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When you’re checking the big things off your wedding planning list, you’ll mark off venue, photographer, gown, rentals – and of course, CATERING! If thinking about wedding catering doesn’t sound as exciting as some of the other wedding plans, we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Houston has so many incredible wedding caterers who can make the food you serve at your wedding something truly exciting to plan and even more exciting to eat!

The days of bland and boring are long gone. Today, the options for styles of fare are nearly endless, from food from around the world to elevated home cooking; sit-down dinners or stations. No matter your tastes, you can craft a menu that reflects YOU as a couple. Read on: we’ve got the 411 for everything you need to know about wedding catering.

cotton culinary wedding catering houston

Cotton Culinary // Photo by Harlow & May Studios

When should you book catering for your wedding?

First things first: you’ll want to make sure the venue you choose allows you to bring the caterer of your choice. Many do not! If not, you’ll be expected to use either the venue’s catering service or one of their preferred vendors. If you are allowed to hire the caterer of your choice, you’ll want to book this vendor as early on as possible. Along with the venue rental cost and photography/videography, catering is often one of the biggest (if not the biggest) budget line items – i.e., not one you want to save for last. Booking the caterer right after your venue (ideally 10-12 months before your date) helps ensure the two can work together seamlessly, gives your caterer time to develop menu options and place necessary orders and ensures your budget stays on track.

How does a wedding menu tasting work?

Your caterer will usually meet with you and your fiancé for a menu tasting at least a few months before the big day. Occasionally, more people are allowed at tastings but you’ll certainly want to double check. Here, you’ll get to try the proposed menu items and finalize a plan for exactly what you’ll serve at your wedding. Your caterer will be on hand to describe each menu item and ask for feedback. This is the time to narrow down dishes if you’re still making decisions, or if you’ve chosen dishes already, this is the time to make any adjustments necessary. If you’re not loving something, let them know politely. If you have an idea for an alternative, don’t be afraid to propose it. Before your tasting, your caterer should ask a series of questions to get to know both of your tastes as well as the vibe of your wedding and guest list so they can come up with ideas for your custom menu.

Pro tip: don’t forget to tip the server who brings you your food at the tasting!

What are the different catering service options for weddings?

The four main styles of catering service for wedding receptions include plated, buffet, staffed stations and family-style.

Plated: The most formal of catering styles, a plated meal is ideal if you’re serving multiple courses. Serving a plated meal is also a great option if you’re needing the dinner hour to not drag on, as a wait staff will serve all of your guests simultaneously rather than having guests stand in line or be released by tables for a buffet, which takes much longer.

Buffet: a buffet may be a more budget-friendly way to go, especially if you have a very large guest list. A buffet also allows guests a little more freedom over what goes on their plate, whereas with a plated meal, their plates are prepared for them (remember, you can include a menu card in your invitation suite for guests to choose their plated meal preference).

Stations: stations are a fun option if you’re wanting to offer multiple styles of food or perhaps a more interactive experience!

Family-style: ideal for smaller, more intimate weddings, family-style catering involves large platters of food at each table where guests pass dishes around and serve themselves.

How does tipping work for wedding caterers?

Wondering if you’re supposed to tip the caterer at your wedding? The answer is usually yes, but best practices can vary.

Check your catering contract thoroughly, as a service charge or gratuity may already be built in to your fees and required to be paid with the final bill due before your wedding. If it isn’t built in, it’s customary to tip the catering manager like you would at a restaurant: 15-20% of the food/drink fee.

Don’t forget to tip the wait staff and bartenders, as well! Make sure you’re aware whether these staff members will be employed by your venue or by the catering/bartending company separately, and review those contracts to see if any gratuities are included on your bill.

For a more extensive explanation of who to tip on your wedding day and how much, check out our blog on the topic!

Now Trending in Catering

Food trucks at weddings: food trucks are making their way onto the wedding scene and we couldn’t love it more. If your favorite food truck can’t offer comprehensive wedding catering, consider having them make an appearance during cocktail hour to provide appetizers, or a late-night appearance for dessert! Just double-check with your caterer and make sure everyone’s on the same page!

Grazing boards: charcuterie boards have been taken to a whole new level with these massive grazing boards serving dozens upon dozens of delectable snacks. Your guests will love perusing the giant board and picking out their favorites for a custom snack plate!

Drink pairings: work with your caterer and bartender to develop a drink menu that pairs amazingly with your food menu. Consider offering signature drinks that reflect your individual styles!

Stations: as mentioned above, stations are a fun option for couples wanting to offer more unique dishes or more interactive food experiences. Guests might be able to see their food cooked right in front of them, or try a variety of foods from different stations – the options are endless!

Late night snacks: one fun trend we’re loving? Late-night snacks! Ask your caterer about options for surprising your guests with a late night snack to keep the party going even longer. Think outside the box – breakfast food, junk food, fun food – this is one way to really wow your guests and give them a fun experience they won’t forget!


Is your mouth watering yet? Ready to pick the perfect caterer for your big day and serve up the fare no one will forget? Head to our local vendors page to peruse the profiles of lots of talented local Houston wedding caterers!

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