Most people have hosted family gatherings and small social get togethers, but not formal events with a large number of guests. Let's discuss some things you should consider when planning your reception:
Consider your venue's space, hours, and kitchen area; as well as, requirements.
Make sure your food is served, by a licensed, insured caterer.
Do your homework. Research the caterer's service via friends, social media, reviews, etc.
Most caterers will offer a food tasting. DO THIS! It's fun and usually offered at little to no cost.
When choosing food service, ask lots of questions. Any good vendor will be glad to answer any and all questions and concerns.
Check to make sure the caterer has done weddings and ask they expert opinion on catering for weddings. This will speak volumes.
When budgeting, be sure to understand that you are paying per person...so take this into consideration when making your guest list (sorry a bit off of the subject, but directly related).
Ask what additional charges are added (in addition to price per person). Tax? Service Charge? Trip Fee? Serving Fee? Additional cost for plates, napkins, place settings, etc).
How long will the catering company be at your rehearsal?
What happens to the leftover food?
Once you choose a food from them menu, make sure the caterer is able to bring it prepared, kept warm/cool, and in its best state for you and your guests.
Will the caterer be refilling a buffet?
Will the caterer be serving the food?
Are drinks included?
Is there anything you need to supply in addition to what they are providing?
How is the presentation on the table? (You are having a formal event)
Will you be bringing staff that will appropriately serve your guest count?
Will they bus the tables?
Will they take out the trash?
Will they be cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the meal?
Now that we are hungry (and you probably are, too), it's time to plan away! If you have a particular vendor that is a MUST, make sure to reserve them as soon as possible. If you are flexible, you should still make sure your catering is all set at least 4 months before your big day! Just keep in mind, food prices and availability can change as time goes on.
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