Crystal Events

Wedding Costs in Spain – Catering Service (part 2)



Now that you have a clearer understanding of all of the elements that are included as part of the catering service for your wedding, let’s analyze how pricing is calculated for a wedding catering service and how the different types of wedding celebrations – i.e. buffet, cocktail, etc. – can impact your wedding costs.

Lobster salad starter

Contrary to popular belief, having a lobster dinner doesn’t necessarily mean that the menu price will sky-rocket. There are various factors that can substantially increase or decrease the menu price, such as:

The wedding venue: Getting married in a lovely rustic farmhouse in the mountains can be more expensive than getting married in a palace in Barcelona, surprisingly. This is due to the fact that each venue has its peculiarities in terms of logistics, equipment and catering conditions. For example, the farmhouse may not allow the caterer to arrive to the venue until 3 hours before your wedding start time, thus not allowing the caterer to arrive early in the morning and set up everything way in advance. Due to this condition, the caterer is obligated to hire additional staff so that the set-up of your wedding reception is finished before the guests arrive.  The additional staff required is included in the menu price as a fixed cost.

Bride and Groom pose with Rolls Royce in front of a Palace

The catering company’s fixed costs: All of the fixed catering costs of your wedding are included in the menu price. This includes the transport costs such as the gasoline and tolls, as well as the staff and necessary equipment required for your wedding.

The number of guests attending your wedding: As the number of guests attending your wedding varies, the menu price per person also fluctuates.  The more people attend your wedding, the lower the menu price is per person and viceversa: the fewer people attend your wedding, the higher the menu price will be per person. This is due to the fact that the fixed costs are divided among your guests.  An example is noted below:

You invite 120 guests in total, but only expect 100 guests to attend. The catering company sends you a quote for 100 guests. You choose a menu quoted at 130€ per person. As your guests RSVP, only 85 guests confirm. The catering company provides a quote for the same menu, based on 85 guestsThe month before your wedding, more guests RSVP and the final headcount increases to 120 guests. The catering company sends you the final quote for the same menu, based on 120 guests

  • Initial quote: 100 guests at the cost of 130€ per person
  • 2nd quote: 85 guests at the cost of 149€ per person
  • Final quote: 120 guests at the cost of 117€ per person

Champagne is served by a waiter

How can I reduce the menu price?

The factors specified above, inherent to your wedding, determine the total menu price per person regardless of the menu you choose; however, there are a number of things to take into account that can decrease the menu price:

  1. Firstly, and most importantly, you should carefully analyze the different menu options to determine what is most important for your wedding. Perhaps you want to spend more money on a good wine, and want to reduce the duration of the open bar. It is important that you review your proposal thoroughly in order to assess what is most cost-effective.
  2. The main ingredients of the starter and main course also determine the total costs. For example, having duck or lamb as your main course, in comparison to having beef sirloin, will decrease your menu price.
  3. The wines chosen for your wedding will also significantly increase or decrease the total menu price. A Rioja wine will always be more expensive than a local wine, for example. This doesn’t mean that you are sacrificing quality – many a times the price increase is due to large marketing campaigns behind brand names – local, high-quality wines are often just as good, if not better, than other, well-known wines.

Surprisingly, reducing the amount of appetizers or the quantity of the food does not substantially reduce the total menu price per person – it may decrease by 2€ or 3€, maximum.

Delicious red pepper and anchovies appetisers

What if we choose to have an informal dinner? Will this help us save a lot of money?

There are various differences between a formal and informal dinner:

A formal dinner is served after the appetizer (cocktail) hour and consists of a sit-down banquet dinner, which lasts between 1 ½ to 3 hours, depending on each Couples’ preferences, speeches, etc… Everyone is seated, and the dinner consists of a starter, main course, dessert, wedding cake, coffee and liqueurs.

A sit-down banquet dinner doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a pompous, protocol-driven event – this depends entirely on what each Couple prefers to do. Many Couples have a very fun, upbeat sit-down dinner; ultimately, the Couples’ preferences will determine to what degree the sit-down dinner is a formal affair.

Formal dinner set-up at a rustic wedding venue

Having an informal dinner doesn’t, by its own nature, imply that it will be cheaper than a sit-down dinner. On the contrary, since traditional Spanish weddings mainly revolve around the meal, catering companies offer very competitive prices for a formal sit-down dinner, whereas informal dinners can get quite pricey.

There are various types of informal dinners served in Spain:

Cocktail dinner: This consists of a standing dinner. There is no distinction between the appetizer and the dinner – it is arranged in the same location, and runs through to the end of dinner. The idea behind a cocktail dinner is the same as the appetizer: your guests walk around, mingle, and chit-chat while the waiters bring around the small, bite-sized appetizers. A cocktail dinner is unlike a seated dinner in the sense that you won’t have a starter and main course – you will be given more varieties of appetizers, and you will have more buffets, which will be your wedding dinner. The buffets provide small portions of food in small dishes, with small forks, so that the guests can eat comfortably. There are a few small tables, a few high bar tables and chairs for approximately half of your guests. Once dinner is over, the wedding cake is brought out for the cake-cutting ritual, and is taken back to the kitchen. Dessert and wedding cake are served in small portions. Coffee and tea is served as well.

Informal cocktail dinner is served

Buffet dinner: This consists of an all-you-can-eat bonanza. This can either be a standing dinner with a few small tables, a few high bar tables and chairs for approximately half of your guests or a sit-down dinner with large tables and chairs for all of your wedding guests; this will have to be specified at the time of requesting a quote from the caterer.

Salad and fresh soup buffet

Barbecue dinner: This is the most informal type of dinner; the caterers bring an abundance of appetizers, as well as meat, and fire up the grill, ready to go! There is no distinction between the appetizer and the dinner – it is arranged in the same location, and runs through to the end of dinner. This can either be a standing dinner with a few small tables, a few high bar tables and chairs for approximately half of your guests or a sit-down dinner with large tables and chairs for all of your wedding guests; this will have to be specified at the time of requesting a quote from the caterer.

Paella buffet for an informal buffet dinner

The price of an informal dinner is usually higher or the same as a sit-down dinner, where the amounts of food are calculated based on the number of guests rather than on the amount of food. This is due to the fact that there is a good deal more food purchased for an informal wedding dinner, as the catering company cannot foresee the quantity that each guest will eat. They bring approximately 50% more food than they would for a formal sit-down dinner!

Furthermore, the cost of creating additional small, bite-size portions of traditional dishes substantially increases the per person price.

Nonetheless, each wedding proposal is created based on each Couples’ specific preferences, therefore it is always best to be very honest with your caterer about the budget that you have allotted for your wedding dinner. You can also ask for a formal dinner and an informal dinner quote to compare prices and evaluate whether an informal dinner will allow you to maximize your budget.

Scallops and pepper appetisers

Fresh salad buffet at a wedding

Dessert buffet at wedding

Photo credits: Sensacions Catering, Arts Catering, Andrea Ferrara, Sara Frost and Katherin Wermke

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