Three 2020 Best Of NOCO catering companies offer up tips to help couples find the perfect wedding caterer in Northern Colorado.

By Laurel Thompson

Planning a wedding isn’t always a piece of cake. You’ve got a venue to book and people to feed, not to mention the DJ, the photographer and the oral arrangements to pick out. With so many decisions to make, what’s supposed to be the best day of your life can quickly become the most stressful if you don’t put the right people in charge—particularly when it comes to catering.

So, before you start wondering how much food you’ll need or what alternatives are available for your vegan and gluten-free guests, sit down with your partner and nail down the basics: your guest list, your budget and where catering ts into the overall picture. If you’re not sure where to go from there, check out these tips from the full-time foodies in our 2020 Best Of NOCO wedding catering category.

Choose a caterer you trust

When searching for the right wedding caterer, it’s important to put the food in the hands of someone who shares the same vision for your big day. Juliana Trujillo, co-owner and head chef at Juli y Juan’s Kitchen, says it has everything to do with whether or not your personalities work well together.

“You don’t want to be stuck with a vendor for a year or more that you didn’t have a great relationship with from the start. Your personalities really have to click for it to be a fun and exciting experience— before COVID, we would host clients for personal tastings in our home, which allowed us to get to know the couple behind the food we were making. That really helped to set the tone for the rest of our journey together as allies working toward the same goal.”

Origins Catering and Brookside Gardens owner Tiffany Degnan agrees, with an emphasis on clear communication between the couple and caterer. Since most people don’t know what to expect when it comes to catering, she says it’s critical that all parties be on the same page for the wedding—and the months leading up to it—to go smoothly. She also recommends nding a caterer that will give you the time, attention and quality service you deserve, rather than overbooking themselves in the interest of money.

Ultimately, our caterers suggest looking to friends, family and potential venues who have had positive experiences with certain vendors in the past, as opposed to heading to Google or Yelp for their search. Venues host multiple events every week, so they’ll be able to recommend a handful of local caterers, photographers, DJs, orists and other wedding professionals they trust, which can save couples a lot of legwork in the beginning.

Stick to your budget

Money is where a lot of people nd themselves in a pickle, especially if they have expensive taste. Connie Dubois of A Catered Affair With Connie says transparency is the key to helping clients stick to their budget, which is why she makes all of her prices available on her website.

“When I initially sit down with a couple, the main thing I ask them is what their budget is because that really dictates how the wedding will go,” she says. “I tell them to never spend more than they can afford because it’s not worth going into debt for one day. We can design the menu around almost any budget, and some styles of serving are more cost-effective than others.”

But what if you want gourmet food plated and served, rather than an all-you-can-eat buffet? Each of our winners say it’s better to narrow down the guest list than to spread your resources too thin in order to feed lots of people—some of whom you won’t even remember were there. Instead of skimping on the quality of the food (if that’s up there on your priority list), don’t be afraid to only invite the people you couldn’t imagine the day without.

“The thing people often don’t realize is that their catering budget doesn’t just account for the cost of the food per plate,” Degnan explains. “You also have to account for staf ng and the service fee, which is a percentage of the total food cost that covers all the behind-the-scenes logistics, like transportation, equipment, supplies and the walk-through. There might also be a built-in gratuity, so you can’t just look at the price per person for food and think that that is going to be the entire catering expense.”

Don’t overthink dietary restrictions

The words “dietary restrictions” are a caterer’s worst nightmare— not because they are unwilling
to accommodate guests’ dietary needs, but because people tend to confuse the word “restrictions” with “preferences,” or simply “diet.” Because of this, our caterers don’t recommend adjusting your entire menu based on a handful of vegan or gluten-free guests.

“Sometimes couples think that they need to choose a ‘safe’ menu that their friends and family are sure to like because there’s a lot of pressure from others to ful ll their requests,” says Juli y Juan’s Kitchen co-owner and sous chef, Juan A. Rodriguez.

“It shouldn’t matter who’s coming to your wedding—if you make it your own, people will enjoy it just because they were invited to share that life- changing moment with you.”

Dubois also reminds her clients that guests with dietary preferences are used to accommodating themselves and that they will find something to eat even if you don’t have specific entrees set aside for them. In non-COVID times, she says buffets can alleviate the stress of catering to speci c groups because there are plenty of options to choose from, but since caterers have had to move away from buffet-style dining, they have found creative ways to continue serving those guests. Most of the gluten is found in the breads and sauces anyway, so most caterers are happy to serve them on the side—in fact, some prefer it because it gives guests the freedom to curate their own meals.

Whatever your guest list looks like, be sure to let your caterer know in advance if you do have people with food allergies or dietary restrictions so they can take care of them separately. Remember: it’s their job to adjust menu items for those particular guests, not yours, so allow yourself to let go of that stress and enjoy the day for what it’s really all about. The food isn’t the main event—it’s just the garnish that makes the entree that much more special.

Laurel Thompson is a Fort Collins native and CSU alum. When she isn’t writing for local lifestyle publications, you’ll find her soaking up the sun, cooking something delicious, or reading a good book while sipping an iced coffee. To comment on this article, email