Sarasota Catering Company
(941) 927-7675

Party Planning Guide

Where Can I Get Help?

Specialized Service Providers

When the scope of the event exceeds your capabilities and facilities, or if you want to make your role easier, consider using specialized service providers. You will be successful when you understand the extent of each provider’s service and what they will charge for it.


Caterers provide food, drink and staff to setup, serve, and cleanup. They can cover the entire party or provide certain portions.

    Catering services include:
  • Creating menu proposals and then incorporating your suggestions.
  • Providing personnel for supervising ’at-the-party’ staff and taking care of any problems, similar to a maitre d’ in a restaurant.
  • Calculating food and beverage quantities and equipment rentals.
  • Moving furniture and setting up rental equipment, setting tables, preparing and serving the food and drinks.
  • Cleaning up and returning your home or facility to its pre-party condition and packaging any leftovers for you.
  • Coordinating the services of rental companies, staffing services, florists, and valet.

Catering a meal in your home or other special location can be as expensive as taking the same number of people to a good restaurant. However, a catered event enables you to create a unique and intimate experience that meets your party objectives. While the food and service may be more expensive than a restaurant, the liquor bill will typically be much less.

A full service caterer will give you a contract that lists the exact menu, specific responsibilities and costs. It may list exact quantities for expensive or unusual items. The contract will list the number and type of staff, special décor provided, rentals, liquor, and extras such as valets, costumes, entertainers, etc. If your kitchen or facility does not have adequate cooking equipment the caterer may include the cost to rent a stove or convection oven. It is common to add a service charge (or gratuity) from 15 to 20 percent of the total food bill. Some caterers will ask you to pay a preparation fee for the proposal, which would be credited toward your party when you decide to hire them. A deposit is required to secure the date and the balance is paid on the day of the party.

Some caterers may provide food for pickup or delivery only. In this case, they are not taking any other responsibility for your party.

Ideally, select a caterer whose food and service you have previously enjoyed or get referrals from friends. If you don’t know the caterer, ask to see pictures, plans or menus from one or more previous parties similar to your planned event; talk to references provided; or schedule a tasting of the proposed menu (there may be a nominal charge for a tasting).

Caterer Checklist:
  • Contract Completed
  • Liquor Ordered
  • Menu Selected
  • Rental Equipment Ordered
  • Tasting (if necessary)
  • Rental Equipment Delivery Confirmed
  • Staff Attire Specified
  • Flowers Ordered
  • Arrival Time Agreed
  • Flowers Delivery Confirmed
  • Guest Count Confirmed
  • Décor Agreed Upon
  • - Back To Top -

    Rental Service

    Rental Services can provide linen, dishes and flatware, serving dishes, stoves, warmers, tents, heaters, fans, chairs and tables. It might be necessary to use more than one rental service.

    Rental companies are responsible for providing clean, working supplies and equipment at a specified date and time. When the rentals are delivered, immediately check the details of condition and quantities, ensuring that you received the right items with the right counts and in good working order. Waiting until just before the event to complete the check may prevent the rental company from providing a timely replacement if it is needed.

      In order to find a good rental company:
    • Look at the equipment on display in their showroom. Does it have the desired quality and finish?
    • Talk to the staff to determine whether they are knowledgeable about their equipment and services.
    • Determine whether they have a comprehensive selection of items. Do you need more than one company? Some may not carry linens, for example.
    • Determine whether their charges are comparable to others in the area. In addition to the rental charge, they may charge for set up or delivery.

    Caterers frequently have a preferred rental company. If the caterer has the responsibility to determine needed quantities of equipment, check things in and see that everything is packed for return. It is important that they work well together.

    Rentals can be as expensive as the food. You should receive an itemized bill listing everything you have ordered and the prices. Look to see how late you can adjust the order, up or down, or cancel without charge. Remember, if something gets broken or lost, you can be charged the replacement cost of that item.

    Rental companies will typically take orders a year in advance. The earlier you order your preferred items, the better your chance to guarantee their availability. Some items are popular or the rental company may maintain low quantities, making certain items unavailable in a busy season or on a weekend.

      Rental Company Checklist:
    • Review contract and double check all items included
    • Validate delivery date, time and place
    • Confirm pickup time
    • Double check quantities/conditions of items upon delivery
    • Double check quantities/conditions of items for return
    - Back To Top -

    Valet Service

    You should consider hiring a valet service if parking is difficult, distant, inconvenient or if the neighborhood is unsafe. Valets are responsible for parking cars and returning them to your guests in the same condition as when they arrived. Only hire a service that provides insurance to cover their work. Ask to inspect and validate the valet’s insurance certification before agreeing to hire them. The valet service should provide signs and uniforms to announce their presence to your guests.

    A professional valet service should schedule a site inspection to determine where they will receive the cars, where they will park them and how long it will take to park and retrieve them. They will also know if a permit is necessary for this event.

    Valet charges are based upon how many attendants are required, how long they will work and how challenging it will be to park the cars. There is generally an additional charge when you request the valet’s attendants to refuse tips from the guests.

    Get a valet referral from a favorite restaurant or a friend. If you don’t have first hand knowledge, interview at least two companies before selecting one.

    - Back To Top -


    Flowers add a colorful and interesting touch to any party. A florist can help you create a look that will support your chosen décor, from a simple arrangement on the dinner table to dramatic sweeps of color throughout your home.

    A florist’s charges are based on the quality, quantity, and type flowers they use as well as a premium for custom designs. When working with a florist, as with other contractors, it is important to set a budget.

    If you are not familiar with florists in your area, visit two or more shops to view their work and perhaps give them an inexpensive commission to see if you can work with them and if you like their style.

    If floral arrangements are out of your budget, consider buying cut flowers and arranging them yourself. On the dining table, flower arrangements should not interfere with the sight lines of each other.

    - Back To Top -

    Wedding Coordinators

    Engaging someone experienced in handling weddings can save aggravation and possibly money. Wedding coordinators have reliable resources for locations, entertainment, florists, gown makers, typically anyone that can help your wedding be a successful event.

    Wedding coordinators are usually fee-based so it is important to determine upfront what you want them to do and the associated fees. There may be some aspects of the wedding that you want to handle yourself, so it is important to state the boundaries. Your fee arrangement should clearly stipulate what circumstances will generate additional costs. You should ask the wedding coordinator to inform you when you are requesting services that are not covered in your agreement. As with other contractors, obtain a written agreement containing the list of services to be provided.

    You should be aware that it is common for event planners and wedding coordinators to request a referral fee from vendors that are recommended by them. This fee usually ends up being buried in the recommended vendor's bill. This vendor and coordinator arrangement is unethical unless this referral fee is revealed ahead of time. Be sure to ask and clearly understand any fee arrangements ahead of time.

    - Back To Top -

    Other Service Providers

      In no special order, here are other services that could help you:
    • Entertainment Agencies
    • Temporary Employment Services
    • Balloon Stores
    • Invitation Specialists
    • Party Stores
    - Back To Top -
    Sarasota Catering Company wins the Knot Best of Weddings 2010-2016
    Sarasota Catering Company joins the Knot Best of Weddings Hall of Fame
    Sarasota Catering Company wins Weddingwire Couple's Choice Award 2010-2016