Wedding 101

7 Things Your Caterers Want You to Know

Your invitations, your way.

My first-ever job was for a Massachusetts-based catering company (which shall remain unnamed). After a couple of summers catering weddings and business events, I called it quits and moved on to making lattes at a local bakery and then working retail (which let me tell you is infinitely better than the food industry and that is the tea). But that is not to say that I didn’t learn a lot: from formal place settings to how to convince yourself you are not hot on a 90-degree day decked out in black slacks and a black button-down. 

As someone who was once immersed in the catering world, here are seven things your wedding caterers want you to keep in mind.

1I Didn’t Choose this Outfit, so Please Don’t Comment

I often felt self-conscious about the uniform I adorned for each event, especially looking out into a dance floor of a beautiful wedding party dressed in their finest. If our simple slacks and button vest are not to your liking, please keep your fashion commentary to yourself because trust me, we would rather be wearing a gown or tailored suit right now, too. 

Man mopping floors. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Perhaps more important, if you are having a summer wedding in late July or August and someone rolls up their sleeves while surviving cocktails at the bar, or unbuttons their vest while doing cleanup, let them be. I realize these small alterations in ensemble deviate from the uniform but know that our boss will probably take us aside and inform us to fix our sleeves or vest anyway.

2Accept My Wrinkles and Breakouts

Similarly, I floated between wearing make up for an event or calling it quits after brushing my hair back in a smooth ponytail. After all, if my foundation was just going to slide off my cheeks in the sun what was the point? As someone who has had breakouts since adolescence, I felt insecure about showing up to a formal event without makeup, but sometimes this is how I felt more comfortable to complete the job. 

So, don’t fall into the trap of caring about appearances over ability because we are already kicking ourselves inside. Making sure caterers have their hair back is one thing, but if we aren’t fully shaven or coiffed to perfection at the same level as the bridal party, remember that we are at the same event for different reasons.

3Let us Know in Advance About any Alterations or Allergies

I remember a particularly stressful wedding when a guest asked for no red peppers on her grilled salmon, which quickly became a difficult feat to coordinate in the hustle and bustle of a sit-down dinner. While any food mistakes are on the caterer, we ask that you make any allergies among your guests clear in your requests, and let us know of any alterations in menu requests as soon as possible. 

Cooks preparing large plates of appetizers. Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

A helpful tip would be to add a small note on your RSVP that menu selections are final (if you are opting for a sit-down style dinner).

4Be Patient, the Food is Coming

I once catered a 300-person wedding, and even though we had enough staff, carrying heavy trays with hot plates of lobster dinners was stressful. At the time, this was the largest wedding I had catered and the first time I took meal orders on a little pad, writing reminders next to each guest’s order like “purple tie” and “blue dress” so I could remember who ordered the chicken and who had the lobster. 

Similar to when you are on the highway and become angry at a slow car before you notice a “student driver” sticker on the bumper, encourage your guests to be patient as we serve each course or set up the buffet. We are doing our best to dish out the food as quickly and smoothly as possible, but sometimes it is our first wedding and we can all empathize with merging on the highway for the first time.

5Passing Your Plate Isn’t Too Much to Ask

Funny enough, I began catering the same summer my cousin was married. At the reception, I made sure to pass my empty plate and dirty utensils to the caterers rather than draping my arms across the surface in the most complicated manner that it would take a Tetris genius to extract their plate.

Guests sitting at tables during the wedding reception. via Loverly Real Weddings

Caterers understand tonight is the time to let loose and finally not worry about clearing the table or washing the dishes, but stacking your salad and dinner plate or sliding out of the way when we come around to refill water glasses are little acts of kindness that make our evening.

6Keep a Look Out for Your Drunk Uncles and Aunts

Again, we know that your wedding reception is the time to have fun, dance like you just don’t care, and maybe take one or more shots than you normally would. But please be aware of your drunker family members so we don’t have to do the awkward business of being their chaperone. 

I remember at the end of one summer wedding I catered, a man asked for the half-empty beer glass in my hand thanking me for getting him another drink. He had grabbed the glass before I had the chance to inform him I had taken the almost empty glass from a random table and was on my way to bring it back to the kitchen.

7When the Last Song is Played, Please Leave

On a similar note, when the clock strikes midnight (or whenever you indicated your wedding reception will end), please start the trend of exiting the venue so we may clear the tables and start taking down the event. We know the day may have been the best day of your life, but just as you are anxious to flop into a big plush bed and cuddle with your partner, we are anxious to hop in our cars and drive home for the night... until next time.

Newlyweds dancing while guests stand at the edges of the dance floor. Photo via Loverly Real Weddings

Perhaps you find these requests on behalf of the catering company selfish when the big day is about the couple. But small acts of kindness and awareness will not only make us happier but also more excited to serve a group who appreciate caterers and all the sweat that goes into catering a wedding. Walk a mile in our shoes first (carrying a tray with a dozen wine glasses), before you comment. I have been anxious to try on those heels, anyway.

Elizabeth Berry
About The Author
Writer living in Connecticut.