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In need of a wedding caterer.

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Hi all. I'm getting married in May 2008 up in Palos Verdes. Our venue "recommends" caterers from their preferred list. The least expensive caterer we've been able to find, for food, labor, wedding cake, and non-alcoholic beverages for 250 people, is around $17,000 (not including tips but includes taxes and service charges). We can bring in a non-preferred caterer but it'll cost an extra $500. Am I fooling myself in thinking there's full service catering available for less than $15,000? I'm looking for any catering recommendations that can feed and serve at least 250 for $15,000 or less (including equipment costs; the venue's kitchen doesn't have stoves or ovens). Thanks in advance Chowhounds!

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  1. I am getting married in January, and that price looks low to me. I did not research caterers extensively, but I do know that it was nearly impossible to find a venue that provided its own decent food (sit down dinner, non-Chinese food) for under $15000 for 100 guests.

    At $17,000, you're looking at $68 a head. Think about it. A dinner is going to cost at least $40 (salad, entree, dessert), and then each person needs to have a few plates, bowls, cups, glasses, silverware, napkins (let's say $10, though that's low), chairs ($6), and each person needs drinks ($10 if you are doing no alcohol, though I've seen caters charge as much as $15 for unlimited non-alcoholic beverages).

    So you're already at $60 a head for food and rentals per person. Then you need to rent the general stuff like tables, tablecloths, a stove to cook on, pay the catering staff, and have them haul their entire kitchen out and possibly bring a tent to cook under. It's easy to see that going over $8/pp when divided out.

    Based on the few caterers I called, you can decrease your overall cost by:

    -changing the style of meal. Lunch, buffet, or cocktail receptions cost less than a sit down dinner. Cocktail receptions also require fewer big tables and chairs.
    -cutting the number of staff needed. Hourly wages or staff are a huge cost. If you do something that requires fewer servers (buffet instead of sit down) your cost will decrease. Of course, a buffet require more table and linen rentals, but that should be cheaper than waitstaff.
    -providing your own rentals. Can your venue provide tables and chairs? You have so many guests it's probably not feasible to try this, but smaller parties could possibly borrow linens, serving trays, etc.
    -providing your own drinks. Not all caterers will allow this, but some will serve drinks for a few dollars a person if you provide everything (ice, soda, juice)
    -cutting the per dollar cost of your entree selection. If you can go $10 less a plate per entree, you will save $2500.
    -cut elsewhere. Sadly, $17,000 is not a lot in LA for a 250 guest wedding, especially if you are a Chowhound and care about your guests being well fed. The only place where that's commonly done is a Chinese banquet style wedding. You are talking about trying to get it under $15,000. Can that $2,000 come out of elsewhere? I am saving myself over a thousand dollars by doing my own centerpieces, and over $400 by doing my own invitations. Of course I don't know about your wedding details, but those are possibilities.

    Congrats and best of luck!

    A few places I tried:

    Elements
    Kitchen For Exploring Foods

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pei

      I completely agree with you Pei....$17k is definitely on the low side. I heard truly yours catering is pretty good too. you may wanna try royalcatering.com or bahadorcatering.com as well.

    2. Give Auntie Em's a call. They do greaqt food, and really work within your budget.

      1. Check with Angeli. Go to their web site for some catering info:

        www.angelicaffe.com

        1. Thanks for all the recs. Luckily we don't have to worry about tables, chairs & linens. All we're looking for is food & service for at least 250 (could grow to 270). Hmmm, sounds like we're asking a lot. My fiance suggested bringing in someone to make a huge pan of paella. The only thing I remember from my trip to Spain when I was 8 yrs old was attending a paella cookout. It was the yummiest! It looked like they were trying to break a world record for cooking the largest pan of paella. Anyone or caterers in LA do something like that?

          4 Replies
          1. re: wonger

            Try Berookhim Royal Catering they are a persian caterer who does all different kinds of foods. I had them at my wedding and I have used them for other occasions. There prices are great. They can do buffet or sit down they also do appetizier stations ie sushi, meat carving etc. Speak to Nahal she is the one to deal with there. http://www.royalcatering.com/

            Really do your self a favor and call these people I think you will be surprised at the quality and cost.

            1. re: wonger

              If you don't need a lot of rentals and you are open to doing something like paella where everyone's sharing one big entree, your budget is more than reasonable! You'll have some challenges finding a caterer who does things out of the ordinary, but that's what Chowhound is for!

              Persian, Indian, Chinese, and Mexican immediately come to mind as fun for large groups and not too expensive. Or maybe even Japanese. I don't know the pricing, but a few large sushi boats and a chef behind a table making specialty handrolls would be super fun and visually striking.

              1. re: Pei

                We got married in Torrance last year and used Lisa's bon Appetit to do all the appetizers, salads, fruit, bar, etc. and then had a "taco truck" come in and bbq carne asasda, chicken and carnitas for tacos. Both were incredibly reasonable and the food from both was excellent.

              2. re: wonger

                There's a woman who used to be at the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday. Her food was very good, and she's a terrific character. She did catering events. She's not at the Market anymore, but she may still cater. I'm pretty sure it was "Mama's Spanish Sauces" or something like that. If you can't find her, I'm sure the Hollywood Farmers Market website could probably give you the name.

              3. What about changing venues - To a place that doesn't have such restrictions? Then you can bring in anyone you want. I hired a restaurant for my main courses and buying my own hor d' ouevres (Trader Jore's and Whole Foods) pre-ceremony. Then to replate and receive all items, I hired a personal chef. Two advantages I have tho: A friends backyard for ceremony and reception, then my guest list is less than 90. Another option to consider...choose a late afternoon wedding and serve high tea instead of a full dinner...I went w/a late afternoon wedding, the restaurant will deliver. I also chose a non-tradional "wedding cake" - which I found outrageous anyway @ 6.50 to 8.00$ a slice?..especially when you know that most people don't even like wedding cake! We have a small strawberry charlotte for me and a small grooms cake for him (Chocolate cake w/chocolate dipped strawberries) and accompanying w/other individual small varied pastries and chocolates. I even hired a private coffee cart to serve up expresso, latte and hot chocolate! By getting creative and thinking outside the box, you'll be able to not only make the event unique but, more within your price range!!! BTW, I am getting married 11 Nov 2007 and I'm just now working on the flowers and arrangements. Take your time to make decisions. Don't let anyone pull your strings because, yes, they just want your money! :)KQ

                1 Reply
                1. re: Kitchen Queen

                  congrats on your upcoming nuptials. it's an exciting time, isn't it? i just got married a month ago at a venue where i was locked down to one caterer vendor. i didn't realize at the time i secured the location. in hind sight i wished i had asked about the caterer because i was not very happy with my caterer (patina) in the end.

                  anyway, enough about me. per kitchen queens suggestion can you change venues? if it's too late then i go with pei's suggestion of changing the theme perhaps to cocktail reception? the cost that's taking up a lot of space is service and bringing in the kitchen. if you choose your items carefully like pretty finger foods and tea sandwiches and other foods that needs less preparation your cost will go down and perhaps you may need only prep chefs and no kitchen. if you go this route do not pick any deep fried items as the require a deep fryer or an oven etc.

                  my cost was around $6000 including drinks for 45 people. i know it's sounds like a lot but that's average if not good. my dinner was basic. hors d'ovres, salad, dinner, drinks. also i got a cake from portos which cut the cost in half. i got a cake that serves 80 for around $350.00. most places i went to were like 400-600 for a cake that served 80 ($7 a slice).i hear kings hawaiian does nice cakes and not too steep.

                  one last thing is when you meet with the caterer be up front about your budget. talk about it first before having them do an estimate. these caterers want to provide great food but they also want to make money and if you don't put limitations on them they'll come back with something sounding great but it'll cost you.

                2. We used Paella Valenciana as we refused to go with the boring banquet options that always seem to be bad. Our wedding was in San Clemente, and we checked out their service at a Gala event in Pasadena so I'm sure they would come up to PV.

                  People raved about it after our wedding and its a real crowd pleaser as they set up their operaton in full sight of the reception with huge platter (see photo on website). Juan is a pleasure to work with and is from Valencia Spain so the paella is the best you will have ever had (we sampled two other Paella caterers).

                  He also does traditional spanish appetizers like Tortilla, melon & procsiutto, etc. as well as sangria, bread, salad, and deserts. And even better, it works out to be cheaper than traditional banquet dinner.

                  http://www.paellavalenciana.com/

                  1. I would look into doing a non-traditional meal or providing fewer choices as options. We did a cocktail reception in 2003, we had table hors d'oeuvres, passed hors d'oeuvres and a couple of stations and there was more than enough food to serve as "dinner" and the cost was significantly more reasonable. We also skipped providing a full bar of either alcoholic or nonalcoholic drinks -- we had a lemonade bar for the nondrinkers and champagne for the drinkers.