You want your reception meal to be perfect, delicious, professionally prepared and served, and, yes, affordable. Cj’s Catering in Wausau, Wisconsin, has forty years of experience in both delivering a great meal and keeping it within your budget. It’s a family business that started in 1970. Daughter Corrie Merklein took the reins in 2012.
One thing experience taught Merklein is that it’s best to provide the bride and groom with options. Everyone needs to stay within their budget goals, and each couple has their own preferences on how much to spend on the reception meal. Couples also have their own favorite foods, and wedding trends play a role. Merklein says, “As in anything, trends change, and we wanted to offer choices to fit with the trends of the day.”
This kind of flexibility, however, means good communication between the couple and the caterer is very important. “Consultation is a must! With options come details, which help us achieve what our brides are envisioning for their special day. We can then work with the budget on what is possible and help them prioritize what is most important to them,” Merklein explains.
Every menu item Cj’s offers may not be possible within every budget, but adjusting other factors can allow the couple to have a great reception meal. “Budget often dictates what is possible, but we can discuss what options they have within their budget,” Merklein says. “One thing to consider that I often mention when a budget-minded bride and groom are looking at options is what it cost to go to a restaurant… meal, beverage, tip, etc.… In catering we are bringing the food to you, so travel cost also comes into play. The other option is to adjust the level of service, for example disposables verses china. All those variables can affect pricing in addition to the menu.” Merklein suggests that you could even serve pricier food with paper plates, if the food choice is more important to you. “Some more upscale meals can be served on an upscale disposable verses china. The venue and its surrounding will help determine if this would be appropriate and workable.”
Another consideration is whether to have the meal served banquet style or have plated meals brought to your table. Cj’s offers options on this too. “We offer buffet-style service for most of our catered events. This can be done with disposables and china,” Merklein notes. “We can serve plated meals or family-style meals if the venue has the staging space needed and it can be easily accessible for china. Any seated meal we do ask that china be used with full place settings.”
Whether your reception will be indoors or outdoors is another factor to discuss with your caterer. Merklein says, “Cj’s Catering has served many wedding receptions in tents or other outdoor venues. The venue and its amenities are kept in consideration when we make recommendations to our clients.”
Selecting a caterer should be one of your early decisions in the wedding-planning process. Merklein advises, “During the high time of the year, the couple should secure us as their caterer nine months to one year or more before the wedding date, to reserve us for the prime dates. Dates can often fill up quickly. In return, off-season dates can often be found available inside of six months.”