May 24, 2024

Navigating the World of Wedding Catering: Frequently Asked Questions for Couples


Planning a wedding is an exhilarating journey filled with countless decisions, and one of the most crucial aspects to consider is the catering. Food and drinks often play a central role in the celebration, making it vital to choose the right catering company. 

If you’re considering an off-site caterer, you probably have numerous questions about what to expect and how to ensure everything runs smoothly. Below, we address some of the most frequently asked questions couples have when choosing an off-site catering company for their wedding and some insider tips for local caterers here in the Columbus and central Ohio areas.

Chris Bowman Photography

1. What is Off-Site Catering?

Q: What exactly is off-site catering, and how does it differ from on-site catering?

A: Off-site catering involves bringing all the necessary food, equipment, and staff to your chosen venue, rather than preparing and serving the food at a location where the caterer has a permanent kitchen. This is in contrast to on-site catering, typically offered by hotels or dedicated wedding venues, where the catering service is part of the venue package.

Unless your venue is equipped with a full commercial kitchen, off-site caterers typically prepare the majority of your food at their own business/kitchen location and transport everything to the venue.  Then, food is finished on-site before service.

2. How Far in Advance Should We Book an Off-Site Caterer?

Q: When should we start looking for an off-site caterer, and how far in advance should we book?

A: It’s advisable to start your search for a caterer as soon as you have your wedding date and venue. Popular catering companies can book up several months, or even a year +, in advance, especially during peak wedding seasons. 

🌟Pro tip: Generally, booking 9-12 months ahead is recommended to ensure you get your preferred caterer and menu.  However if you’re looking to get married in prime months (May/June, September/October), sometimes you’ll see dates scooped up 15+ months in advance!

3. What Services Are Included?

Q: What services are typically included with an off-site catering company?

A: Off-site catering offerings can vary widely. Basic packages usually include food preparation, serving staff, and cleanup. More comprehensive packages might also include rentals like linens, and dinnerware. Some caterers may offer additional services such as setting up and breaking down the event space, providing bartenders, and creating custom menus. Always ask for a detailed list of what’s included to avoid any surprises.

What are the basic reception items that I need covered?

🌟Pro tip: In 2024, Venue and Catering services combined are averaging well over 50% of your total wedding budget, so make sure you have all the boxes checked since this is by far the largest expense of your wedding. 

Read more about your Wedding Budget Breakdown here: 

Chris Bowman Photography

4. Can We Customize the Menu?

Q: How much flexibility do we have in customizing our wedding menu?

A: Most off-site caterers are quite flexible and willing to work with you to create a menu that reflects your tastes and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a specific cuisine, have dietary restrictions, or want to incorporate family recipes, a good caterer will collaborate with you to design a personalized menu. Be sure to discuss any special requests or requirements during your initial consultations.

Keep in mind some caterers may focus and specialize in farm-to-table cuisine or authentic Italian fare while others may have larger operations and are able to cover a variety of cuisine styles within their wheelhouse.

Chris Bowman Photography

5. What About Dietary Restrictions and Preferences?

Q: How do off-site caterers handle dietary restrictions and preferences?

A: Experienced off-site caterers are adept at accommodating various dietary needs, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other allergy-related restrictions. It’s important to communicate any dietary requirements early on so the caterer can plan appropriately. They should provide options that ensure all your guests are catered to and can enjoy the meal.

🍁From the Hudson's Edge Pros: When it comes to wedding day, we can help a client build a fully gluten-friendly menu so that any guest attending would be covered without the additional hassle or concern of getting RSVPs back and tracking the special request.  Otherwise, when you receive a dietary restriction and send it to us, our team can ensure the kitchen preparations are handled as best as possible to avoid cross contamination and also plate guests a separate meal that has been prepared specifically avoiding the allergy in concern.

6. How Are Food Tastings Conducted?

Q: Are food tastings available, and what can we expect during a tasting session?

A: Most caterers offer food tastings, often complimentary or for a nominal fee, to help you make final menu decisions. During a tasting, you’ll sample a selection of dishes from your potential menu, allowing you to experience the quality and presentation firsthand. This is also a good time to discuss any tweaks or changes you’d like to make.

🍁From the Hudson's Edge Pros: It’s important to note that caterers do this differently.  Some may do one-on-one tastings and prepare exactly the menu you’ve picked out.

As a smaller, family owned and operated business, Hudson’s Edge hosts monthly tastings at some of our partner venues around Columbus and central Ohio.  We have quite a large menu, so each month, our Chef curates a menu of our most popular items, best sellers, new features and seasonal favorites.  It would be impossible for us to bring every menu item to every tasting.  

We also host our tastings in an open house format where you can bring guests and enjoy the evening tasting a sampling of appetizers, dinner entrees, sides and desserts (served buffet style) at your own pace.  This also helps us showcase what our operation and food looks like when we are serving a large group of guests.

7. What Are the Costs and Payment Terms?

Q: What is the cost structure for off-site catering, and what are the typical payment terms?

A: Costs can vary based on the complexity of the menu, number of guests, and additional services required. Caterers may charge a flat fee per guest or offer package deals or ala carte. Make sure to ask about any additional charges, such as delivery fees, service fees, and gratuities. 

Payment terms typically include a deposit to secure the booking, with the balance due closer to the event date. Understanding the complete cost breakdown and payment schedule upfront is crucial to avoid unexpected expenses.

🍁From the Hudson's Edge Pros: At Hudson’s Edge, we require a 25% deposit of your estimate to secure your date on our calendar.  From there, we are in touch with a contract to e-sign and you’re all set!  Final payment is due, when you submit final guest counts to us and we have updated your invoice with all final decisions.  Gratuity is also factored in at the final payment due date.

Keep in mind, our Estimates are a starting point of our menu and services.  You don’t have to have every decision made on the service and menu when you book.  Many of those decisions are ironed out later in our planning process.  It’s most important to share the costs associated with our service requirements at the venue you’ve selected and a tentative menu to ensure it fits within your expected budget.  Then tweaking from there won’t change things drastically.  

8. How Does the Caterer Handle Setup and Cleanup?

Q: What responsibilities will the caterer have regarding setup and cleanup?

A: Off-site caterers usually handle the setup of all food-related items, including food stations, buffet lines, or plated dinner service. They should also manage the cleanup of their equipment and service areas/kitchen spaces. Clarify what specific duties are included in the setup and cleanup process to ensure there are no gaps in service. Some caterers may also assist with additional aspects of the event setup and breakdown for an extra fee.

🍁From the Hudson's Edge Pros: This requirement is also oftentimes set by the venue.  Some venues require the client to handle the setup and clean up.  However, it’s nice to work with a Caterer who can take those duties off your plate (pun intended?).  We absolutely prefer that you don’t have to work on your wedding day!  

🌟Make sure to ask during your venue visits: what labor they provide, what they expect from you as the client and what they expect from the caterers to pull all the details together.

9. What Happens in Case of an Emergency?

Q: How does the caterer handle unexpected issues or emergencies?

A: Reputable caterers have contingency plans for various emergencies, such as staff shortages, equipment failures, or food supply issues. It’s essential to discuss these contingency plans during your initial meetings. Knowing how the caterer plans to manage potential problems will give you peace of mind that they can handle any situation that arises.

Chris Bowman Photography

10. Are There Any Venue Restrictions?

Q: Are there any restrictions or requirements from the venue that we need to consider?

A: Some venues have specific requirements or restrictions for outside caterers, such as approved vendor lists, insurance requirements, or guidelines for kitchen use and waste disposal. Ensure that your caterer is aware of and complies with these rules. This information can typically be obtained from the venue’s management and should be shared with your caterer as early as possible.

🌟Pro tip: by finding out the venue’s requirements on the front end can also ensure the caterer is providing you with an accurate quote for their services when they know what’s expected of them.  If something isn’t discussed initially, it may add unexpected costs or hassle later on.


Choosing the right off-site catering company is a critical step in ensuring your wedding day is a memorable culinary experience for you and your guests. By asking and understanding these frequently asked questions, you can confidently navigate the selection process and partner with a caterer who aligns with your vision, preferences, and budget. Remember, clear communication and detailed planning are key to a successful catering experience on your big day. 

For more FAQs and pro tips from Hudson’s Edge – check out our link:

Happy planning!




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Photographer: Chris Bowman Photography

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In support of our local community, Hudson’s Edge proudly offers a unique and satisfying dining experience in the comfort of your home with a carry-out menu of take & bake and fresh items that we open up for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter holidays.


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