How much should I spend on external catering?

When it comes to your wedding day we’re definitely seeing more of an emphasis on good, personalised food.

With the changes in how millennials are planning their weddings, we’ve also seen more wedding venues pop up that are just that, a wedding venue. These venues aren’t like traditional reception centres that offer everything from the ceremony to the meal to the styling, but rather blank canvases where couples can truly make their day their own.


As a result of this, more and more couples are putting an emphasis on increasing the experience of their guests when it comes to having catering at their wedding. Gone are the days of the chicken or the beef; invitations with pre-set meals, additional options, cocktail catering, food trucks and interactive stations are all ways that couples in Australia are celebrating their weddings with food.

If you’re hiring your wedding venue separate from your catering, then it can be difficult to calculate just how much you should be spending on your wedding catering cost.

So we looked into catering in our 2019 Australian wedding industry report looks to see how much it should cost you, and what you should look for when it comes to booking a caterer for your wedding.

wedding catering cost

Cocina Mexico, Melbourne

Do I have to hire someone to cater my wedding?

As wedding catering is mostly tailored to DIY couples, working our whether it’s a service that you actually need for your day is the first place to start. If you’re having your wedding at a private property, or have hired a sole wedding venue, then catering is for you.

Alternatively, if you want something a little bit different to what your wedding venue does offer, and they allow external catering, then this may also be of use to you.

Whatever the case, making sure that your guests have something to eat at your wedding is important. Particularly if you’re also serving alcohol!

It’s also important to note that your wedding cake generally isn’t included in your wedding catering. While your catering may include desserts, if you’re after a cake alone you’re better off going to a wedding cake supplier who specializes in that area. 

wedding catering cost

Top Cat Catering, NSW

How much should my wedding catering cost?

As we mentioned earlier, more couples are choosing to do their own thing when it comes to the food at their wedding. So we’re not surprised to see that the average amount spent on wedding catering has gone up in the last few years as more people hire external services.

The average wedding catering cost in Australia in 2019 is $9,666, up 6% from last year.

Calculated by the average number of guests at a wedding, 97, that comes in at around $100 per head. Add this to the cost of the venue that you’ve already hired and we think this comes in around on par, given that most couples will spend a national average of $157 on their wedding venue, which is inclusive of catering.

Not surprisingly, my fellow foodies in Melbourne and Victoria will likely spend the most on catering for their wedding, coming in at an average of $11,947. This can also be put down to the fact that we see more rustic-style weddings that are more suited to external catering in Victoria.

This is followed by Western Australia at $10,809, and more reception or glamorous-style weddings that are inclusive of catering in New South Wales, which comes in at $8,783.

Those in Tasmania can expect to spend around $7,125, then it’s an average of $6,650 and $6,204 in the ACT and South Australia respectively. If you’re in Queensland though you’ll likely spend the least amount of any state, coming in at around $5,659. FYI our survey produced limited data for the Northern Territory to provide a reliable average.

wedding catering cost

Kent Street Deli Catering, Perth

What type of catering is the most popular?

Before you even look at what type of food you’d like at your wedding, it’s important to figure out what style of catering you’re going to have for your big day. Sit down catering is still the most popular choice for couples, making up 52% of weddings.

We’ve seen buffet food become more popular than finger food style catering, now making up 85% of all other weddings. 15% of couples will choose to have finger food, while 4% will opt for a different style of catering.

Another trend we’ve seen when it comes to this personalisation and going against the historic norm is when it comes to seating preferences. With a rise in cocktail-style receptions, buffet food and out-of-the-box weddings, 37% of couples will ditch the seating plan in favour of their guests just sitting where they choose.

Interestingly, fewer couples will also be catering for gluten-free allergies this year than in previous years. 42% of couples will cater for gluten-free intolerances, compared with 58% who won’t.

wedding catering cost

Kombi Keg, Adelaide

What makes up a good wedding caterer?

Based on our feedback from other real couples, having a range of different and exciting options when it comes to catering is a big plus. Particularly when this can also cater for different allergies for food intolerances.

The same goes for packages that include catering, drinks and wait staff. After all, the more personalised you want your wedding to be the more flexible you want the packages to be, so that flexibility is a big plus.

Receiving expert advice based on the run time of your wedding and even your food choices is also a big plus. The last thing you want is to end up with a wave of well-done steaks only goes for an hour!

If you’re hiring a catering service, check out some of their reviews to make sure that the food is well-prepared, served at the right temperate and provided in the right quantities at previous events. It’s also worth asking your caterer about the ratio of guests to staff members to make sure that no one is waiting too long for a meal on the big day.