In contacting a caterer, I used the family function line and they came back with a very reasonable quote. When we met in person to discuss the event I revealed that this family function would actually be our . Nothing else changed. Same menu. Same modest venue (church fellowship hall). Same number of people (almost all of whom are family). The next day the caterer e-mailed me saying that because of my deception they did not want to work with me.
Now I'm feeling rather befuddled. Was I really being dishonest? Is it disrespectful to vendors to not specify that a family function is a family wedding? Or were they just upset at the idea of doing a wedding for a lesser price than they might normally charge? (By the way, before I told them it was for a wedding they said multiple times how they were basically going to treat the "family function" like a wedding.) So, am I too close to the situation to see that I've become morally compromised? Or is it something else that I totally can't think of at the moment?
Yikes. What a dreadful situation! You clearly caught this particular caterer in the infamous Wedding-Switcharoo (i.e., the prices get multiplied by ten if you put the word "wedding" in front of your request). This phenomenon is well-documented throughout the "World Wide Wed" (phrase coined by Meg, which I love).
I experienced this situation myself at one of the wedding reception venues we considered. We could rent out their meeting room and deck (including tables and folding chairs) for an entire day for a mere $350. If, however, we were throwing a wedding instead of a reunion, the exact same space for the exact same number of people would cost $1,800. For only five hours! Any additional hours were an extra $300. So, in essence, the same space for the same amount of time would be $350 for the reunion and $7,500 for the wedding. To be fair, the wedding price also included "banquet" chairs (instead of regular folding chairs), cake/gift/guest book tables, tableware, tablecloths, napkins, and a dance floor. But for $7,500, I think you could probably get a lot more than that.
To me, it sounds like the caterer you talked to was flustered about being caught in their own web of deception. With that said, I'm not sure that the most strategic thing to do is to respond to deception with deception.
I think that one of the things that made our wedding truly meaningful and memorable was building really strong relationships with our vendors. Our vendors went out of their way to help us. They became like family to us (professional family with lots of skills and resources!). If we had tried to deceive them in order to secure a lower price, we wouldn't have had the same high quality relationship. Our experience would have been built on a rocky foundation.
Now that I'm thinking about it, this is why I named my personal blog Feeding the Soil. The idea is that if you want a beautiful plant to grow, you have to start by enriching the soil. In other words, if you want your wedding to exude community, connection, and joy, then you've got to cultivate those things with the people involved in bringing your wedding to fruition.
Don't get me wrong. I think what your caterer did was completely ridiculous and awful. However, you're probably better off not working with those people. I think the trick to being honest with caterers AND getting a fair price is to travel off the well-worn wedding path. The more a vendor has produced weddings, the more likely they are to function as a cog in the Wedding Industrial Complex machine. For example, if you go with a local restaurant that has experience catering for groups but doesn't often do weddings, you're more likely going to get a fair price and be able to be honest about the fact that your event is a wedding.
The other thing to do is to be honest that it's a wedding when you first get a quote. After you get the quote, you can ask, "Is this the same price you would charge for a non-wedding?" Then you can have a conversation about the difference. If they try to explain that "extra" wedding things cost "extra" money, then kindly reject those extra wedding things to bring the cost back down.
Those are just my two cents. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on the situation!