How Much Does It Cost to Cater a Wedding – Part 2

In a previous post about the cost of wedding catering, I talked about some of the considerations you should make as you are looking at and comparing prices of wedding catering.  I didn’t really discuss the actual prices though as they vary so much from wedding to wedding.  However, after thinking about it, I thought that it might be helpful to break things down in more detail using actual price ranges.  So here we go:

There are 4 basic styles of wedding catering….there are more than 4 but 95% of weddings fall into these categories:  Hors d’Oeuvres Buffet, Dinner Buffet, Seated Plated Dinner, and Stations.  Within each of these service styles, there are 5 basic components of price:  Food & Beverage Costs, Labor Costs, Rental Costs, Bar Services, and Taxes & Fees.  I’ve put together a table that outlines these costs and gives per person totals based on an average reception size of 150 guests.

Hors d’Oeuvres Buffet Dinner Plated Dinner Stations
Food & Beverage  $14 – $18  $10 – $14  $11 – $15  $14 – $18
Labor  $2.5  $5  $8  $3 – $5
 Rentals  $2 – $4  $3.50 – $6  $3.5 – $6  $2 – $6
 Bar Services   $2 – $4   $2 – $4   $2 – $4   $2 – $4
Taxes & Service Fees  $5.50 – $7.50 $5.50 – $8  $6.50 – $9  $5.75 – $9
Total Per Person Cost  $26 – $36  $26 – $37  $31 – $42  $26.75 – $42

So even though it’s nice to see the numbers for an idea of the actual cost of wedding reception catering,  I’d like to break things out just a little more to see what you would get for these prices:

Hors d’Oeuvres

The pricing for the $14 worth of Hors d’Oeuvres would be a heavy offering with 3 cold (fruits, veggies, finger sandwiches, etc.) and 4 hot (kabobs, bruschetta, meatballs, etc.).  At an average of $2 per item, adding additional items or more expensive items could bring the price up from $14 to $18.  I usually plan for 150 people to have 3 servers.  At $125 each for an average 4-hour reception, that’s $2.50 per person.  Rentals start at around $2 for plates, forks, and glassware and can be as much as $4 with the addition of tablecloths.  Taxes and Fees represent the TN state sales tax of 9.25% and a service charge of 18% of food and beverage.

Dinner Buffet

The $10 pricing for a dinner buffet is a basic entree, 2 sides, rolls, and a drink.  The pricing increases when you upgrade your entree or sides, add a salad to the buffet, or add a plated salad.  Labor for any dinner using china plates is figured at 1 server per 25 guests.  So, for 150 people, you will have 6 servers at $125 each, or $5 per person.  Rentals are figured using china plates, glassware, cloth napkins, and flatware.  The addition of linens can increase the price to the $6 mark.  Taxes and Fees are the same, based proportionately on the cost of the other items.

Plated Seated Dinner

The $11 pricing for the meal is for an entree and two sides.  The majority of our plated sides are a little more expensive than those typically served on the buffet…thus the extra $1.  Just as in the dinner buffet, you price can increase with an upgraded entree or the addition of a plated salad.  Labor is determined the same way as with the Dinner Buffet except we also have to add in the cost of the “Platers” who work in the kitchen putting the food on the plate.  For 150 people, you will have 6 platers in the back at a cost of $75 each or $3 per person.  Rentals are the same, as well as Taxes and Fees.


Stations are priced out with the idea that each guest will get to visit a total of 3 stations.  This could be a Carving Station, Macaroni and Cheese Station, Themed Memphis or Italian Station, a Taco Bar, etc.  Pricing varies based on the station (seafood and prime rib are more expensive than pasta and turkey).  It also varies with the number of stations.  However, if you decide on 4 or 5 stations, you wouldn’t order the food for 150 per station.  The stations would still be proportioned around an average of 3 per guest.  Labor here depends on if you have an action or assisted station or if everything is self-served.  Rentals include anything from multiple plates, stemless, martini glasses, and utensils per person.  The higher rental charge assumes the rental of table linens as well. Taxes and fees are well, the same proportional taxes and fees.

I hope this has helped you as  you’ve looked into figuring the prices per person.  These prices are not necessarily the complete rule, more a combination of assumptions based on the majority of events we have done.  You don’t always have to use real plates and glassware.   You don’t always have to feed people a full meal or heavy offering of hors d’oeuvres…unless your reception is at a mealtime of course.  Use this as a guide but please don’t hesitate to contact us for pricing that is much more specific for your event.  And, as always, these prices are based on our actual costs and are subject of change just as our cost change from time to time.

Thanks for reading!

– Ryan Draper, Operations Manager

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