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HOW TO: Plan a Wedding Reception Menu with your Clients

Creating a great wedding reception menu doesn’t necessarily require a big budget, but it does require some planning (not to mention common sense).

And by no means am I suggesting that you need to be a caterer yourself. On the contrary, your role as a professional wedding planner is to prepare your clients for meeting with individual wedding experts; in this case the caterer or hotel food and beverage director.

Before that meeting takes place, have a quick pre-planning session with your clients. This wedding reception menu pre-planning session with your clients makes sense for two (2) reasons:

Reason #1. It will help you, the wedding planner, narrow down the list of potential wedding caterers that you should begin contacting for the wedding.

Reason #2. It prepares your clients for the face-to-face initial meeting with the wedding caterer.

The following workflow will help you do just that.

1. Review the wedding budget together and determine how much of it should be allocated for the food .Overall the wedding reception takes up the largest portion of funds–up to 50%. (See ‘Creating a Wedding Budget for help).

2. Have clients create a ‘wish list’ of foods they love and foods they dislike(hate is such a strong word). To get the ball rolling try asking questions like:

* What are some of your favorite restaurants?
* What are some of your favorite dishes?
* Are there any ethnic dishes you would like to include?
* Are your guests primarily a meat-and-potatoes crowd or will they appreciate a gourmet menu?
* Will you need a kid’s men

3. Help your clients to come up with a basic concept for their menu. Ask them what sort of party they have in mind for their wedding reception. Casual or elegant? Sit-down dinner? Does the reception venue suggest a theme that can be incorporated in the menu? For example, for a home wedding perhaps a country-style menu would be perfect.

4. Suggest other options beside the typical reception dinner. There are several other options for serving reception food to wedding guests (brunch, for example.) Open their eyes to the different styles they might like to incorporate (that’s why they hired you, remember?)

5. Determine if there are any dietary restrictions–whether religious, vegetarian or nondairy. You also need to determine whether specific dietary requests are for a select number of guests or if the restrictions will be imposed on the entire guest list.

6. Educate your clients about caterer costs. As a wedding planner, several of my clients have no idea about the costs associated with hiring a professional caterer. The truth of the matter is that catering involves way more than just the cost of food. Staffing, linens, flatware, glassware, beverages, gratuity, service charges and taxes are costs that are included in a caterers fee and it’s your job to let your clients know this.

These steps should provide both you and your clients with a good idea of what the wedding reception menu will look like. Next, it’s time to share this plan by meeting with the wedding caterer.


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