General Tips

Using a hotel’s catering

  • If going with a hotel as your venue it is likely that you will be required to have your food and beverage provided solely by the hotel, since you will not be allowed to bring in your own food and drink. There are however, exceptions to this rule
  • Hotels charge both 15% VAT and a service charge, usually of 10%
  • Near the date of your wedding, usually (1 to 7 days before), the hotel will ask you for the final number of guests. The hotel will refer to this number as your “guarantee”, for e.g. if you tell the hotel that 100 guests will need to be catered for and only 80 show up, you will still be billed for catering for 100 guests.
  • The guarantee figure is usually included in the contract terms.
  • A good idea is to sample some of the caterers’ dishes before you book and ensure that it is well-presented.

Outsourcing your catering

Before hiring a caterer, be sure to ask about:

  • The caterer’s experience (type of events, number of weddings catered for etc.)
  • The cost – does it include labour, utensils, cutlery, glassware, warmers, table linens and wait staff?
  • Breakage fees (for broken glassware, utensils etc.)
  • The servers’ attire – you want to ensure that this fits in with the level of formality you want for your wedding
  • Any deposits to be paid
  • Whether the caterer has worked at your reception venue before
  • The caterer’s ability to produce special meals for guests with dietary restrictions
  • The number of servers required
  • Menus or whether the caterer is willing to work with you to customize your own menu.

A good idea is to sample some of the caterers’ dishes before you book and ensure that it is well-presented.

Type of Food

  • This is largely a matter of taste and tradition. In Trinidad, it is common to see a combination of foods from different origins at weddings. Some hotels have fixed menus but in some instances you can modify them.
  • When deciding on the menu, be sure to cater for guests who are vegetarians. If you decide to serve meats, remember than generally, chicken, beef and lamb are less expensive than seafood.
  • Try to choose fruits and vegetables which are in-season, rather than out of season, since in-season produce will be cheaper, fresher and easily available.

Hors D’oeuvres

  • If you have had a long ceremony which will be followed by a reception programme, it may be a good idea to give guests something to munch on before dinner is served.
  • You can do simple small bowls of nuts, channa, party mix or get more elaborate with one or two savoury pastries or other finger food. Remember, not to overdo the types of hors d’oeuvres since you want your guests to have room for their dinner!
  • Remember that guests eat an average of five pieces of finger food per hour.
  • Also remember that guests will need drinks to accompany the hors d’oeuvres, so ensure that you budget for this.
  • If you have a large budget, you may even choose to have small food stations dispersed around your reception hall. This way, guests can sample foods and entertain themselves while they mingle. Guests can also interact by even cooking their own foods, e.g. fondue, grilling kebabs or adding toppings

Bar

  • In Trinidad, most bars at weddings are “open bars” where drinks are paid for by the wedding hosts.
  • Depending on your reception venue, you may have to use the venue’s bar or outsource a bar service.
  • A “corkage fee” applies at some hotels. With this arrangement, you can bring in alcoholic beverages (usually wine, champagne) and you are only charged a flat rate per bottle for the wait staff’s service, ice and mixers. Check with the hotel to find out whether you will be allowed to remove opened bottles of alcohol from the premises, at the end of the wedding.

Celebration Savers!

  • If you decide to go the corkage route for your bar, ask traveling relatives and friends well in advance of the wedding, to buy you duty-free alcohol. Another alternative is to buy cases of alcohol in bulk, directly from a manufacturer or importer.
  • Ask the hotel or bar service company, to serve the house brand of wine, which is usually cheaper than premium brands.
  • Offer guests a non-alcoholic welcome drink when they enter the reception and close the bar off until the reception programme ends.

Smart Tip!

  • When budgeting, remember that food and beverage generally takes up almost half of your wedding budget.