Wedding Catering Costs - What Am I Paying For?

If you’ve started looking into catering companies for your wedding, you’ve probably already taken note of how much each option could cost. We know that you know how expensive weddings can be, and we also know how much of a shock it can be to add up those initial numbers for the food even though you thought you were prepared.

We want to help ease that shock by explaining what does (or doesn’t) factor into those numbers attached to each plate.

1. The Food

Fewer options for the main dish will usually add up to a lower cost, but if appealing to the picky eaters is a priority for you then the higher cost of providing choices could result in a better experience. More options also mean more work to gather everyone’s preference ahead of time if your catering company requires it.

There may be an option to add on a cocktail hour, wedding reception appetizers or dessert for an additional fee, which could end up saving you money over bringing those in from somewhere else.

2. Labor (Preparation, Service & Clean Up)

Each type of catering comes with a different amount of work, some of which you may be responsible for.

Here are some examples:


One bride and groom had a taco truck at their reception. In order to get the chips and salsa available in advance of the meal they had to send someone to pick up that food and dish it out for guests. Later, the taco truck arrived and served everyone their meals through the walk up window. After the meal, most guests took their plates to the trash and they had an attendant walk around and gather the rest. In this case, they paid a lower price but had to do some of the work themselves or get family to help out.


One couple chose a full service catering company. The cost of all preparation was already factored into the price per serving, so there was no need to rally up extra help for the meal. They had the choice of plated meals or a buffet. Each option had a different price based on how much labor was required to serve it, but every option included the cost of the after dinner cleanup. They chose one type of plated meal that appealed to pretty much everyone in attendance. The plates were set with silverware, napkins and water glasses ahead of time. Everything was served to their guests, water glasses refilled and dishes cleaned up.

Another couple decided to do most of the meal without a caterer to save the most money for their small reception. They bought ingredients for sides and cupcakes then gathered family to help make everything. The wedding cupcakes were made ahead of time, then frosted the morning of the wedding. Sides were prepped ahead of time and then slow cooked the morning of, or set out on ice just before dinner. A local BBQ catering company delivered the meat and sauces in disposable dishes that needed to be packed up after the meal. They ended up saving a lot of money, but it required a lot of work and planning to get everything ready and safely transported. They were prepared to be patient as they knew there would be some hiccups (like when ¼ of the cupcakes didn’t get frosted because time ran out).

3. Beverages

Some catering packages come with the price of basic beverages included. If you don’t already see it listed as included or at an additional cost, be sure to ask. It can be easy to forget about water and juice for the kids while you’re planning everything else.

Sometimes, there may even be bar packages you can add on to the catering bill. The perk of doing the meal and bar drinks together is that you likely won’t have to arrange for a separate staff for the bar.

4. Tableware

Most catered reception food will come with the plates and silverware. Napkins might also be included, which will factor into how you decorate your reception tables ahead of time. If disposable plates and utensils are something you do or don’t want, it’s best to specify that ahead of time in case one or the other isn’t provided. Typically, if reusable tableware is provided then washing will be as well and you won’t have to worry about the dirty dishes.

No matter what wedding catering price range you go with, the dollar amount should balance with the goods and services you’re receiving. Planning a wedding is already a lot of work, and the food is a good place to invest money to save yourself some stress.

At A Touch of Class we’ve been catering Cedar Rapids IA since 2008, and our predecessors since before then. We have on-site catering at our wedding venue, or we can bring the catering to your event. If one of your questions for us is “How much does it cost to cater a wedding?”, check out our catering prices at

We hope these questions help you as you plan for the once in a lifetime event! If you have any other questions or want to find out if A Touch of Class could be the right caterer for you and view our menu, check out

Dessert photography by Ivory & Bliss.

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