13 Aug 2010

10 Ways to Save on Catering

My article from this month's Wedding Magazine.

Cut your costs without anyone noticing with these tips from Julie Gray, managing director of top London caterers Bovingdons.
1. Know your budget
Be honest with your caterer from the outset - it's far easier to maximise a budget from the start than it is to minimise it once the plans are finalised.
2. Choose your venue carefully
Where you get married will determine your catering costs. If you chose an expensive venue, expect food to be equally pricey. Look into venues that give you good flexibility to hire the caterer of your choice.
3. Go for a late start
On average, each guest costs between £10 and £20 per hour so do your maths and plan your day accordingly. Aim for a 4pm ceremony, canapés from 5pm, dinner at 6.30pm, then coffee at 8pm - leaving four hours to party with no further food required. The days of the 12-hour wedding are a thing of the past as you have to feed your guests twice, which can't be done on a tight budget without looking and feeling scant.
4. Allocate your costs
Around 25% of your total catering costs will be for the chef and the waiting staff and from 20% for equipment, so stick with plain linen and glassware and spend more on the food. Never compromise on service, as it's the delivery that makes an event memorable.
5. Plan a meal to remember
It's far better to serve a hearty curried parsnip soup with good bread, followed by humble sausages and mash, with sticky toffee pudding to end a meal, rather than trying to spread your budget across a few canapés, a chicken main and a fruit salad dessert. A substantial meal using inexpensive ingredients will fill your guests and leave them feeling replete.
6. Work with the seasons
Make sure your wedding day is filled with the very best ingredients that Britain has to offer, rhubarb in February, asparagus in May, strawberries in July, crab in September and pumpkin in November. For the best seasonal ideas visit www.eattheseasons.co.uk. British seasonal food isn’t always cheaper but always tastes betters.
7. Keep it simple
Beef is always pricey as is venison and, for most of the year, lamb. Pork, chicken, duck and guinea fowl are much more stable tin cost and provide great alternatives. Don’t be afraid of using simple ingredients. One of the nicest low-budget summer wedding menus is chilled gazpacho for a starter, confit of belly of pork with wilted greens for the main course, followed by fresh raspberries and vanilla pannacotta.
8. Replace dessert
Serving cake as pudding is a popular was of cutting costs, but unless you employ a top-end cake maker to produce something fresh and delicious, cake remains cake. And by the time you've added the cost of berries and cream to accompany it, does it really save anything? A better solution is to serve a slither of sachertorte (a rich chocolate cake) as a petit four with coffee.
9. Serve sparkling wine
Good sparkling wine is better than cheap Champagne. Always purchase the best you can afford and buy ahead of the peak wedding season when costs are competitive - a wedding with limited drinks is a no-no.
10 Limit your guest list
A three-course wedding breakfast for 100 guests is always going to be pricey, so the easiest solution is to invite less people. More and more couples these days are opting for a wedding reception of 50 friends and family and then inviting extra guests to the party afterwards. This way, everyone can share your special day but it will cost you half the price.


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