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Rhode Island

Caterer/Budget Question

FI and I are trying to make a final decision on our venue, and we're struggling between choosing an all-inclusive option or renting a venue where we would hire a caterer. 

We have a small budget, and I've looked into quite a few caterers, but the most inexpensive one I've come across was about $40/pp. Does that sound about right for the area, or am I just not looking hard enough? I start to question if I'm missing something when I see ladies on the budget board paying $10/pp... but it seems that things can vary substantially depending on the area.

Re: Caterer/Budget Question

  • KBinRIKBinRI member
    100 Comments
    edited December 2011
    Oh, yeah, you can't take what you see on national boards to heart. I remember one lady from East Oshkosh Who Knows Where complaining because the caterer in town wanted $5.99 per person so she was doing her own pasta supper in her church basement for like $2 a person. I almost choked. I think our cocktail hour food cost more per person than her caterer wanted for a multiple-course dinner!

    I'm not sure where you've looked, but many of the all-inclusives have minimums to meet, so sometimes it doesn't really matter how cheap it is per person; they're going to get X dollars out of you regardless, you know? So when I've planned banquets in the past, we've had to add upgrades, extra courses, etc. to meet our minimums. Didn't save us any money.

    As for weddings, we had a caterer so I can only speak to that experience, but depending on how many people, $40/person sounds decent for the low end. As you know it can seemingly go to infinity! Our caterer charged less per person the more people we had, so it was like $37.99/person for our small crowd but got cheaper with the more you had. Does that price you found include cocktail hour food? 

    Also, our caterer (and I know of at least one other) has drop-off service where they come and set it up and leave instead of staying on the premises and serving, refilling, etc. This setup might be too casual for you but would work well if you were hiring a day-of coordinator to keep an eye on things. It also cost about half of what their on-site catering service cost. 

    We did not want an all-inclusive place because I did not want a hotel, country club, banquet-type place at all. I loved being able to plan and personalize every little detail and I definitely wanted a more rustic or offbeat venue, so that really drove our need for a caterer. If I had to do it all again, I'd do the exact same thing. And we were on a super tight budget, too. Not sure if this helps! Good luck with your decision.
    Kristen and Bryan ~ 10-10-10 Image and video hosting by TinyPic
  • edited December 2011
    Thank you for the reply, it was very helpful. I can't even imagine anyone complaining over spending $5.99/pp for a catered dinner... crazy! But I appreciate the perspective. I noticed that it seems to be those in the more rural areas who are able to secure super inexpensive catering. Perhaps the businesses in those areas aren't too busy so they need to keep prices much lower to interest people. 

    The price I found from the caterer I mentioned did not include cocktail hour food... that would have to be seperate. Like yours, the price also decreased based on our number of guests, so it would be around 38.99/pp for us. The venue that FI and I favor the most, thus far, has a designated caterer that we would be required to use. The most difficult part about that is that we're restricted in regards to how much we're able bring in/supply, ourselves. They are willing to work with our budget to keep food costs down so that we could feasibly spend under $35/pp (excluding drinks aside from coffee/tea), but we do have to pay an additional service fee of about $800. Then, there's a cake cutting fee and extra costs for renting linens and chinaware, so it definitely adds up. We're only looking to invite 50-65 people, though, so it's been tough for us to decide which way to go. 

    As far as the other all-inclusive places, the minimums have definitely been the problem, as you mentioned. I have no need to spend $7-10k on food alone when we have such a small guest list, but that's what we've been quoted by most places. Some venues have been more willing to work with us, but it seems so far that we're probably going to be facing a similar cost range no matter which option we end up choosing.
  • edited December 2011
    When we were struggling with budget issues we looked at craigslist to see if there are less expensive caterers/people just starting out.  There was a caterer from CT on there that had prices starting at $12/pp!!!!

    Of course FI had to call her when he saw that price, and she was quite nice and professional.  We didn't go that route, but it was nice to know that it is possible to feed people for those prices in New England!
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