The single feature of a wedding venue that can save you thousands of dollars is … catering restrictions!
In general, there are venues that require you to use in-house catering and venues that allow you to bring your own catering (aka BYO catering).
In this post, you’ll learn the pros and cons of in-house catering and BYO catering.
Types of Catering Restrictions at Wedding Venues
First, let’s go over the types of catering restrictions enforced by many wedding venues:
- In-House Catering
- Preferred Catering
- BYO Catering
1. Wedding Venues That Require In-House Catering
Most wedding venues that require you to use their in-house catering typically require you to meet a minimum dollar amount towards food and beverage.
For example, if a venue requires a $10,000 food and beverage minimum, you can expect to pay at least $10,000 – no matter how many guests show up. So if your RSVP count drops enough to lower your food and beverage costs below $10,000 – you’re still stuck paying the $10,000 minimum.
Oh, and the food and beverage minimum typically does not include tax or gratuity costs!
2. Wedding Venues That Offer a List of Preferred Caterers
Some wedding venues require you to hire from a list of preferred caterers. Other venues allow you to hire a non-preferred caterer for a fee (in my area, these fees range from $250-$1000).
I really like the option of choosing from a short list of preferred caterers because you have the freedom to choose a caterer, but your search is limited to a list of caterers that your venue recommends. This saves you a lot of time because you don’t have to do as much research to find a caterer.
Plus, preferred caterers have a good working relationship with your venue – which means they’re familiar with the facilities. This means things should go nice and smooth on the day of your wedding because the caterer knows exactly what to expect and how to work the venue.
3. Wedding Venues That Require You to Bring Your Own Caterer
A true BYO wedding venue lets you hire any caterer you want. No restrictions. Complete freedom. The choice is yours.
Of course, this means that you’ll need to do quite a bit of research to find the right caterer and coordinate between the caterer and the venue if your caterer isn’t familiar with your venue.
As I mentioned above, most in-house caterers have food and drink minimums that you MUST pay. These minimums are typically tied to the guest count – so if the minimum is $10,000 for 100 guests, but you’re only planning to have 80 guests – you still have to pay the $10,000 minimum (which typically doesn’t include tax or gratuity).
With your own caterer, pricing is much more flexible – there typically aren’t any minimums, you just pay for what you need. That’s why bringing your own catering tends to be much more affordable.
> Winner: BYO Catering
Let’s talk about the quality of food offered at the most common in-house caterers: hotels. If I had to guess, I’d say that you’ve probably never eaten at a hotel unless you had to. For example, when Luis and I are tossing around ideas about where to eat, we NEVER name hotels. That’s because hotel food tends to be pretty unexciting and very limited – but somehow it still costs as much as something you might get at a nice restaurant.
Let’s be real: in-house catering at hotels and country clubs tends to be … well, mediocre. Hotels and country clubs are now known for their food. These places are known for their hospitality and their other primary services – NOT food. Period.
On the other hand, if you bring your own cater, you are likely to hire a caterer that has great food! Caterers are typically known for their food – because that’s what their business is based on food and food only. That’s why outside caterers offer much higher quality food than in-house caterers.
> Winner: BYO Catering
If you have something very specific in mind for your food and drink menus, you’re more likely to secure those options with an outside caterer. Bringing your own caterer gives you the freedom to work with the chef to customize and personalize your menu. In-house caterers typically offer very limited options for food and customized menus, if offered, can be crazy expensive.
> Winner: BYO Catering
An in-house caterer is easy to work with because they have home court advantage. They know the facility, the kitchen, equipment, event staff, etc. This means you don’t have to do any coordination between the caterer and the venue – it’s already done for you.
When you hire your own caterer, you will likely need to do some coordination – especially if your caterer is not familiar with your venue. This means you’ll probably need to schedule a venue walk-through to make sure the caterer knows what equipment is available and how to work the space.
> Winner: In-House Catering
Bringing your own caterer is often cheaper, offers better quality food, and allows greater menu customization options. Sure, BYO means you’ll have to do some extra research and coordination – but the benefits of BYO far outweigh this additional effort.
BONUS: Types of In-House vs. BYO Wedding Venues
Here’s a brief list of venues types that fall under each of these categories:
|In-House Catering||BYO Catering|
By the way, if you’re shopping around for a wedding venue, I have some helpful templates to help you get started! Download the templates below.