Keep on Truckin’

Everything you need to know about hiring a food truck to cater your wedding, from parking and permitting logistics to using the services of a truck broker.

Also check out our guide to favorite California food trucks for catering LGBT weddings.

Drew Hodgson and Andy Newcomer hired Border Grill—known for ceviche, churros, and other Latin fare—for their Palm Springs wedding. Photos courtesy Border Grill.

When brides-to-be Hanna Hurley and Melanie McMullen hired a caterer for their wedding rehearsal dinner at Oakland’s Cerruti Cellars, the couple went a decidedly nontraditional route: they booked a local pizza truck, Fist of Flour. Inclusive of setup costs, food, staff, and tableware, they fed their guests for less than $20 a head—a small price considering the delightful reaction they received. “I’m from the South, and my wife is from Texas,” says Hurley. “It was so exciting for our guests—from South Carolina, Texas, Alabama—to experience a gourmet, organic, local pizza truck. It added so much to the event.”

Many couples these days are taking such novel approaches to wedding receptions as well as rehearsal dinners, parties, and showers, eschewing stuffy sit-down dinners with their often staid salmon, beef, and chicken options. Food trucks—favorites of everyone from adventurous foodies to gourmands on the go, offer a fresh, interactive alternative to wedding repasts, especially for those seeking lively dining experiences.

Following the most recent economic downturn, as diners’ budgets shrunk and funding for new brick-and-mortar restaurants became scarce, low-cost taco trucks skyrocketed in popularity throughout California. Soon chefs and entrepreneurs began taking more than Mexican street food on the road, drawing on cuisines from around the world, and creating novel fusion mashups like sushi burritos and Korean-style kalbi shorts ribs poutine. Whatever your culinary whim, there’s likely a truck out there specializing in it, and many of these mobile kitchens happily cater wedding receptions and other fêtes.

Even as the economy has rebounded, trucks have generally stayed true to their budget-friendly roots, providing a terrific value when you’re trying to rein in costs.

Even as the economy has rebounded, trucks have generally stayed true to their budget-friendly roots, providing a terrific value when you’re trying to rein in costs. Taco truck–catered affairs start at around $500, and while you’ll pay more for fancier fare (foie gras ramen, anyone?), prices should still be lower than for conventional restaurants and catering companies.

Nevertheless, there are some logistical issues to consider. Check local ordinances to make sure it’s legal to host a truck at your venue—you may need to obtain a permit. Trucks also need level surfaces to park on, as they often employ fryers and cooktops. And noise from truck engines and generators can be distracting as well. (Remember to put some space between trucks and guest seating.)

Andrew and Matty Wilder originally wanted to hire a food truck for their wedding in Big Bear Lake, but the 6,800-foot altitude presented complications. “Every company told us that they didn’t think their trucks would make it up the mountain,” recalls Andrew. “One actually offered to tow their truck up on a flatbed, but we didn’t even bother getting a price quote for that!”

Guests—especially the kids—loved standing outside by the truck and watching the staff prepare the made-to-order pizzas.

Most food trucks can comfortably handle a gathering of 150 to 200 people, and some can accommodate even larger groups. Thanks to the simplicity of one couple’s recent menu, San Diego’s Seoul Man Food Truck was able to cater a 500-guest LGBT wedding. Despite the big crowd, guests were still able to enjoy an authentic, interactive food-truck experience, ordering their seared pork belly bowls and moco loco burgers from one window and picking them up at another.

In order to accommodate groups, trucks do sometimes come up with creative serving arrangements. When Suzanne Goodman and her wife married at their home in Castro Valley, they also used Fist of Flour, which in their case delivered each pie to the couple’s house from a truck parked curbside. Still, guests—especially the kids—loved standing outside by the truck and watching the staff prepare the made-to-order pizzas.

A few more things to keep in mind: California state law prohibits food trucks from serving alcohol, and open containers are not allowed on public land. And while alcohol is fair game on private property, you’ll have to provide it yourself. (Consider hiring bartenders to keep things running smoothly.)

Finally, remember too that even the most casual food truck affair should come with a formal negotiation. Communicate your needs clearly and directly with the vendor, come to terms on a price, give clear directions about where to park or set up, and get a contract. This is your big day, and it pays to eliminate any potential stressors in advance.

The array of culinary options can be overwhelming, but don’t overlook the humble taco truck. Garrett McCord and Brian Palmer hired Tres Hermanos for their Sacramento wedding. “Everyone loved it,” says McCord. “It was fun and informal, and the food tasted far better than most wedding sit-down dinners. Plus, we made ourselves breakfast tacos every day in our little honeymoon cabin with the leftovers!”

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