Wedding catering 101: your wedding food planning guide

Food glorious food - we’re here for it! Start planning your wedding menu, and decide what caterer to choose with our 360 guide. We’ll cover everything you need to know about wedding catering and give you lots of inspiration, too. From classic canapes and hot buffets to taco trucks and grazing stations, we’re sure you’ll find something to make you and your guests hungry!

So, let’s get into it.

wedding catering buffet

Will my venue provide wedding catering?

This varies – a lot. So, it’s important to have that chat before you confirm your booking. Many venues offer catering as part of their standard package, and some places will require you to use their in-house service. Others may have a list of approved local wedding catering suppliers for you to choose from.

But there are plenty of places – hello festival-style teepee wedding day! – that will allow you totally free reign. The main thing is to make sure that you ask about catering when doing your initial venue visits. That way, everyone’s on the same page and there’ll be no bad surprises later down the line.

What type of food is best for a wedding?

When it comes to wedding food, the world is your champagne and oyster bar! Finding the perfect food to fit your day will depend on so many factors, from your budget and the size of your guest list to your venue and the vibe of your day.

To whet your appetite and help get you started, we’ve outlined all the most popular catering options here.

wedding canapes with crisps
salmon wedding canapes wedding catering

Wedding canapes

Canapes are those mini bites of deliciousness, that tend to come out with the drinks directly after the ceremony. They’re often the first thing your guests will get to eat since leaving home, so it’s good to get the timings and numbers right! The idea is to stop your guests from starving, without letting them ruin their appetites.

If you’re doing a full wedding breakfast later, then 3 to 5 canapes per guest should keep everybody happy for an hour and a half or so of post-marital mingling.

Buffet wedding catering

So, what does a wedding buffet entail? Well, this is the classic self-serve wedding food option. It’s relaxed, easy and usually more budget-friendly than a sit-down dinner. And there are SO many options!

If you’re on a tight wedding budget, a classic finger food buffet is a great idea. Or if you have a little more wiggle room, a hot fork buffet with a selection of meat dishes, veggies, pasta and salads is always a winner. It’s an easy breezy, take what you want and come back for seconds kind of deal.

wedding buffet finger food

Sit-down wedding breakfast

Before you ask… No, it’s not breakfast. Though frankly, if you want to have a pancake feast wedding breakfast, we will not be the ones to stop you! It’s called a wedding breakfast because it’s the first meal you eat after the wedding ceremony – traditionally a formal three-course meal.

So, if you’re going for a classic, elegant vibe, then a sit-down wedding breakfast will always go down well. It can be a bit pricier as it’s a more traditional option where the caterer will usually offer a few wedding menus to choose from, but worth it if you want to give your guests the full five-star treatment.

Grazing tables

Fun, colourful and packed with personality, grazing tables are the new kid on the block when it comes to wedding catering, and they are taking Pinterest by storm! Piled high with snacks, nibbles and delectable little bites, they look as good as they taste.

We love them instead of canapes, as an evening option or even in place of dessert – hello wedding cake, come cheese board extravaganza!

wedding breakfast pancakes
wedding catering grazing platter

Wedding bowl food

Bowl food is a bit like canapes on steroids. They’re bigger and more filling than canapes, but still easy enough to eat while standing and chatting. They’re great as evening food or could even replace a traditional wedding breakfast if you get enough of them.

For our money, this is one of the most relaxed ways of doing wedding catering. Delicious bowls circulate, and guests grab what they fancy when they fancy it.

No formality. No fuss. We love it!

Street food vans

Everybody loves a street food van! Relaxed, delicious, easy to eat and utterly Instagrammable! This is the perfect option if you’re going for a festival vibe. Whether you’re bringing in a taco truck, travelling crepe kitchen, pulled pork buns or even a classic ice cream cart - street food is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. We love it as an evening food option or instead of canapes during the day.

What about wedding guests with dietary requirements?

All good caterers will be able to work around your wedding guests’ dietary requirements - the key is to let them know well in advance, so they can plan the wedding menu options accordingly. That being said, grazing tables and food allergies don’t mix well (the tiniest speck of gluten can make the whole table a no-go zone for coeliacs) and street food vans aren’t always equipped to guarantee against allergen contamination.

But this doesn’t mean you have to rule these options out. Once you know the range of dietary requirements you’re working with (be sure to request this info with your RSVPs), discuss options with your wedding caterers and make sure you have safe, equally delicious alternatives available (and that the relevant guests know where to find them!)

wedding catering food cart

How much does wedding catering cost?

Short answer: that depends. We know it’s not super helpful, but there really is no clear-cut answer to this. What we can tell you is that there are wedding catering solutions to fit all budgets – it’s all about being smart and knowing your options.

For example, the more self-service your food is, the less your caterers will need to charge you for staff. So, relaxed dining options like street food vans or finger food buffets will usually work out cheaper than a full sit-down meal – this way, you can also save on things like cutlery and table linen hire.

Likewise, if you’ve got your heart set on a full three-course sit-down dinner (and why not? – it’s your wedding!) serving up steak for everyone will be pricier than sticking to something simpler.

How to book a caterer

Once you’ve considered all of the above and firmed up what you would like for your wedding catering, it’s time to start contacting caterers! Your venue may have a list of preferred local vendors, but if not, there are plenty of places you can look.

Rock My Wedding is our firm fave wedding suppliers directory. You can filter their list of recommended wedding caterers by location, which is a super handy tool. Then contact a few different options and ask for an informal consultation – this should be free of charge and will give you a good idea of what you’re after.

wedding catering canapes
wedding catering grazing board

19 questions to ask your wedding caterer

It always pays to come prepared! Here’s our list of the questions you might want to ask your wedding catering company before you make your final decision.

1. Are you available on our wedding date?

2. Have you worked at our venue before?

3. Do you offer a set menu or bespoke catering services?

4. Can we see a sample menu? Do you have pictures?

5. What are your most popular dishes?

6. Do you charge a bulk fee or a cost per head?

7. How much do I need to pay as a deposit and when will that be due?

8. Do you offer complimentary food tasting?

9. When will we need to confirm the menu options and final numbers?

10. How many serving staff will you have on the day?

11. Do you offer drinks packages?

12. Can drinks be arranged on a sale or return basis?

13. Do you provide bar staff?

14. Do you offer a wedding cake-cutting service?

15. How do you cater for dietary requirements and allergies?

16. Do you offer halal or kosher options?

17. Do you offer a separate children’s menu?

18. Do you provide plates, cutlery and table linen?

19. What is your cancellation policy?

Congratulations - you passed Wedding Catering 101! Now that you know all the wedding food basics, you’re ready to get stuck in and book the wedding breakfast of your dreams – whether that’s a formal 3-course sit-down dinner or a travelling pasta van and DIY doughnut wall.

And while you’re in wedding planning mode, why not make a start on your wedding gift list with Prezola? Guests love a gift list – it makes their lives so much easier.

And you can add everything from traditional gifts to experiences, cash funds, honeymoon contributions and more. So, what are you waiting for? Get started today!

Wedding music: your guide from ceremony to reception

Beautiful barn wedding with picturesque golden hour

5 tips for creating the perfect wedding gift list

Guides for brides on invitation etiquette

Gift lists 101: cash gifts

How to choose the best wedding cake for your big day

Boho barn wedding with inspiring message for all couples