Post # 1
Hello ladies. My caterer’s contract is waaaaay over budget and we haven’t signed yet. Can you help?? So, it’s New York City. June wedding. Saturday night. Loft. About 80 people for dinner and dancing. All the ingredients for a giant rip-off, right? Hiring the vendors a la carte it seems, but the caterer is sort of a one-stop shop, except for flowers, music and officiant. Which means — he takes care of all food, beverages/bar, tables-chairs-linens, dishes-glasses, services pieces, utensils, some candles and some decor and such. Loft already has loads of lighting on dimmers, as does outdoor terrace. But like everybody else — we are on a budget!
Which categories should I try to cut: there’s hors d’oeuvres for 1 hour after the ceremony; family-style dinner (served on large platters at the tables); dessert trio (with two dessert chefs he’s got to be kidding if he thinks I’m going to passon a cake)!; and he lists a separate tab for coffee service. That’s the menu. then there’s two bartenders, five waiters, an event captain (he functions as a DOC the day of) and a sanitation manager (!). Okay, ready? Here are the two numbers I’ll supply, about which you gals seem super savvy: for linens, tableware, barware, flatware, food displays, etc. — he has put $2,800. For wine, beer, select spirits, soft drinks, mixers, ice, all bar garnishes, he has $1,440.
What can I/should I do on my own (such as beverages, any decor-linens and such)? In replying to this last question, please keep in mind that I have virtually no help at all. Jus’ me and a very full-time job!
Post # 3
Just curious – did your caterer say you can bring in your own liquor, linens, etc? Often they make their profits on higher-margin elements, so it’s an all-or-nothing deal. This was my experience at least. Also, the bar amount seems very reasonable compared to all-inclusive estimates I got.
We personally went for an all inclusive package at a really nice venue and got prices down by using a place with good Sunday discounts.
Post # 4
Do you really need 3 desserts? Will guests be happy with just one? Limit your cocktail appetizers to 3-4 different selections max, either passed or on platters. If you have a DOC already, do you really need an event captain? Especially if they are doing the same job? Also, what is a sanitation manager for that can’t be taken care of by other staff?
Check with your local laws (every state is different on what they allow and what they don’t) but you may be able to pick up sodas, alcohol, ice, etc at Costco. But before you decide on that, check to see if they charge a fee to pour what you have brought in yourself. Some vendors actually do charge extra. Also, if there is any liquor you want to serve that Costco doesn’t carry, you may be able to find it at a local grocery or liquor store cheaper than through your caterer. You have to shop around and get price quotes before you decide.
Let him know exactly how much you are able to spend and ask what he can offer in that price range without going over budget. Any vendor worth their salt will have no issues complying with that request. Be firm about what you want, what you don’t and what you can afford vs what you can’t.
Post # 5
I’m also in NYC and I gotta say, that sounds like a pretty reasonable estimate to me.
We were able to reduce our catering bottom line by providing our own alcohol and reducing the number of passed hors d’oeuvres available during the cocktail hour.
The sanitation manager, btw, is no joke. Cleaning up after 80 people in an complying with the NYC waste management codes is tricky, and leaving the loft in less than spotless condition is likely to result in your being charged far more than he’s being paid.
Post # 6
I have to say, that sounds pretty reasonable to me. Leaving out your site fee (not sure what that is), that only comes out to ~$50/person. My wedding is in upstate NY and we’re at ~$85 person for venue, food, drinks, etc. and that doesn’t include cake!
Post # 7
Well, I would recommend figuring out what is most important to you. I told my florist I absolutely had to have our boquets, centerpieces, corsages for the mothers and alter arrangements, but linens, chair rentals, lighting upgrade, pew ends etc. were not necessary and to make them ‘extras’.
Unfortunately once vendors hear it’s for a wedding, especially in June on a Saturday! Suddenly everything is twice as expensive. My sisters limo driver even offered to give her half off the next time she hired him and she said “Oh, perfect my sister is getting married in June” And he was quick to take it back. “Oh well I didnt’ mean it for a wedding. Anything but a wedding I’ll give you 1/2 off”.
Post # 8
@moderndaisy, then people wonder why so many vendors are shady. Why can’t they abide by the first offer they give? Seriously though, using the limo as an example, there is nothing out the ordinary that they do different for a wedding than they do for a prom or taking someone to the airport. The same applies for any other vendor who jacks up their prices simply because it’s a wedding rather than a party.
Post # 9
You ladies are amazing. I’m reading intently and will be sure to print this thread tonight and read it before my a.m. phone call. Btw the caterer did say we could get the beverages, alcohol, beer, wine from costco or anyplace else we choose but that he would charge a pour fee of (can’t recall right now), maybe, $245 or $300ish. I’m sure he would also let us rent/bring our own linens. Just don’t know if that would save us, but your ideas so far are very helpful. I will try to cut down on the number of desserts and hors d’oeuvres, while also keeping in mind that some of you say this sounds pretty reasonable. Okay, so here goes for his total figure as it now stands (oh, btw, I have no DOC, so he’s it for the day): $14,327. Still think it’s reasonable? That’s without flowers, music, space rental, photographer, officiant, wedding attire, transportation, invites, omigod that list is endless…. originally, he and I were talking in the range of $8 (!) so I don’t know how this happened.
Post # 10
I’ll just chime in a say the beverage/alcohol fee sounds like a steal to me! That’s only $18 per person.
You can probably save the most money by limiting the hors d’oeuvres- those things are seriously expensive! You could ask him to do a display instead of passed hors d’oeuvres to reduce the number of waiterns needed. And maybe only having one dessert.
I’d be straight up with him and tell him that you started talking about a budget of $8000 and ask him how you can get closer to that number.
Post # 11
- Wedding: March 2010 - Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay
when i first started researching caterers in NYC, i was absolutely blown away by the high prices. i was getting estimates for 60 people that were around $10-12K. so i know your pain.
definitely see if you can bring your own alcohol, and whether they’ll allow you to hire someone just to serve it. some businesses are pretty strict about that though, because they do get such good profit margins from that. or maybe go for a limited bar?
i would just try asking them how they could cut down the cost. like–this is over budget for us, do you have any ways to cut the costs or any suggestions? cutting down the hors and desserts is a great idea, as well.
i’m not a big DIY kinda gal, so honestly the thought of getting my own linens and other stuff piecemeal wouldn’t work–plus those costs add up as well! (delivery, tax, your time, blood sweat and tears coordinating the moving parts, etc.) but if it would save a bundle, it’s definitely a good consideration!
Post # 12
I feel your pain. Before we settled on our venue (which did its own catering) I got a few quotes from caterers. They were quoting more than our entire budget just for food! I have to admit I kind of freaked out.
My brother in law is a caterer and he would be happy to work with you to keep things within your budget. I think if you ask your caterer what he might do to pare things down to $8,000, he will give you a new quote. Be prepared to have it be different from what you are looking at now. Buffet cuts down on the number of waiters needed, so if you are not set on family style, that might be another option. And if he is unable to meet your budget, he should just say so up front.