Westchester attorney advises brides-to-be to get it in writing to avoid getting it wrong

Tis the season for all things bridal and each dewy eyed couple should understand what they are entering into before signing the catering contract.  Afterall, whether it is the two of you or Mom and Dad, you should know exactly what you are getting and what you will be entitled to if you have to cancel plans at the last minute.

The Basics:

1.  It goes without saying that the contract should state the date, time and venue location right up top.  Time should include how many hours the party will run (i.e. – 6p – 12a) and what hourly rate, if any, will be charged to your final bill if the party runs longer than expected.

2.  What specific menu items will be included for the cocktail hour and reception?  Sample a tasting menu before the day so that you know what to expect.

3.  Does the contract include the wedding cake and/or liquor?  If liquor is included then what type and how much?  Also, what happens to the unopened bottles you do not finish?  Does the caterer have a so-called “buy back” policy?  For example, if you ordered 100 bottles of wine, and opened only 50, what is the price at which your caterer will “buy back” your unopened bottles. However, if liquor is not included, then what will you be allowed to bring into the venue?   Also, be sure to ask about corkage fees.  That’s the fee charged by certain catering establishments if you bring your own alcohol to the event.  They charge you for opening and serving the bottle. By the way, make sure the venue and/or caterer has a license to serve liquor.

4.  What is the latest date you can make changes to the menu and/or alter the headcount?

5.  Make sure you get proof of liability insurance from your caterer and make sure it indemnifies you if anything goes wrong.

6.  It should list the total cost for the event broken down by balance paid; payments on account and final payment due at event.  Also, if there will be additional charges on the day of the event (i.e. – extra shrimp needed for cocktail hour), how much will be charged.

7.  Also, if you are planning to have 250 guests then you do not want 5 people to serve them.  Make sure the contract spells out the ratio of servers to guests and exactly how many bartenders will be staffed.

8.  The name of the person overseeing your wedding and their cel phone number for emergencies.  If the caterer hesitates to give you a key person and contact # then I suggest you walk away and find another caterer. 

9.  What is the cancellation and refund policy?  How late can you cancel the event and what will be your out-of-pocket cost in that case.  Can you get a refund of your deposit or will you be responsible for the entire remaining contract balance?

10.  Finally, what do you do if the caterer cancels before your wedding?  Well, you could try to get them to list liquidated damages in the contract but that is unlikely.  The better aternative would be to make sure the caterer has a good track record and scout several of his/her weddings before signing on the dotted line.

Above all, this is a once in a lifetime day, so take time to enjoy it!