First we eat, then we do everything else
Whether your wedding party is big or small, the chances are that you’re going to need some catering at some point. So, we’ve asked Jane from Prickly Pear Catering all of the questions that you’d need answering!
Some wedding venues provide their own catering services, however if you’re looking for something more specific, such as a vegan or gluten free menu, then it’s likely you’ll be on the lookout for a wedding caterer.
1) How far in advance are you normally booked up?
Jane: Between 6 and 18 months.
Similar to previous interviews that I’ve conducted, being booked up 6-18 months prior seems pretty standard for the wedding industry. This would, however, mean that early on you’ll need a vague idea of how many people you will be catering for and the type of food that you might like.
As a massive foodie myself, I would definitely make an effort to think about what food would complement the wedding perfectly. Things to consider might be, the season that you are celebrating in, dietary requirements and how many courses you plan on serving.
2) How do you deal with different dietary needs?
Jane: We cater for everyone with dietary needs and make sure they get as much choice as everyone else, regardless of the menu chosen. This might mean making some guests their own plate of canapes or a completely separate meal. Some of our menus lend themselves perfectly to groups with different dietary requirements, such as our Persian Feast which has plenty of vegetarian, vegan, dairy free and gluten free choices as part of the feast.
In this day and age, it seems that people are more aware of different food preferences and intolerances. I know that many people now eat a gluten free diet or have realised that they have a lactose intolerance. On the other hand, with more widespread awareness for the environmental impact of the over-consumption of meat, many have turned to a vegetarian or vegan diet. While some may see different food preferences as a hassle, I think it shows care when the bride and groom have made an effort to ensure that everyone has suitable food options.
3) Should clients come to you with a direct idea of what food they would want, or do you generally suggest menus dependent on the size of the group?
Jane: This varies, some people know exactly what they want and some people have no idea! So, the way I work is to try and find a menu which best suits the couple rather than going down the package route – I am always happy to change my menus or incorporate client’s ideas, as long as it is doable!
Catering companies, like Prickly Pear, offer food tastings in which you can go and iron out any details for the wedding and make sure that you’re happy with the food being served and make any last minute changes.
Couples that have decided to go for a specific theme might have a stronger sense of the menu they desire. I love the idea of doing something really different. Maybe having an outdoors, festival themed wedding with food trucks. On the other hand, if you’re unsure and choose to take the caterer’s recommendations, they will be able to give you a good idea of what generally goes down well with guests.
4) How would the menu vary dependent on the size of the party? For example, would you do a larger or more complex menu for a smaller group to make it simpler to organise?
Jane: Not necessarily, again we try and give clients what they want irrespective of their numbers. I will make suggestions for ways of keeping the service smooth for big numbers and I may recommend different ways of service (e.g. sharing at the tables) to speed up service for big numbers.
Having a large group and trying to get everyone eating at about the same time sounds very stressful! However, having a meal served family-style might make it easier. Although this doesn’t scream fine-dining etiquette, I think it would be very suitable for a more laid-back wedding that still has the fine-dining taste!
Personally, if I were choosing to have a huge wedding party at the ceremony, meal and reception, I wouldn’t go for a three-course sit down meal. This sounds like it could be budget breaking and also quite a long process. I’d be more likely to do a sit-down meal if it were a smaller group.
5) Most people would require a caterer, but what makes the best kind of catering service?
Jane: It is important to make clients feel confident in you as a caterer. Being flexible right through the planning process and on the wedding day itself is key. Giving the clients what THEY want not what you want is what we are about. And of course, the food must look amazing, taste delicious and be plentiful, served by friendly, smiley staff.
What Jane says here about ultimately serving the client’s tastes seems to be a key point in catering but also in most wedding services. It would be so easy to try and make a wedding suit your own personal tastes and maintaining a completely objective opinion would be difficult. However, ensuring that the client is happy should definitely be of the highest priority for any service provider.
6) Do you normally do sit down meals for wedding parties, or do you offer other options, such as buffets or any unique styles?
Jane: We offer whatever the client wants which is doable – 3 most common options are sharing at the tables, sit down plated service, buffet style. During our initial phone call or meeting I explain to the client the advantages and disadvantages of each style. We have also introduced a street food menu as this is a current trend at weddings, especially as evening food.
These most popular options don’t surprise me and they’re probably the most popular because they are the easiest to serve up. I think a buffet style would work well for a large group, especially then as people can pick and choose exactly what they want on their plate. This could work particularly well if you have lots of different food preferences in your guest list.
7) How does the set-up work and do you serve the food as well as organising the preparation?
Jane: This depends on the venue. In marquees, most of the set-up is done on the day before the wedding, but some venues we can only access on the day of the wedding. Some venues help organise set up and some don’t, so we basically fill the gaps and do everything required to make sure every detail is covered. My job is often like a wedding planner as well as a caterer.
With all of the professionals that I’ve spoken to, they all seem to really care about the day running smoothly for their client. While hiring a multitude of different services may end up slightly more expensive, it sounds as though it would take a lot of the stress and pressure off of the couple.
8) Out of any wedding that you’ve attended as a guest or a caterer, what has been your favourite?
Jane: I love outdoor weddings, I love sunny weddings, I love smiley chilled couples, I love simplicity, I love stunning views, I love foodie clients, I love natural décor, I love good music, I really struggle to pick just one wedding as so many are so fab!
It’s true that there are so many different types of weddings and all of them are equally special in their own way. It’s probably a good thing that Jane can’t choose her favourite wedding as it means that when working in the wedding industry, she will never get bored!
9) To you, what makes a wedding unique and memorable?
Jane: I guess every wedding I do is unique as everyone wants something different! Good memories are about the bride and groom (enjoying themselves) and the people they invite (number 1 most important thing, you can have a good party in any circumstances if the people are up for it!!) good food (I can remember everything I had to eat at every wedding I have ever been to) good music and plenty of drink. A lovely venue helps! These are the things that make a fab party. Details enhance it, such as the décor, flowers, quirky bits and bobs……
Having a wedding party that is excitable and up for anything would truly make a wedding memorable! Of course, you can’t not invite someone if you think they’re boring, but it will help if you make sure everyone is riled up for the big day! Then again, as Jane mentioned, good drinks will likely bring up the atmosphere!
10) As part of the something old, something new wedding rhyme, have you heard the last line “and a silver sixpence in your shoes” and what do you think of it?
Jane: I guess this symbolises wishing the couple a prosperous life together? I think it is lovely that this tradition is being passed on through generations.
All in all, the thought of planning the catering doesn’t seem that frightening at all. As I’ve mentioned, if I were planning my own wedding, I’d love to make the food something memorable and unique. There are so many options and so many different caterers that specialise in different areas that I’m sure you won’t be stuck to find what you want.
Thank you Prickly Pear Catering!
Finally, I’d like to thank Jane for her help with this blog! It’s been a pleasure putting this together, and I hope that her expertise has been of help to you. Prickly Pear Catering is based in the Brecon Beacons National Park, where Jane and her team source local produce to serve the freshest menus that are stylish and fit with each couple’s day. Be sure to check out her Instagram page: @PricklyPearCatering and Facebook page: @PricklyPearCatering.
With love and wedding wishes,