Catering Conundrum

by Love Love Letter

I mentioned that another thing we’re still working on, and admittedly technically ‘late’ on, if you adhere to any standard timeline, is catering.

It’s driving me crazy, and making me completely rethink our wedding actually. Not, of course, having it or not. No, a canape could not make me consider calling it off. Ha. But really, in New York, I don’t understand how you can have anything close to what they would call a ‘budget wedding’ (I know everyone has A budget), unless you shake the guest list out and take it down to 30 people. But we just can’t – we had 30 people at our closest-family-getting-to-know-you engagement party. Without a single friend, a single aunt, uncle or cousin on my dear A’s side.

So when we were first trying to decide on what to make the whole wedding look like, we had the option of a restaurant buyout which made sense to me. It already has decor, you can read tons of reviews or go spy on a date there to see if you like it. It is not complicated – they feed people there every day. Only thing is, on a Saturday evening in New York, any restaurant equipped to hold our guest list is accustomed to making bank – thus, a buyout is a whopping $25-$30k. It also lacked the charm and romance that my A wanted, which is not a bad point. I thought The Park looked pretty with large trees shooting up through the interior. I’d never been, he associated it with groups of bros going to get wasted and do a lot of blow in the bathroom. Immediately off the list!

A loft didn’t feel quite ‘us,’ and we confirmed that when we went to go look at one. Besides, we’re into being creative with this, but the idea of having to start with a *completely* blank slate seemed daunting – and like costs would quickly add up. That sent me on the lookout for a space that had some history and romance already intact. Once we had it down to two, one got knocked off the list because realistically, it was too small. It was beautiful, though, and it had food included. And the building itself was originally built as a home for one of my ancestors. Can’t get better than that. At that time, I was alllllll gung ho to choose really great food. I am passionate about food in a way that sometimes baffles my fiance. The amount I can eat without really gaining weight also seems to baffle him. Anyway, this gung ho-edness led me to believe that the venue without food included was better! Finding a caterer would be a fun adventure! Until I started getting quotes back. Or rather, until I started *trying* to get quotes and finding that many caterers wouldn’t even bother, let alone treat me with respect, as they explained how small my allotted food budget actually was. I will tell you what it is, because I wish I’d seen what some of this comes out to earlier on. I’d relied heavily on New York Mag’s caterer listing, which seemed so comprehensive. I don’t know where they get their ‘starting at’ quotes per head, but I’ve found them to be maddeningly off base. I started wanting to go no higher than $12k for 120. $100 per head. Not high, but I didn’t think it was so stingy. Got laughed at. Stretched it to $14k. $116 per head. Got advice, but no offer. Now it’s at $18k and still I’m imagining some guests going home grumbling about us.

After a lot of frustration, I finally have four caterers who have been friendly and professional and given me detailed proposals and menus.

– One is super well known and on the recommended list for my venue. Their proposal, once tax and service fees are added, will come out to 33% more than I was supposed to spend, and will give guests passed hors d’oeuvres and stations for two hours, plus open bar and then three little hors d’oeuvres style desserts. Can I stomach paying a whole third more than we intended and not even have a full meal for grandma to sit and enjoy? We’ll have seats, sure, and tables… but if we need to have seats for everyone, then do we have regular full tables?

– One caterer is outside of the city, a bit more beach bbq than formal fete, but I like the idea of mixing it up. And that approach to cooking, I think, makes it slightly more affordable. I’m still waiting for a proposal from him, but he was very nice and enthusiastic and said he’d have it to me today.

– One caterer is small scale, but the few reviews I can find for him are positive. I loved him over email, not as much on the phone. He sent a proposal that comes in under what we’ve now stretched the budget to be, but it is for eight passed hors d’oeuvres for two hours, and mixers. Eight. Eight. Once I add in the liquor, either from him or from us, it will be at our limit, and we will be serving eight hors d’oeuvres. He says it will be plenty, if we break them up so we do lighter first and then heavier the second hour, it will feel more like the flow of a meal. But still!

– And finally, my favorite of the bunch so far, a boutique prepared foods shop in Williamsburg that was so cool and friendly and persistent in getting us information and getting their questions answered so they could help us. They’re into what’s fresh at the farmers market, and they believe that they can give us hors d’oeuvres, and a three course meal and stay within our budget!! They made me smile, just talking to them. They also made sure to speak to our contact at our venue before sending us the proposal so that they fully understood what they needed to bring in and what the flow of the evening could look like. I love that kind of proactivity!

Wow, that was a lot of words, dudes, and no pictures. Apologies. But is this really and truly what people in NYC pay for weddings?! Should I try to find a school gym to rent out instead of our beautiful Park Ave townhouse to cut some costs?