Crunching the Numbers: How Much Does Wedding Catering Cost

Restaurant waitress serving table with food
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Planning a wedding involves many important decisions, and one of the most significant factors to consider is the cost of catering. Not only does catering often account for a large portion of the overall wedding budget, but it is also a memorable and enjoyable aspect of the reception for guests.

Curious about the average cost of wedding catering? Read on as we explore the ins and outs of wedding catering, including factors to consider and tips for staying within your budget.

How Much Is Wedding Catering in 2023

The cost of wedding catering can vary depending on factors such as the number of guests, the type of meal served, and the location of the wedding. According to industry professionals, the average wedding catering cost for 100 guests ranges from $8,500 to $10,000. However, if you are looking to create a more extravagant dining experience, the cost can reach up to $20,000 or more.

Cost Factors for Wedding Catering

To create a realistic budget for your wedding catering, it’s important to consider the following cost factors:

1. Guest List

The size of your guest list is the most significant determinant of your catering expenses. The larger the guest list, the higher the catering budget. While there are ways to cut costs with a larger guest list, such as serving brunch instead of dinner or opting for buffet-style appetizers, it is generally more expensive to cater to a larger number of guests.

2. Wedding Venue

The choice of a wedding venue can also impact your catering costs. Some venues have restrictions on hiring external caterers or only work with preferred vendors, which can be more expensive. Before signing a contract with a venue, carefully review any restrictions and additional fees associated with catering.

3. Food Service Options

The type of food service you choose for your wedding reception will affect the overall cost of catering. Here are some common food service options and their average costs:

  • Plated meals: This entails wait staff serving guests their meals in courses, with costs ranging from $100 to $200 per person.
  • Family-style catering: Wait staff delivers meals to each table, and guests serve themselves, with costs ranging from $120 to $150 per person.
  • Buffet-style meal: Guests serve themselves from a buffet line, with costs averaging around $50 to $100 per person.
  • Food stations: Guests can choose from various food stations, with costs typically falling between $50 and $75 per person.
  • Hors d’oeuvres: Served either before the main meal or as the entire food event, hors d’oeuvres cost approximately $60 to $85 per person.
  • Cocktail hour: A pre-meal gathering with drinks and appetizers, which can cost around $35 per person.

4. Alcohol

If you plan to serve alcohol at your wedding, it’s important to budget accordingly. The two main options for alcohol service are:

  • Open bar: Guests can order any drink or cocktail they desire, which can be quite expensive.
  • Full bar: A selection of spirits, beers, and wines is available, but in limited quantities.

Determining the exact cost of alcohol can be challenging, as it depends on the preferences and consumption habits of your guests.

5. Wedding Cake

On average, a wedding cake costs around $7 per slice. For example, if you have 100 guests, you can expect a cake cost of approximately $700. However, additional fees such as cake-cutting or serving fees may apply.

6. Accessories

In addition to the food and beverages, you will need essential accessories such as glassware, flatware, and linens. Many caterers and venues include these items in their overall cost per head, but it’s always a good idea to inquire about any potential extra fees.

7. Remember About Gratuity

Finally, it’s essential to consider gratuity when calculating the cost of wedding catering services. Catering is a demanding profession, and weddings are particularly busy and stressful events for caterers. Gratuity is often included in the overall cost of catering. However, if it is not, it is customary to allocate 15-20% of the bill for the chefs and 10% of the liquor bill for the bartenders.

The Bottom Line

So, how much is catering for a wedding? It all depends on your personal circumstances and preferences. By considering the cost factors mentioned above and working closely with your chosen caterer, you can create a wedding catering plan that fits your budget without compromising on the quality of the dining experience for you and your guests. Remember, wedding catering is an investment in creating lasting memories of your special day.


  • Dacia Flowers

    Dacia Flowers is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) with a major in Cultural Anthropology. Since graduating in 2019, she has expanded her expertise and applied her anthropological background in the practical domain. As the Administration Manager at CMJJ Gourmet since August 2022, Dacia handles crucial day-to-day operations, ensuring the warehouse's optimal functionality, timely delivery of orders, and managing invoices. Her commitment to excellence and in-depth understanding of organizational dynamics stem not just from her academic prowess but also her personal passion. Beyond her professional responsibilities, Dacia has a keen interest in reading, loves to travel, and stays active through regular exercise.

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