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The dos and don’ts of event catering

By Brooke Rester

Have a big event coming up? Food is a cornerstone of any big gathering, and one of the elements your guests will remember most. Here are some tips to help you get the menu just right:


1. Start early. The last thing you want to happen is to finally pick your caterer of choice only to learn that vendor is booked. Most catering companies are locked in months in advance.

2. Have a vision. It’s much easier to create the event of your dreams if you bring some ideas to the table for your initial meeting or tasting. Have a theme or cuisine in mind as well. This will make it much easier to plan your final menu.

3. Plan a tasting. Word-of-mouth from friends can go a long way, but until you’ve tasted the food for yourself you won’t have a full picture of what to expect. Most caterers will gladly meet with you for a small fee, which often can be applied to the balance when you book with them.

Have a vision for the food at your dream event, and bring those ideas to meetings and tastings with your caterer.

4. Keep in contact. Make sure your caterer has an accurate guest count in the days leading up to your event. Communicate with him or her about how the venue will be set up as far as kitchen space, food layout, etc. It’s always best to talk through your expectations rather than assume the caterer will simply know.

5. Plan a private moment to eat with your new love. A popular trend in wedding receptions has become setting up a separate room where the couple can enjoy a plate of hot food together before being presented to their guests. This allows the couple to actually enjoy the food that they so lovingly planned for and dreamed of for months without having to greet guests for hours before finally sitting down to a cold plate.



1. Skimp on quality. Make sure that the caterer you choose has experience and comes well-recommended by others.

2. Be afraid to choose items for your menu that represent you. If you’re hosting a wedding, this day is about the two of you, not everyone else. Of course, you will want to include some items that are crowd-pleasers, but it is most important that the menu reflect the happy couple.

If you’re getting married, make sure you have items on the menu that represent you as a couple.

3. Let price intimidate you. If you find a caterer you really love, but the price seems out of reach, don’t be afraid to ask that vendor to work within your budget. Chances are that caterer can make modifications and work with you to create your dream menu.

4. Forget to ask what is included in the package price. Does it include cutlery, servers, cleanup, etc? You don’t want guests purchasing plastic forks and napkins, or Aunt Fanny staying afterward to clean up.

5. Forget dessert! For weddings, lots of local bakeries offer dessert packages to compliment your cake. Think about sweet options that represent you two. Are you a cheesecake person? Is he a cookie lover? Does she go ga-ga for macarons? Consider going with a bakery that can offer a little something extra to go along with your wedding cake masterpiece.

When you’re planning your event menu, don’t forget the desserts!

Brooke Rester is the owner of Dolce Bakeshop, located in Long Beach. Reach her at (228) 265-8790 or

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