My big, fat, bargain wedding: caterers

This is the second part of a series on wedding planning on a reasonable budget. I hope you will join me on this journey of orchestrating the ideal wedding — without overspending.

If you’ll recall from my first MBFBW blog, I looked for venues that would allow us to bring in our own vendors, so my next step was to nail down a caterer.

My specifications:

  • Someone else is baking the wedding cakes, so I didn’t need them from the caterers
  • I needed a company who could flip the ceremony space for me.
  • If the caterers didn’t provide bartenders, I would need to hire two separately.

I started with some basic internet research (The Knot’s caterer listings can get you started), and then sent emails to companies in my price range.

Believe it or not, some caterers failed to email me back promptly. Instead of stressing out about this, I just moved on to the next company.

Early on in the process I saw some menus from an Atlanta caterer online — and didn’t like them. But it was clear these weren’t the only options, so I emailed and asked for a menu specific to my wedding theme. I worked with the owner over a few weeks to design a menu and scheduled a (free) tasting.

As a side note, let me gently remind you to be respectful of business’ time, just as you want them to be respectful of yours. If your food budget is hovering around $25 a person, don’t request a free tasting from a company with $40-a-person menus.

What won me over at the tasting was the made-from-scratch dishes, because you could really taste it in the food. (I am now forever a convert to banana bread croutons.) I was also pleased with the friend-next-door attitude of the caterer, because I’ll have to continue working with her on the details until the day of the wedding.

Extra tips: Make sure that although you budget for your anticipated number of guests, the caterer writes the contract for a lesser number. Usually you can’t subtract from the contract (should more guests than expected decline), but you can add to it. Also, try to attend a public tasting by caterers you’re considering — you’ll get a better sense of what the food tastes like when it’s prepared on a larger scale.

Percent of budget spent so far: 48

How did you arrange food for your wedding — through a caterer or by other means? What steps did you take to save money?

Coming next month: Combining finances

More: 80 percent off boutique bridal event | I’m using this wedding spreadsheet
Say ‘less!’ to the dress
| Clark Howard: Don’t go into debt for your wedding

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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13 comments Add your comment

Just the facts ma'am

February 17th, 2012
12:47 pm

How about not getting married. Saves money now, and angst later when you find out your husband is cheating on you.


February 17th, 2012
12:56 pm

@ Just the facts ma’am. Girl…don’t hold on to that crap. It will kill you…literally!!! Talk to someone and get help releasing the pain of the past and having an open heart. I don’t think Lauren created this blog to bring doom and gloom, but Joy.

Just the facts ma'am

February 17th, 2012
1:03 pm

I’m a guy and I know what guys do. We cheat on our spouses/girlfriends.

Just the facts ma'am

February 17th, 2012
1:04 pm

And I am not bringing doom and gloom. I am trying to save everyone money by avoiding senseless weddings.


February 17th, 2012
1:09 pm

JTFM – How about you be less of an @sswad and keep it in your pants?


February 17th, 2012
1:21 pm

It does not matter if you are male or female…you still need help. I’m not going to argue with you…you have a right to your comments. But you err in your comment when you assume that EVERYONE is just like you and they are not. Have a good weekend and be sure to look both ways before crossing the street.


February 17th, 2012
1:34 pm

I looked for venues that provided the food & beverage w/in my budget, they also provided the bartenders, wait staff & table linens/place settings. I saved $$ this way by having the price per person x the # of ppl that was w/in our budget. Other costs like decor, flowers, & DJ need to be allocated as well.

Just the facts ma'am

February 17th, 2012
1:40 pm

Lauren? Can you do something about the acerbic attacks?

Packed Colon

February 17th, 2012
2:05 pm

Lauren, you don’t look fat.

Lauren Davidson

February 17th, 2012
3:25 pm

@Just the facts: Dude, you commented on a wedding blog post, telling people not to get married. You’re on your own.
@Packed Colon: I will be after this crazy-good food!


February 18th, 2012
8:43 am

And if you are gay, you can’t get married in the state of Georgia. So sad.


February 19th, 2012
9:21 pm

Sad that hardly anyone is commenting about the actual content here!

I’ll be honest, I did not strive to have a bargain wedding. I was in my last semester of college while planning it, and I was more interested in making it happen. :-) We had our reception at a country club and chose from their menu options. It was so, so easy, but it all also ended up being really delicious! I did do tastings and such for the cake, but when it came to the food I was content just to let it come together as it would.


February 20th, 2012
12:14 pm

I used a caterer, because I heard that many those “combo” location and catering places had bad food. I tried to think outside of the box and search Yelp and ask some local restaurants that I frequented. I wound up using a small catering business I saw at a bridal show.

I’d advise a smaller catering outfit if you want more menu and price flexibility and personal attention. Some of the big-named places were PRICEY and a few (not all) gave off the impression that they were doing ME a favor.