By Chelle Cordero

April 25, 2012 4 min read

Most marriages begin with a party. Planning your special day and making sure everything goes right can be nerve-racking, argument-inducing and the beginnings of major gastric distress. This is the time when couples often talk about postponing the big day indefinitely or eloping and skipping all of the fuss.

It doesn't have to be that way. There are questions to ask and decisions to be made that will help make your wedding event a wonderful lifetime memory.

Before you begin looking for a caterer, know the size of the reception you are planning, where you want the affair to take place, what type of food you want served and whether you have any dietary restrictions to consider. Though you don't need your finalized guest list, think about any special considerations for some of the "must-have" guests, such as parents, grandparents and siblings.

Danielle and David are planning to return to the bride's hometown area for their wedding this summer. Their "biggest focus was to find a kosher caterer that included a large cocktail hour and open bar." Luckily for them, the reception site also provides the catering and amenities they want. Danielle never has been to an affair at the venue they chose, but her parents and even David have been, and they liked it. Her recommendation to couples looking for a caterer is to read reviews and find out the reputation and performance of the venue before making a decision.

Ask to see sample menus, and find out whether the caterer can provide the type of food you desire, even if it is just for a few of your guests. Arrange for a food tasting if you never have eaten there before. What kind of alcohol is available, and what is the cost per guest? Are they willing to provide a "cash bar," which you can settle during the reception if you only have a few guests who might be drinking? And don't be shy; ask whether the caterer has a valid liquor license.

You might find that your preferred food choices limit you. Shruthi and Michael needed an Indian and American menu, but "the venue caterer couldn't make Indian food. There are only three main caterers in the area that do Indian and American food. One of them is extremely well-known, and many venues recommended them, so we talked to them." They asked a lot of questions, checked out references and tasted samples of the caterer's fare. "We felt very comfortable with the caterer rep we spoke to, and that was very important to us. We made sure that he understood what we were looking for and that they could accommodate for both kinds of food."

Getting references from wedding professionals you already are dealing with can point you in the right direction, especially when you need to bring in an outside caterer. Make sure that your venue and caterer can work together. Ask whether you can speak to previous clients. Make sure that everything the caterer and venue operator agree to is in their respective contracts so that you can be sure nothing will be overlooked.

Lauren and Vicky are being married in a relative's home early this summer. They needed to find a caterer who was willing to come to their location and still meet the very diverse dietary needs of their guest list. "The biggest stumbling block is that we are having the wedding far from where we live," explained Lauren. "Thank goodness my mother lives near the venue. She could talk to people, taste the food for us, etc. Our company is taking care of everything. They are even going to help with lighting."

When you are hiring a caterer to come in to a normally non-wedding site, find out what the caterer includes. Does the caterer provide tables, china, glassware and linens? Will the food require reheating? Who provides the cake? How many waiters will there be to serve guests? And ask whether the caterer will clean up at the end of the event.

This is your day to shine; make it the one you want.

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