the sweet & sour of choosing a caterer

Yes, yes, the food is important for your wedding day (well, at least for your guests – you’ll find that you barely have time to eat anything at all!). Choosing a good caterer is, however, more than just about what they put in your tummy but also what they take out of your wallet.

I discovered this one the hard way just weeks before our Sydney ceremony. Living overseas at the time, we admittedly didn’t do the meet and greet in person or any taste testing, but we did loads of research online to find a catering company that had both a good reputation but was also flexible enough to meet our desires for the menu (we were planning a decidedly bespoke ceremony and weren’t impressed with most caterers and their set, inflexible menu options offered at the time).

We decided on one caterer and, having booked the date with them following a lengthy to and fro over the menu, paid a $500 deposit just under 12 months out from the big day.

It wasn’t until around two months before when we tried contacting them to organise logistics that we thought something was amiss. Emails were ignored and the phone would never be answered. We tried persistently day and night to make contact, to no avail. It was only when we tried to log onto the website and were greeted with a message that the website had been taken down due to an overdue account that we knew for sure what had happened – our caterer had gone out of business.

Frantic calls to Fair Trading proved to be of little help: we were told simply to fill out a complaint form but be prepared to kiss our deposit goodbye.

We were one of the lucky ones though. Thankfully we still had a few weeks left to find a new caterer who was available that day and wasn’t going to charge dearly for the late notice. We were also lucky that we found out just before we were due to pay the remaining balance – a week or two later and we would have been thousands of dollars down the tube!

Soon after we made the discovery, the bankruptcy of this relatively large catering company hit the media, with stories of financial ruin and heartache. I even remember one bride say the caterer was booked at her reception venue but did a no-show without even a phone call or email to advise of the situation – the newlyweds and their wedding party turned up to an empty venue, and were eventually forced to order pizza to feed their hungry guests.

While I (hopefully) won’t ever be getting married again, I can definitely draw on my first-hand experience and say that you should ALWAYS do your homework on caterers and other suppliers which require pre-payment or a deposit up-front. It is a hugely stressful experience should things go belly up, and the significant amount of time it will take you to do this research is simply an investment in ensuring your money, and your wedding day, are safe.

Go out and meet suppliers, get recommendations from people you trust, sample, research the business through your state or territory’s Fair Trading office, read the fine print on any written agreements and only go with a supplier you feel you can rely on. And if you can’t do it yourself, get someone else to do it for you. That’s what your bridal party is there for, and your parents and future in-laws will also be thrilled to get involved!


(Image source: Sea Of Girasoles Pinterest)

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