By Mike Philippou about wedding catering costs

1st March 2024

When it comes to hosting a memorable wedding, wedding catering & food and drink are a huge contributing factor. Including canapés and arrival drinks, a three or four-course wedding breakfast and a spread for the evening buffet, your guests will spend a large portion of their time at your wedding enjoying some delicious food and drink.

But how much does wedding catering cost, so you know exactly how much of your budget you need to dedicate toward keeping your guests fed, watered (or wined!) and – ultimately – happy?

In this post we’re going to take a look at the average cost of catering a wedding and what can affect that cost – including the alcohol.

How does the pricing work?

Catering table setting

The first thing you need to know is that, depending on the venue, catering can often be done in-house. But, if the venue doesn’t offer catering that suits your taste, you can hire caterers to come to your venue separately. Venues that include catering are usually priced per head, meaning there will be a set price for every guest which will include food (a buffet or sit-down meal), the venue rental and sometimes half a bottle of wine per person for the meal and some bubbly for the toasts.

If a venue is priced at a lump sum, it usually means that catering is not included and what you are paying goes towards securing the venue. For more information check out our post on the cost of a wedding venue.

What is the average cost of catering a wedding?

3 cupcakes with pink cyclamen

How much your wedding catering costs depends entirely on how many people you’re looking to invite. The more people you invite the more hungry mouths there will be, and of course the higher the cost will be.

In our ultimate guide to budgeting a wedding, we outlined that to cater an 80 to 90 guest wedding you can expect to spend an average of £5,700 overall. This may initially sound like a lot, but it actually equates to just over £65 per person, which is quite reasonable when you consider it’s their food for the entire day. However, it’s also enough to make you think twice when liberally handing out those +1s.

Of course, if your wedding is more intimate than that – or more grandiose – it can drastically change that figure. Based on this, to cater a 40-guest wedding the average cost will be around £2,600, and a 160-guest wedding will cost around £10,400.

This is of course based on the average, and depending on your budget there’s a range of options available:

  • Affordable – £20 – £40 per head
  • Moderate – £40 – £60 per head
  • Luxury – £60 – £80 per head
  • Super luxury – £80+ per head

Is it cheaper per head the more guests there are?

Waitress serving a man at wedding

You may expect the price per head to reduce depending on the greater the number of guests there are, but this isn’t always the case when it comes to catering a wedding. It will usually depend on several factors, including the venue, the number of kitchen and wait staff required, and the dining style.

For example, the price per head will be cheaper if you provide buffet-style food or food trucks than it would with a four-course meal, regardless of how many guests are attending.

How much does a wedding breakfast cost?

Stunning colourful Plate of fine dining

The wedding breakfast will generally be one of the most expensive parts of your wedding reception. They’re usually multi-course sit-down meals that are meticulously run from a busy kitchen like a well-oiled machine – and that kind of operation comes at a cost.

The average cost of a wedding breakfast will be around £30-40 per head, but certain venues and vendors can charge more than three times this amount.

To make sure you get all the information you need, check out our post on A Couples Guide To Choosing Wedding Caterers

How much does an evening buffet cost?

Rolled zucchini on a plate

Your evening buffet is a far more relaxed meal, which offers a greater choice of food and the need for fewer servers. It also offers you the chance to fill the bellies of your guests who could only come to the evening reception.

The average cost of a buffet is usually around £20-30 per head, however, this can also vary depending on the selection of dishes on offer and the type of cuisine. For example, chicken and chips will be far more affordable than hand-made sushi!

What else can affect the cost of catering a wedding?

Selections of Hors d'oeuvres

The above costs are all averages, and you’ll make plenty of choices that will make that cost go either down or way (WAY) up. These include:

  • Style of service: the cost of a buffet, sit-down meal, or food truck can vary hugely. For example, for a sit-down meal, you would have to factor in the wages of the waiters (it’s recommended to have 1 per 11 guests) and a buffet would have a wider selection of food options. There are thousands of caterers offering a wide variety of options to suit all tastes and budgets.
  • Menu choice: The more options you offer your guests outside of the standard meat, fish or vegetarian/vegan, the more you’re likely to pay.
  • The venue: Does it have its own catering team? If you’re hiring a catering team separate from the venue, you may also need to factor in the cost of hiring a marquee and portable kitchen. These costs can quickly add up, adding several thousand to the cost of your catering. Some venues have a list of preferred caterers, so make sure you ask your chosen wedding venue if there are limitations.
  • The food: Some food is cheaper to make than others. If you’re keen to offer oysters and caviar, don’t be surprised if it’s more expensive than if you were to offer sandwiches and vol-au-vents.
  • The ingredients: Some caterers may offer premium ingredients, and if imported or organic produce is important to you then expect to pay a little extra.
  • The number of courses: Are you happy with a three-course meal, or would you like to offer hors d’oeuvres, a fish course, palate-cleansing sorbets, and mignardise? The more courses there are (and the more complex they are to make) the pricier it will be.
  • The date: you can expect to pay higher rates during peak times, such as during the summer and at weekends.

What about the alcohol?

Bride and groom sitting on the floor by pop up drinks bar

While it can be tempting to offer an open bar, a wedding is one of those rare occasions when people tend to let their hair down. As a result, many of your guests will want to partake in a drink or two (or five or six). The cost of an open bar can quickly become eye-wateringly expensive, which is why many couples opt instead for a bottle or two of wine per table, plus a glass of bubbles on arrival and for the toasts. Then, if guests would like any other drinks, they’re free to choose what they like from a cash bar.

Remember, if you choose to supply your own fizz or bottles of wine, the venue may charge a corkage fee, which can be around £5-11 per bottle.

Ready to plan your big day?

Need a hand (or two) with wedding planning? Join I’m Getting Married In The Morning (IGMM) and get all the tools you need to plan your big day from start to finish. Plan your wedding budget, find your wedding venues and suppliers, organise your guest list and more and if you’re looking for ways to save money on your wedding catering, we’ve got all the tips and tricks you need to help you keep costs down. 

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