Catering sounds simple enough, right? Order your favourite dishes, put down the money and then tuck in when the big day arrives.
Ask anyone who has already planned a wedding (or any large-scale function for that matter), there is so much more to it. We asked Matt Moran, at Sydney’s famed Aria Catering – who, among their many talents, have the exclusive contract for wining and dining guests at the Sydney Opera House – about what really goes into catering for a wedding and how couples can best work with their suppliers:
Catering will generally be one of your biggest costs – if not the biggest – so it really does pay to do your homework and plenty of planning. We have already published stories about how things can go wrong ('Dealing With Caterers' and 'The Sweet & Sour Of Choosing A Caterer'), so do your research to make sure you get a good caterer that is qualified, solvent, reliable and professional, as you would with any other supplier or contractor.
“You want to make sure you’re working with a caterer that is flexible, someone that can tailor packages to suit your needs, guests, budget, wedding location and tastes,” the guys said.
“We have a schedule/guideline that we provide when we first meet with the bride and groom, which we can tailor to suit their needs. However it’s good for them to know up front when we will need to confirm menus, numbers, conduct tastings etc.”
According to Peter and Matt, couples don’t need to have their venue already booked before seeking out a caterer.
“A lot of our bride and grooms come to us when they have just been engaged and haven’t booked or thought of anything. We can help them with everything from venue sourcing, styling, catering, entertainment... the list goes on,” they said.
A good caterer will ask you just as many questions as you ask of them.
“It’s really important to get an understanding of the couple, their tastes/ style/ interests so we ask things like what their favourite restaurants are, what style of food they like to eat, where they like to holiday, what their family background is etc.”
Matt and Peter suggest that couples come prepared to a meeting with a caterer with a list of questions, which may include:
· Can you tailor menus to suit our tastes/ backgrounds/ beliefs?
· Do you cater for children and dietary requirements?
· Can we opt for stand up style catering opposed to all sit down style catering?
They also suggest bringing as much of an idea about what you want and basic information as possible, to help them determine price, logistics, design, timing and so forth.
SCHEDULING LIKE CLOCKWORK
Be sure to know what is due when so that all of the moving parts can work in conjunction with one another.
“We ask that the menu is confirmed two to three weeks out from the date of the wedding but sometime people like to get this done as soon as possible, especially if they are having special printed menus or signage made up for the day,” said Matt.
“If it’s being held in one of our venues, we would also need to know all the details on the styling so we can ensure a smooth bump in. We would also go through running times with the bride and groom to make sure everything flows well, we would need a point of contact on the night (which is usually the MC or best man) so we can liaise with them on service times for food etc.”
It’s simply not possible to provide an idea of costs for your catering, as this will vary enormously on factors such as the number of guests, the dishes you choose, sit down meals or cocktail food, whether drinks are included or sourced separately and the amount of cooking and serving equipment the caterer will be required to supply.
What is more standard, though, is how payments are made to a caterer.
“We require 25% on confirmation, 25% six months before event date, 50% three months prior and then any outstanding monies paid seven days post event,” Matt explained.
Stuck for ideas as to what to serve? We asked Matt about what is popular with couples at the moment:
“For entrée, couples will often opt for seafood and vegetarian item, then for mains it’s usually fish and a red meat, desserts is always a chocolate and then a fruit/lighter option. Or a lot of people are opting for dessert buffets or dessert canapés over plated desserts.
“We allow the couples to choose their own menus and then if they don’t have a good mix balance, we will help guide them so they do. Often couples will choose what they like and forget that they are feeding 80-100-200 of their nearest and dearest!
“We can offer anything from sushi bars, risotto stations, charcuterie stations, cheese stations, paella bars, and the list goes on! And yes couple can design their own and add their own touches.”
TIPS FROM THE CHEF
· Draw inspiration for your food, not just your decor: “Every day, I gather inspiration from my travels, colleagues, mentors, role models and past experiences. Chefs tend to live and breathe hospitality, as it is such a major part of our lives.”
· Ensure your food is fresh: “Suppliers play a big part in selecting the best seasonal produce, whether it’s something I may have never seen before or what is in full flourish in the markets.”
· Take time to taste test: “In the lead up to a wedding, we usually meet with the bride and groom to have a menu tasting.” While it’s not realistic to expect to taste all the food, sampling signature dishes will help guide you through the process to choosing the best options for you tastes, theme and budget!
· Don’t forget about your guests! “We ask the couple if their guests have dietary requirements, children attending and so on in order to best design a menu for them.”
Compiled by Adam Stewart
About ARIA CATERING
Launched in November 2010 by Matt Moran, Aria Catering provides a unique option for couples looking to cater for a 5-star event. We've had the pleasure of sampling their food at a number of events (including the recent private viewing of the Residence at Centennial Park and can say from experience that their work is is creative in style and absolutely delicious! The group are innovative in their design and push boundaries with taste and presentation. They are currently the exclusive caterers for Sydney Opera House and have catered some in some incredible venues such as the Bulgari Store, NIDA and the Country Trader.
A huge thanks to Aria Catering for all the wonderful wise words for our engaged couples out there. If you'd like to learn more about them or book their services, please visit their website or give us a shout.