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This article deals with the basics of planning a tented wedding reception. Before you start thinking about your menu (and with 14 years experience in the events industry) here are some of the most overlooked fundamentals. Often a reception will be in the garden of a private house and you will need to determine what facilities will be required by your chosen wedding caterer - this is partly dependent on the number of wedding guests.

 

For example a smaller wedding reception of say up to 50 guests, your own kitchen may be quite adequate for the caterers to prepare and clear away.
Wedding buffet table photo
For larger guest numbers it is certainly advisable to have what is known as a caterers tent. This is a smaller structure adjacent to the main wedding marquee exclusively for the use of your caterer. One of the fundamental first questions for the wedding caterers is 'will I need any extra catering facilities'? If so, space for this structure needs to be allocated in the site plan.
For wedding receptions of 50 to 150 guests a small catering structure of 3M x 3M to 6M x 3M may be large enough for your wedding caterers. The wedding catering company need room to work and space must be allocated early to avoid a disaster.

Another factor to consider early is the question of power requirements for your wedding caterer. For a cold buffet or when your own kitchen is adequate the power requirements may well be minimal. For larger guest numbers and / or hot food the question of power needs to be addressed early. Some wedding catering companies use gas and some electric for cooking. If your wedding caterers are going to be cooking with 3 phase ovens on site then you will require a mobile generator. Again space has to be allocated and you should budget accordingly. What about coffee afterwards? A simple question, but catering water boilers are around 3kW and 3 of these on the go will consume around 40 Amps of power - more than your household supply can cope with. You can imagine how often the lights go out when it's time for coffee!

 

Other wedding catering considerations include....

Cutlery, crockery and glasses will usually be supplied by your chosen wedding caterers and included within the price per head. There are many event and party companies hiring crockery and you may wish to allocate some of your budget on some fine quality cutlery, crockery and crystal glasses for that extra sparkle.

Table linen is again usually supplied by your caterer and either included in the price per head or as a separate charge. There are also specialist table linen hire companies, as well as general catering equipment companies.

Tables and chairs are usually supplied by the tent company. Some caterers offer tables and chairs but expect to pay extra for the rental. There are also event furniture hire companies with a wide choice of styles of chairs suitable for all wedding reception budgets.

 

You are probably best hiring the tables from the tent company (even if you don't like their chairs). Guests are usually seated at round tables and a 5 foot round table will seat 10 guests and a 6 foot round table will seat 12 guests. The top table is traditionally a long table made up using 6 foot long trestle tables which the bridal party will sit down one side (and the ends) only. Allow one trestle table for the bride and groom and one trestle for every 3 remaining 'top' table wedding guests. Chairs can be covered with fitted linen wedding chair covers from specialist linen hire companies to match or compliment your choice of table linen.
Choosing wedding caterers for your reception is very much a matter of personal taste. Many brides have never hired a wedding catering service and expect to be given a bottom line price with minimal information supplied. The caterer will need a lot of information to give an accurate quotation, including the often overlooked subjects above; The catering company will not wish to work in the middle of a field with no running water, no power and no cover against the elements. Before you approach any potential wedding caterers make a list of questions to ask and plan as much as you can first. The caterer will be able to supply you with example set menus and he or she will wish to meet 'on site' to discuss your plans.

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