A Closer Look: How Much Do the Best Wedding Caterers Cost on Average?
What is one of the most important pieces for any formal event? Most people would agree on the food.
These days, there are so many options to explore. With everything from food trucks to mobile bar services—it's hard to know where to turn.
While these can certainly be a fun option that makes for a unique experience, it does not always fit larger groups. This is also important for more structured events, where traditional catering would be beneficial—including corporate luncheons, conferences, and bridal or baby showers.
But of course, the best wedding caterers are most highly sought after for weddings. This is where hosts want to impress, so careful consideration of high-end catering is critical.
With this said, these can quickly rack up quite the bill. It is imperative that you carefully understand the pricing and what elements are worth splurging on before writing a check.
For more information on how to compare costs and ultimately choose the best wedding caterers in your area—read on below!
How Much Do Wedding Caterers Cost?
As with many elements of wedding planning, the cost depends on a variety of factors. The most influential factor will be how many guests are in attendance.
Considering the average American wedding hosts 131 guests, this range will typically hover around $8,500 to $10,000.
Of course—this is an estimate. Extremely lavish weddings will far exceed this range, and more humble weddings can fall short.
Generally speaking, wedding caterers charge on a per-person basis. This means your total cost will depend on how many guests the caterers are responsible for feeding. On average, the cost per head ranges from $50 to $150. Within that range, prices vary based on the following factors.
Key Considerations for Catering Pricing
First and foremost, the guest list will play a heavy hand in determining how expensive the catering event ends up being. The larger the guest list—the larger the bill.
Another critical factor is the venue. In some cases, venues do not allow outside catering companies to serve your wedding. You may be contractually required to use their in-house services.
If the venue does not have a mandatory catering requirement, they may have preferred vendors that they work with. It may be required—or strongly suggested with additional fees—to utilize these options.
Once these details are out of the way, the actual food service style will be another significant piece of the puzzle. Overall, this range may be anywhere from $55 to $150 or more.
One style is the traditional plated meal. This is where guests sit at their respective tables, and the various plates are served to them in courses. Roughly, this averages at about $100 to $200 per person.
Another option is family-style catering. This is where guests are still seated, but waiters will deliver larger plates of food to each table to serve themselves. This ranges from $120 to $150 per guest.
You may also opt for a buffet-style dining experience. Expect to pay $50 to $100 per person for this choice.
Similarly, you may utilize food stations. This is where guests can walk around to various stations (like a carving station, pasta station, etc.), costing $50 to $75 per person.
You may also want to have hors d'oeuvres passed around before the main food event, running roughly $60 to $85 per guest.
Additionally, a cocktail hour before the event is another option. This cost depends on the number of bartenders you have and whether or not you have an open bar—averaging $35 per guest.
What About Alcohol?
While the thought of catering typically revolves around food, drinks are also a critical factor to the event's success.
If you choose to have an open bar, there are a few options. On the one hand, you may have your guests' beer and wine covered and let them pay for liquor drinks on their own.
Or—you may have all drinks covered, letting the guests order free of charge. While this is often a crowd-pleaser, it does not come cheap.
Running an open bar during your wedding will typically cost $50 per guest.
Instead, you may opt for a cash bar. This is where a range of liquor, beer, and wine is available for purchase. This is, of course, significantly cheaper, though it does still require the cost to employ the bartenders for the evening.
Other Factors to Consider
In addition to food and alcohol, don't forget to factor in the following average catering-related costs:
Wedding cake – $7 per slice
Cake cutting/serving fee – $1-$2 per guest
Glassware, flatware, linens – depends on the rental company/in-house policies
Gratuity –15%-20% of the dining bill for food preparation, 10% of liquor bill for bartenders
Especially with larger weddings, these additional costs can make or break your budget.
How Do I Pick the Right Wedding Caterer?
Choosing the right event caterers is one of the most important pieces of wedding planning. This goes beyond searching for "best caterers near me"—it also involves meticulous consideration of what is and is not worth the price.
Year after year, guests point out the food as one of the most memorable parts of a wedding. Careful planning ensures these are positive memories rather than complaints. It also ensures you do not overpay for elements that may not appeal to your tastes.
No two catering companies are created equal, so it is imperative that you carefully narrow down your search. Before signing any contracts, be sure to make appointments with your top two or three options resulting from your research.
With each potential option, you should sit down and discuss exactly what type of food you would like at your wedding and how it should be served. Taste-testing the caterer's options is a must!
Additionally, get a detailed breakdown of costs from each potential vendor. You should leave each meeting with a thorough understanding of how much they charge—and what this money is paying for.
Be sure to choose the caterer that best aligns with the type of food you want to serve and what you are comfortable paying. This way, you can rest assured that you have carefully vetted all of your options—and can focus on all of the other details for your big day.
Selecting the Best Wedding Caterers
With careful research and consideration, you can narrow down your list of potential catering options to best align with your tastes, guest list, and budget.
To better understand the pricing of one of the best wedding caterers in New Jersey, contact us today!