How much does wedding catering cost?
Ashburn, VA

How much does wedding catering cost?

Ashburn, VA

How much does wedding catering cost?

$30 – $150per guest (food only)
$40 – $200per guest (food & alcohol)
$3,000 – $22,500for 100 to 150 guests (food only)
$4,000 – $30,000for 100 to 150 guests (food & open bar)

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$30 – $150 per guest (food only)

$40 – $200 per guest (food & alcohol)

$3,000 – $22,500 for 100 to 150 guests (food only)

$4,000 – $30,000 for 100 to 150 guests (food & open bar)

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
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Tamatha Hazen
Written by
Tamatha Hazen
Edited by
Tara Farmer
Fact-checked by
Tom Grupa

Wedding catering cost

Wedding catering costs $30 to $200 per person on average, depending on the food selection, whether it’s a plated meal or buffet, and if the package includes alcohol.

Wedding catering prices for 100 to 150 guests are $3,000 to $22,500 for food only or $4,000 to $30,000 for food and alcohol.

Wedding catering cost by guests
Guests Food cost Food & alcohol cost
30 $900 – $4,500 $1,200 – $6,000
50 $1,500 – $7,500 $2,000 – $10,000
75 $2,300 – $11,250 $3,000 – $15,000
100 $3,000 – $15,000 $4,000 – $20,000
150 $4,500 – $22,500 $6,000 – $30,000
200 $6,000 – $30,000 $8,000 – $40,000
250 $7,500 – $37,500 $10,000 – $50,000
300 $9,000 – $45,000 $12,000 – $45,000

Cost data is from research and project costs reported by Fash members.

  • Catering accounts for about 30% of the overall wedding budget.

  • Most couples add a gratuity or tip of 15% to 20% of the total catering cost.

Get free estimates from wedding caterers near you.

Average cost of wedding catering per person

The average cost of wedding catering is $30 to $150 per person for food only or $40 to $200 per person including alcohol.

Average wedding catering cost per person - Chart
Average wedding catering cost per person - Chart

Casual food service styles like food trucks or cocktail-style catering are the least costly, while sit-down plated dinners are the most expensive.

Average cost of wedding catering per person
Catering style Cost per person Average cost (100 to 150 guests) Description
Food truck $15 – $40 $1,500 – $5,300 One or more food trucks or carts hired to serve food on site
Cocktail-style $15 – $70 $1,500 – $10,500 Mix of heavy passed hors d’oeuvres trays with food stations
Buffet-style $30 – $65 $3,000 – $9,800 Guests wait in a single line at a long buffet table to serve themselves.
Self-serve stations $30 – $70 $3,000 – $10,500 Variety of food stations scattered around the space, where guests serve themselves throughout the evening
Family-style $20 – $130 $2,000 – $19,500 Large platters of prepared foods placed on each table, where guests fill their own plate
Plated dinner $40 – $150 $4,000 – $22,500 Pre-plated meal served to each guest at their seat

  • Adding gluten-free or vegan meals to the menu or requesting local, organic, or non-GMO produce increases food costs by as much as 50%.

  • Seasonal foods are more budget-friendly since they are more abundant and often offered at a better price.

Wedding catering packages with prices

Wedding catering packages cost $50 to $270 per person on average which includes the food, cake, appetizers, open bar, and optionally top-shelf liquors, grazing table, and dessert statons.

Budget packages start at $30 per plate and have limited food options and no alcohol.

Wedding catering package costs
Package Average cost per head Includes
Budget $30 – $80 Buffet or food stations with cake and a cash bar
Standard $50 – $150 Buffet-style meal or self-serve food stations, limited appetizers, a beer and wine bar, and a slice of wedding cake
Luxury $90 – $270 Upgraded plated meal with appetizers, grazing table, wedding cake, added dessert stations, and a premium open bar with top-shelf liquors

Wedding appetizers, food bar, & desserts cost

Wedding caterers charge $3 to $30 per person for catering add-ons, including a cocktail hour, appetizers, grazing tables, and wedding desserts.

Catering add-on costs per person
Add-on Average cost per guest Description
Appetizers/hors d’oeuvres $10 – $30 Trays passed during the cocktail hour to keep guests fed until the meal is served
Grazing table $11 – $16 A table spread with snacks including fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and crackers for late-night snacking
Wedding dessert station $5 – $11 A table spread with a variety of cupcakes, pastries, and bite-sized desserts
Wedding cake $3 – $8 A traditional tiered wedding cake, sliced and served by staff
Cake cutting fee $1 – $8 Extra fee to cover the cost of staff to cut and serve a cake brought in from another vendor
Chocolate fountain $380 – $550 per fountain A fountain of melted chocolate with fruits, cakes, and other dippers

Many wedding couples hire a separate caterer that specializes in wedding cakes and desserts to suit the style and theme of the day. Some common options include:

A caterer serving a platter of hors d'oeuvres.
A caterer serving a platter of hors d'oeuvres.

Alcohol wedding packages and prices

A wedding open bar costs $10 to $40 per person, depending on the alcohol served. A full bar with beer, wine, and well liquors costs $15 to $40 per person, and adding top shelf liquors increases costs.

A private bartender costs $30 to $50 per hour for a BYO alcohol event.

Wedding open bar prices
Bar service Cost per person Average cost (100 to 150 guests) Description
Premium full bar $20 – $50 $2,000 – $7,500 Top-shelf liquors, beer, wine, and cocktails
Full bar $15 – $40 $1,500 – $6,000 Well liquors, beer, and wine
Soft bar $13 – $30 $1,300 – $4,500 Beer, wine, and two signature cocktails
Limited bar $10 – $20 $1,000 – $3,000 Beer and wine only
Single drink bar $1 – $5 $100 – $750 Champagne toast only

Other budget-friendly bar options include:

  • A consumption bar charges for each drink served, while a cash bar passes the drink costs on to the guests.

  • A buy-your-own alcohol event costs $5 to $20 per guest, saving the markup charged by many caterers. However, caterers charge a $2 to $12 corking fee for each bottle of wine and a $1 to $5 service fee for each six-pack of beer for BYO weddings.

  • Non-alcoholic drinks like coffee, tea, lemonade, and fruit juices are cheaper than alcohol and do not require a bartender.

Wedding catering price factors

The following factors affect wedding catering costs:

Get free estimates from wedding caterers near you.
  • Dining style – Formal plated meals are more costly than buffet or family-style service. Main dish dinner upgrades to include steak and lobster increase costs.

  • Menu add-ons – Adding a cocktail hour or appetizers, late-night snacks, dessert tables, kid-friendly menu items, and other menu add-ons increases costs.

  • Alcohol and beverages – An open bar, corking fees, and glassware increase the catering package cost.

  • Guest count / minimum fees – Most packages include a minimum fee or number of guests to book.

  • Setup and breakdown – Most catering packages include 2 to 4 hours for setup and breakdown.

  • Rentals – Catering packages often include a standard table and place setting. Custom linens, chairs, and table settings are often available for an additional fee.

  • Servers / staff:

    • Servers and waitstaff cost $20 to $30 per hour, with 1 server for every 8 to 12 guests for a plated or family-style dining or 1 server for every 25 guests for a buffet or self-serve stations.

    • Wedding bartenders cost $30 to $50 per hour, with 1 bartender for every 50 to 75 guests.

    • Barback assistants cost $20 to $30 per hour to help the bartender with ice, water, glassware, and restocking bottles and kegs.

  • Timing and location:

    • Caterers set higher rates for evenings, weekends, holidays, and peak season dates.

    • Caterers in metropolitan areas charge up to 30% higher to cover higher staff wages.

    • Caterers may charge a per-mile travel fee for services outside their area.

  • All-inclusive venue packages Wedding venues cost $2,000 to $25,000 for an inclusive wedding package including the site, catering, seating, and décor.

  • Package extras – Some venues combine other services with catering to create a custom package:

  • Wedding coordinator – A day-of wedding coordinator costs $700 to $2,200 for couples without a wedding planner. A wedding planner costs $1,200 to $3,500.

  • Additional fees:

    • Local sales taxes are added to the total catering bill.

    • A service fee of 18% to 22% covers the catering company’s operating costs.

    • A gratuity of 15% to 20% for good service is typical.

Wedding catering FAQs

How to save on wedding reception food

Save money on reception food by reducing the wedding size and being flexible with the date and time. Other ways to save on wedding catering include:

  • Book an all-inclusive package.

  • Serve only appetizers instead of a full meal.

  • Select budget-friendly cuisine like barbecue, sandwiches, or pasta.

  • Have a daytime wedding serving breakfast, brunch, or lunch.

  • Limit the alcohol or have a cash bar.

  • Limit substitutions and add-ons that increase costs.

  • Choose a drop-off food service and set up the food stations yourself.

  • Get an accurate guest count.

  • Try negotiating the cost with the caterer.

Do you tip a wedding caterer?

A tip of 15% to 20% of the wedding catering bill is standard. The gratuity rewards good service and does not replace any separate delivery or service fees the caterer charges. Before tipping the catering staff, check your contract to confirm the gratuity was not already included.

When to book a caterer for a wedding

Book the caterer at least 6 to 12 months in advance of your wedding date, or even farther in advance when booking popular caterers during peak wedding season from May through October.

What do wedding caterers provide?

Wedding caterers provide all the food, beverages, food warmers, and serving utensils for the buffet or serving stations. Catering services often include the plates, glasses, and silverware in their price. Some offer a selection of rental tables, chairs, custom linens, and place settings.

How to find and hire a wedding caterer

When hiring a wedding caterer near you, be sure to:

  • Ask for referrals from your wedding planner, the venue manager, or recently wedded couples.

  • Search online for a professional caterer with experience catering weddings.

  • Read their reviews on Fash and Google.

  • Select a minimum of 2 to 3 caterers and make tasting appointments with each.

  • Select the most skilled professional that works within your budget.

  • Review all contract terms before signing and make the final payment after the event.

Questions to ask when getting quotes

  • Have you catered at our venue before?

  • Can I schedule a menu tasting?

  • What bar and buffet setup and equipment is included in your quote?

  • Does your estimate include glassware, plates, silverware, and linens?

  • Is a standard gratuity included in the final bill? If not, how should I tip the staff?

  • Is the menu flexible, or do you only offer pre-selected options?

  • Do you offer options for kids, vendors, or guests with special dietary needs?

  • Do you cater both buffet-style and formal plated dinners?

  • Do you allow changes to the guest count once it is confirmed?

  • Do you set up the guest and buffet tables for the event?

  • How much time do you include for setup and cleanup?

  • Does the staff wear uniforms?

  • What alcohol is included in your price estimate?

  • Can I buy my own alcohol? If so, will it reduce your quoted price?

  • Do you carry liquor liability insurance coverage? Do I need to purchase a separate host policy?