Every bride has her 'must have' list for a wedding. For some, it's the dress (the $10,000 1 time use dress). For others, they just can't stand not having peonies in December. My must have is the food; specifically local, October in season,unique foodie food.

So where do you even start with finding a caterer when food is your priority? Many venues have an approved list of vendors, but names on a sheet were not a good enough screening process for me, and you should be wary too!  First, I talked to the venue owners who can help give you the inside look on who shows up late, who works with special requests, and what their specialties are. Once you've narrowed down the list, use Google as your guide where The Knot posts reviews on vendors in your area or food reviews can guide you on Yelp!. Next, turn to Twitter. Like I mentioned, in season and local was important to me, so I asked a Farm to Fork association who they would suggest...and their suggestion is now my caterer!

Once you've made contact it's time for a meeting. Ask if your vendor has a catering manager. Here are a list of things to think about to before your first meeting:

  • What is your wedding style? It may be helpful to bring pictures of your dress, location, and decor to help the vendor get a feel for the event. Pinterest is my go-to place for inspiration collection.
  • How many guests? This is a major factor in what your quote will be.
  • What type of service? Are you doing a buffet? Sit down service with multiple courses? You ARE allowed to think outside the box! I decided on a cocktail style service with specific 'interactive' food stations around the location. I didn't want people to feel tied down to a table, or feel interrupted by servers.
  • Does the caterer need to provide table cloths/dishes/servers?
  • What style of cooking do you want and can you give examples of some dishes?  If you are looking for Indian cuisine, hiring a sea food specialty company is a fail. You can't change the style of the chef. For me, I wanted clean flavors that respected the season. Some of the dishes I gave as examples were: Virginia ham with fall apples on crostini, herbed mushroom and barley salad in pastry, goat cheese on grilled fall squash. I knew I was with the right caterer when their menu actually HAD some of the items I wanted!
  • Who supplies the alcohol? At my location, the wedding party purchases the alcohol but the caterer must serve it, which is GREAT! Caterers/restaurants/ hotels mark up their EtOH like crazy, so purchasing your favorites in bulk at case rate will save you money. On this same note, think: do you want a full bar or specialized bride and groom signature cocktails? Signature cocktails are more personalized and can be a green option! Less bottles/extras transported of the random Bourbon that no one in your party drinks= less of a carbon footprint.
  • Is there a cake cutting fee?
For DC/NoVA brides: Here are the vendors I love for their eco-conscious local sensibility.
Local specialty catering: Vintage 50 
Connecting Farms to Restaurants:  Farm to Fork Loudoun