The chances are that you’re feeling a bit stressed out if you’re planning for your destination wedding in Marbella, Spain right now.
The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty, and many couples are unsure how to move forward with their wedding plans.
We want to help you find the best value for money and book the best suppliers for your wedding day.
In this guide, you’ll learn fool-proof tips on:
01. How to select the best caterer and menu for your day
02. What you get in a traditional Spanish wedding menu
03. How to save on your catering choices
#1. How to select the best caterer and menu for your day
Food is such an important part of your wedding day…it can make it or break it!
That’s why we recommend taking your time and looking into every detail before you choose your caterer for the day.
The caterer keeps your guests happy and full. He and his team will oversee the service for the evening and the bar and supplies essential rental items such as linens, tables, and chairs.
Weddings are expensive…! I bet that’s something you’ve heard for years from family members, friends and colleagues at work. Now you’ll be the one asking why are food and beverage such a significant expense in your wedding budget?
If you’re planning a destination wedding away from home, you may be even more worried and in need of having a plan in place.
You want to get a fantastic wedding caterer that can also bring to the table more value for your hard-earned money.
We'll try to explain this now and give you some tips.
First, you should know that the final figure your caterer has quoted you isn’t only brought about by the cost of buying the necessary ingredients and fresh produce for your cocktails, appetizers and main dishes.
In Spain, as in most places, the cost of labour is what causes the price to increase substantially.
The costs of any required licenses and travel involved will also add to the final bill.
Secondly, and more importantly, in my opinion, Spaniards are very demanding about their cuisine. Food is considered the most critical part of a wedding for locals.
Most often than not, a wedding is remembered because of the type and quality of the food that was served to guests.
So, if you’re a foodie yourself who want to have the best fare in your day and impress all your guests, Spain is the place for you!
Only the caterers that produce good food and offer good value for money are sure to remain in business!
Lots of effort and planning goes into ordering the food and drinks to serve at such a big event like a wedding. Your caterer will have to make sure that there’s enough of everything for your guests so that they don’t run out of stock.
For instance, if you’re serving four types of beer, your caterer will calculate how much of each type since he needs to have plenty for everyone.
It’s one of these moments when your caterer experience comes handy.
An experienced supplier will have a pretty good idea of how many items to order. He’ll look at the size of your wedding party to buy just enough, and only a little surplus, if any.
You don’t have to worry too much about this, since contrary to other places, you’ll receive a fixed price for your wedding menu.
All the drinks for your wedding’s cocktail reception and sit- down meal are included in the price of the package.
Equally so, the price for your Open Bar hours has been calculated beforehand by your pro, and it’s a fixed price that will vary based on the number of hours you contract.
Average wedding catering prices per person differ among the different geographical areas in Spain.
Prices are usually higher in the north of the country.
Here in Andalucía and Marbella in particular, the average price per person is around € 120 (give or take). If you marry at a 5* luxury Hotel, a 25% increase should be expected. If you choose a private Villa or a country venue, those prices could go down as much as 25% per person.
When you’re building your wedding budget, keep in mind that around 40% of your wedding budget is spent on food and drinks.
Check out my previous blog article on building your wedding budget.
That’ll be by far your single biggest expense.
#2. What's included in a traditional Spanish wedding menu
1. Cocktail hour
It’s served before Dinner and last about for 60 minutes
However, there are some caterers I work with that extend its duration to 90 minutes.
A variety of warm and cold dishes is passed as canapes or small portions.
Your caterer will offer a massive selection of delicious hot & cold bites to choose from for your day.
The standard I find with more caterers is to offer 8 to 10 canapés per person without considering the size of the wedding party.
They plan this part of the service so that guests have enough food without getting too full.
This way, they can still enjoy their main meal.
Cocktail hour is very relaxed, laid-back and casual.
It’s an opportunity for your guests to mingle, chat with different groups of people and become familiar with the venue.
An open cocktail bar functions throughout the entire duration of the appetizers, be it 60 or 90 minutes.
A traditional service includes:
• alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages such as cava, white wine, red wine, beer, soft drinks and water.
You should know that the canapes aren’t all brought out at the same time, but little by little.
Caterers could combine tray service with stations of your choice.
Stations offer an option for the guests that aren’t near the passing waiters so that they can get some bites. They’re also a beautiful display.
The most popular stations in our experience are the Iberian Ham station that’s sliced in front of the guests by an expert ham cutter.
Or the artisanal cheeses station & charcuterie.
We have many requests also for sushi stations. We think couples and their guests love this option so much because they are so fun and interactive. The sushi man can be a real showman!
Suppose your wedding list has more than 120 guests.
I strongly recommend going for a more substantial station such as an Italian Table with charcuterie, cheeses, breads, olives, grilled vegetables and so on.
For more than 150 guests, a second station is the norm.
Other ideas you could organize with your caterer are an oyster bar or paella station.
A personalized station that talks to your cultural roots is another alternative—for instance, a Middle Eastern station for a Jewish or a Lebanese couple.
2. Sit-down Dinner and dinner beverages:
It’s the more formal part of the wedding.
However, more and more couples are now choosing an informal dinner service rather than a seated banquet dinner.
As part of your wedding dinner, you may enjoy the following:
A) Starter & main course: A starter can be quite varied, from a fresh soup to a salad, smoked salmon or else.
A main course in a standard wedding
• is usually beef, duck, lamb, suckling Iberic pork or fish.
Each course is relatively abundant, and a lot of care goes into the presentation.
• Beverages during Dinner: All the beverages are included as part of the catering service.
There is no hidden corkage or “per bottle” fees in Spain unless you specifically request to be billed per bottle.
Traditionally white wine-red wine and cava are served.
Your guests are free to ask their waiter for a different beverage, such as a soft drink or beer.
Your menus have a default wine selection since they have been priced based on this.
If you wish to change that default choice, you can do that on your menu tasting. Sometimes, you’ll have to pay a supplement.
You’ll choose some wines at the menu tasting to be served on the day of the wedding.
As a rule, all your guests will have the same starter and main course.
Some caterers will make an exception and allow for your guests to decide between meat or fish, for instance.
However, they’ll request to know the exact amount for each choice ahead of time, at least one week before the day.
You may have to pay a supplement if you want to make changes to the menu.
Dietary restrictions are provided for by every caterer be it vegetarian, allergies or food intolerances.
Of course, you or your wedding planner will have to notify the caterer ahead of time.
3. The Wedding cake: It's for me the best part of the wedding
The wedding cake on its own makes a perfect finisher.
I love the symbolism of the wedding cake. The cake symbolizes prosperity, good luck and fertility for the newlyweds. They share this sweet bite with the hope that the marriage will be a long and happy one with many children.
The standard guideline is one slice per person—with the assumption that people who eat more will balance out people who don’t eat any.
But other factors, like when or how you serve your cake can impact how much your guests will eat.
If you serve the cake later in the evening, after people are full or have started to leave, you may use less.
If servers deliver slices to guests at their seat, instead of displaying them on a serve-yourself table, you’ll use more.
Usually, your catering service will provide the wedding cake. However, you can choose to outsource your wedding cake from a pastry chef of your choice.
I always tell my couples to choose a cake that is beautiful but also delicious! There’re so many flavours and shapes out there!
You’re under no obligation to provide a dessert table.
Something sweet for dessert after the main meal is all your guests would expect.
It’s becoming common for couples though to go for a symbolic cake. In this case, the dummy cake, which seems 100% real, is brought to the newlyweds for the cake cutting ritual. This cake is usually provided free of charge by your venue or caterer and will yield 4 or 5 slices only.
Your caterer will serve dessert or some sweet options after the cake cutting.
If you decide to offer a dessert table with more treats, you’ll be given the option to choose from a variety of smaller dessert items that are easy to pick up and eat while walking around.
We always suggest sweet bites such as cookies, tartlets, cake balls, cupcakes with personalized cupcakes wrappers, truffles, chocolate covered Oreos, macaroons, pannacotta and so on.
Your Spanish caterer service will always include:
During Dinner: Different kinds of freshly baked bread during the starter and the main course.
Cava is poured during the cake-cutting for the toast.
Coffee and tea is served after the dessert or cake.
Petit fours, which are small sweets, are served with coffee and tea.
4. Open bar for the Party
5. Special menus
The caterers can provide special menus.
They’d create vegetarian, vegan, celiac or other menus based on your guests’ specific needs.
The caterer will have to be notified of the number and the type of special needs menus required for your wedding, at least one week before your wedding.
Children’s menus are also provided, at a reduced rate. The menus include kid-friendly food, such as hamburgers, pasta, breaded chicken cutlet, french fries, ice cream, etc.
Other elements always included in your caterer service are:
• Kitchen, set-up, cleaning and breakdown staff
• Standard linens for tables and chair covers
• Standard printed menus and seating chart
• Large (round) tables for Dinner
• Small tables and high bar tables for appetizers
• Chairs for Dinner
• Chairs for the appetizers, for about half of the guests
• Tableware, crockery, cutlery and glassware
• All other necessary equipment
• Transport to the venue
• Set-up and breakdown
#3. How to save on your catering choices
The kind of meal service you choose will impact the quote you’ll receive from your caterers.
Buffets used to be the most affordable option. That’s not the case anymore. Even though they need less staff, the cost is higher than for plated food since your caterer makes more of each dish to ensure everyone is fed.
If you go for plated food, on the other hand, your pro will know exactly how much of each item is necessary for the service which could save costs.
However, this saving is not guaranteed. The number of cooks and waitstaff needed for this type of service is much higher than for a buffet.
Your food selection will also impact the total cost. Some types of foods are pricier than others like you’d have if you go shopping in your supermarket or have a meal out at a restaurant.
Your liquor choices matter as well. It’s not the same to have an open bar with premium liquor than a bar with non-premium options. Imported brands are always pricier than domestic ones.
If you have set your heart on a seating dinner for your wedding reception, go for Family style. It’s a more casual style of service. Waiters will bring big platters of food to each table and let the guests help themselves.
We like this option very much if you’re on a smaller budget. It needs less wait staff, and as such, it tends to be more economical than plated service.
What really does the trick for me with this option is that you can enjoy a warm and convivial experience with your guests and have delicious food at the same time.
As it comes to the bar, you’ll have a pre-set amount of Open Bar hours with a fixed price per guest to choose. More often, these choices are from 2 to 4 hours.
From that time on, the extra hour will have an additional cost per guest.
Most caterers will be happy to count the number of guests left by the end of the night and base their extra hours charge on that count, which is very fair.
The price for the first 2 hours of standard Open Bar- without including premium brands- would be in the area of € 22 to € 30.
Drinks included are national and International Brand Drinks, Beers, Soft Drinks and Juices.
If you decide to contract the Premium Open Bar you could pay up to 50% more. The plus? You’ll have absolutely everything available:
National and International Brand Drinks, Including Reserves, Black Labels and Premium Drinks, Soft Drinks (includes Premium Tonics), Juices and Champagne.
If you’ve tried these savings tips and are still struggling with the cost of food and beverage, you may need to think about reducing your guest list. We know it’s a difficult decision.
However, this may be the only way to get the menu you want.
While food and beverage costs are far from cheap, we believe it’s possible to find that sweet spot- a great deal and delicious food!
Do your homework and ask about all the details. Get the most for your money without sacrificing quality!