Charlottesville weddings have become synonymous with gourmet culinary offerings. Local wedding caterers carefully curate menus based on what’s in season, what tastes the freshest, and what pairs beautifully with regional wines.
Here’s how to plan and execute a wedding menu so memorable it will be talked about for years to come.
Where to Start?
Tips for Hiring a Professional Charlottesville Wedding Caterer
Wedding caterers are tasked with producing high-quality and high-quantity meals, oftentimes transporting food to the reception space from a remote kitchen or cooking and plating in an adjacent catering tent. The key is to maintain a restaurant-quality meal while dishing out hundreds of servings.
When shopping for a Charlottesville wedding caterer, look beyond the per-guest price and consider a catering team’s experience and whether they’ve catered many weddings at your desired venue. Caterers break down their proposals differently, so be sure to specify whether set-up, rentals, flatware, glassware, servers, tax, and gratuity are included.
A lot of factors come into play — guest count, staffing, your venue’s catering kitchen setup — so don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to.
During your initial meeting and before you sign a contract, come prepared with a list of questions. Start with these:
A Look at the Averages
Average Charlottesville Wedding Cost
The average wedding cost in the Charlottesville area in 2021 was about $30,000. Generally, Novela’s couples invest 1.5x to 4x this amount, or $44,000 to $120,000. The biggest factor that will impact your wedding cost is size or the number of guests you invite.
Average Charlottesville Wedding Catering Cost
$145 per person for food, beverage, and service
Hire qualified vendors that really know the market and the venues, have industry connections, and are known for top-quality service. Having a team that’s really well-versed in logistics and your particular venue will save everyone time and ensure your guests’ enjoyment. If you need to trim down, consider serving only beer, wine, and champagne. For cocktail hour, select three specific passed appetizers or arrange for themed help-yourself food stations. Choose local and in-season ingredients and don’t be shy about asking your caterer to explain which cuts of beef or types of fish cost more than others.
Take a deep dive into a potential Charlottesville wedding caterer’s social media and online reviews. See if their plated dishes and service styles appeal to you.
Be very clear about what "clean-up" means and who's responsible for handling it.
Build Your Dream Wedding Day Menu
Some couples value the culinary experience above all else. And why not? This is your first dinner party as a married couple — it should be delicious and personalized.
With Charlottesville’s renowned food scene, inspired chef-driven menus, and locally farmed ingredients on your side, the farm-to-table catering possibilities are endless. Have fun creating a wedding menu that perfectly captures the spirit of Charlottesville's food scene.
1 / Tap into the Tastes of Charlottesville
Eat with the seasons for the freshest local fare. Here’s what’s growing and thriving at local farms–
April: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, turnips
May: peas, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes
June: blueberries, cherries, cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes, zucchini
July: corn, cucumbers, lettuce, peaches, peppers, squash
August: apples, blackberries, blueberries, corn, peaches, peppers, squash
September: apples, grapes, lettuce, pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
October: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash
Don’t forget about the local seafood bounty. Charlottesville is just a short drive from the coast, so fresh crab, trout, oysters, and clams are easy to source. (Check to ensure there aren’t any severe shellfish allergies among your guest list before rolling out the raw bar.)
“We enjoy sourcing local products, and love the long growing season we have here in the Piedmont region. Heirloom tomatoes, fresh corn, local potatoes — those are some of our favorites, followed closely by the fantastic pastured meats we are able to enjoy here. When fall arrives, the bounty of squash, kale and local cheeses come together in delightful ways: orecchiette with butternut squash, brown butter gremolata and fresh goat cheese comes to mind.”
Director of Operations at Exchange Events & Catering
2 / Choose Locally Loved Dishes
Nibble on these tried and true Charlottesville wedding catering winners.
Hors d'oeuvres: Virginia ham biscuits, hush puppies, crab cakes, heirloom tomato tarts, grilled peach and ricotta bruschetta with basil, smoked applewood bacon-wrapped dates, charcuterie stations with local meats and cheeses
Entrees: Shrimp and grits, smoked chicken with local chiles, braised short rib with collard greens, cornbread- and apple-stuffed pork loin, rotini with grilled local vegetables
3 / Personalize It
Get creative and add a little flavorful flair. Serve your favorite dishes, ethnic family traditions, or vegetarian and gluten-free offerings.
“We recently hosted a wedding at Trump Winery and the couple identified that enjoying dinner with their family was the most important thing for them, besides the ceremony, of course,” Grieger says. “We worked together to craft a cohesive menu that offered items that had significance for them — a soup the groom makes frequently at home, or a pasta dish from their first date. The entire menu came together to tell a lovely story, while also delighting guests with each new course.”
4 / Get Creative with Your Cocktails
Cocktail menus have been leaning in a retro direction, with more classic French martinis, old fashioneds, negronis, and gimlets being poured alongside modern cocktails such as fig-mezcal sours and non-alcoholic cocktails using botanicals and teas.
“We just catered a Great Gatsby and Southern-themed wedding,” says L’Etoile Catering Owner Vickie Gresge. “We served both shrimp and local stone ground grits with a petit mirepoix and a traditional braised beef Burgundy matched with a Man o’ war cocktail and a French 75 cocktail.”
Tips and Tastes From the Pros
Novela’s Preferred Charlottesville Wedding Caterers Dish it Out
"We love chatting with clients about their overall vision for their wedding, and how to best incorporate food into that vision. Working with clients that want to tell a story throughout their day, from carefully considering their welcome drinks, to the selections they make for dinner, and even the last bite of the evening, passed on the dance floor, is the most important thing to us."
Director of Operations at Exchange Events & Catering
"Consult with your venue owners or managers. The venue should have a great idea of the true quality of their preferred caterers since they have had the chance to see and possibly taste their preferred caterers’ food from previous weddings."
Owner at L’Etoile Catering
"While we have a catering menu, we welcome couples to work with the chef to re-create dishes that are special to them. They can also offer signature cocktails that may be part of their love story. We've had several couples over the years have the chef come up with various dishes. Some examples would be spicy Maryland crab cakes, Tikka Masala, and Ube tarts. We have also had a full pit-roasted pig."
Veritas Vineyards and Winery Marketing Manager
A Friend in the Industry
Working with Novela is like having a trusted friend — one with copious insider knowledge and industry connections — by your side every step of the way. We’ll match you with an expert wedding concierge to customize your wedding day plan, including venue and vendor recommendations, detailed pricing options, a high-level budget framework, and a customized checklist just for you.
Find your perfect Charlottesville venue, book all your vendors, and finance your wedding at 0% interest — all in one place. Novela is the first transactional one-and-done wedding planning company.