equipment.

Buying your own drinks

Many venues and caterers allow you the option of purchasing your own alcohol, however make sure you understand the financial implications of any corkage charges.

Ask whether corkage is charged (occasionally it isn’t) and if so at what rate. Often the charge for a bottle of still wine and Champagne may be the equivalent of their own house wines and Champagne.

You can then make a decision.          

Sometimes this will be one of the deciding factors about whether you book a particular venue or caterer.

What is your current plan when it comes to who will run your bar?

Open Bars

If you offer a completely open bar, you have no control over the ultimate total bill and it is just too easy for guests to lose their drink then simply replace it, or buy bottles of wine or bubbly which can result in lots of half used bottles. 

Having a bar with a good house red, white and perhaps Prosecco, a couple of beers and ciders and all non-alcoholic and soft drinks available, either all or part of the evening, works well.

If you wish guests to be able to purchase other drinks that is fine, they can do so at their own expense.

If you wish to spend a set amount you can either tell the bartender that people pay after the limit is reached, or you can design a ticketing system of some kind.

The reason I like a ticketing system, which gives all guests a specific number of free drinks, is that it avoids a situation where some guests go through oodles of free drinks before the limit is reached, then at 9pm Aunty Kathleen wanders over for her first drink of the evening to be told she has to pay.

You can get creative with making cocktail glass shaped ‘tickets’ and of course if non drinkers or people leaving early wish to gift their tickets to others that’s fine.

Will you have a pay bar, a limited bar, prepare tickets, or something else?


Image Credits in order: Studio M, Kate Nielen, Dasa Wharton x 2, Max Burnett.

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