Eating your Feelings Because Catering is Expensive / by Vanessa Larkey

“Don’t forget to ask about linen pricing. That stuff’s expensive and can drive up your catering quote big time.”

Sage advice from my best friend Carly, who in 2013 was thrown a cloth napkin curveball by her wedding caterers.

Carly and I have been friends for over 20 years. We've also been known to run the occasional 5k while wearing Santa suits. 

Carly and I have been friends for over 20 years. We've also been known to run the occasional 5k while wearing Santa suits. 

Carly wasn’t the first person to mention linen pricing to us. In fact, it’s come up fairly often. I guess if you’re one of the first in your group of friends to get married, you don’t have anyone to warn you about all the “extras” that appear on the final catering bill (eg. Linens, glassware, cutlery etc.) Luckily, we are in our thirties and one of the last couples in our group of friends to get married. Sometimes “life” procrastination pays off.

So! With the linen warning in hand, I crafted emails to the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse’s four preferred catering companies. 

*Quite a few venues in Toronto have a “preferred caterers” list. That means you HAVE to work with one the caterers they suggest. 

What did I ask? My questions are posted below. I also asked for a sample quote that included 3 appetizers, 3-course dinner, and a late night snack. 

- My partner is a vegetarian and we are flirting with the idea of having only vegetarian cuisine. Is there a cost difference between a pure vegetarian event and non-vegetarian event? If so, by how much? What main vegetarian dish would be served? Can we also include a vegan main option? 

 - Enoch Turner provides seating, but do you handle tables/linens/glassware etc.? What is the pricing for the additional rentals, and do you offer different packages for the rentals?  

 - What are the shapes of the tables? How many do they fit?

- Is there an additional fee for soft drinks/ice? If so, what is that fee? If coffee and tea included in that price? 

-How much of a deposit do you require and when is it due?

- Does your staff help set up the table decorations? 

- What is the ratio of servers to guests? 

- Do the staff and servers receive a flat gratuity? 

- What happens to the leftover food? Is it donated to a local shelter, or is it available for guests to take home? 

- Are there any additional fees that we can expect that I have not mentioned in this email? 

I didn’t bother asking about the serving staff’s uniform, because I really don’t care. If that’s your jam, ask away! 

Out of the four preferred caterers I reached out to, only three responded. The most expensive caterer quoted us at $23,000. Yes, you read that correctly. When I asked about a price difference between an all-vegetarian event and one that served meat, I was told there was no price difference. 

“Sooo… there’s no price difference between steak and tofu?” 

Apparently not! I guess I should tell Loblaws they are underpricing tofu big time.

The cheapest quote we received was $18,000. Still ouch-worthy. The food alone was already $3000 over our budget. 

One of the caterers did give me great advice, though. She recommended ordering a midnight snack for half your guest list. It’ll save on food waste and cost. 

This is what I sounded liked when I received our catering quotes. 

After receiving all three quotes, I called up Carly to talk about the pricing (read: complain in a very overdramatic fashion). She suggested I play hardball. Tell the caterers how much I want to spend and see what I can get for that price. 

I love Carly. She’s such a bizness lady. 

Unfortunately I have yet to put her advice to good use. A part of me wants to use a venue that doesn’t have a preferred caterer. Plus, landmark fees. Most historic Toronto venues have them. It's to pay for the "wear and tear" of the building, and is usually a percentage of your total catering costs. That percentage can be 15 per cent, which is a lot of per cent when you're dealing with thousands of dollars. 

Plus, I want there to be plenty of food at our wedding. I love to eat, and the thought that someone might be hungry at my wedding makes my palms tingle with anxiety. FOOD! MORE OF IT! 

So! What am I doing instead of emailing the caterers? Ordering Thai takeout. A girl needs a break sometimes.