18 Tips to Get the Most from your Wedding Tasting
As a wedding planner, I attend food tastings for virtually every client and they are always a blast. You get this awesome meal with tons of options that you’d probably never order at a restaurant. But tastings aren’t just to have a good meal. The goal of a tasting should be to select your menu for the wedding and to have a very clear idea of what you’ll be getting the day of your event. Some caterers offer complimentary tastings before booking. In this case, they generally select the food you’ll be eating and the purpose is for you to get a general idea of their style of cooking. Then, once you book, they may offer a more comprehensive tasting of your actual menu selections. Here are my top tips for maximizing your tasting experience:
Before the Tasting
1) Give the chef clear direction on what you like, don’t like and what you absolutely want to incorporate.
2) As you select the options that you are going to taste, be mindful of your guests. Veal might sound great to you, but if only a handful of guests will enjoy it, it’s probably not the best option. That said, don’t be afraid to go a little out of the box too instead of going for the “safe” chicken option.
3) Consider your whole day before making your selections so you don’t double up on things during the cocktail hour when you’ll be having something similar for dinner.
4) Don’t forget about the drinks! Are you serving wine with dinner? Or signature cocktails? If your caterer is handling the alcohol, ask to taste these items as well.
5) Invite others to the tasting who are part of the decision making process. If your parents are footing the bill, it’s nice to include them.
6) Think about any food related items that you might be providing yourself or ordering from another vendor such as desserts, cake, alcohol, or non-alcoholic beverages. Be sure your caterer knows about these items in advance so they can help you figure out if they need to be involved. For example, if they are cutting the cake, their staff will need to be aware, you’ll need plates/forks and there is most likely a cake-cutting fee. Or, if you are bringing cookies, do you have the platters to serve them? Who is putting them out for you and replenishing them? Your guests will assume catering knows the answer to any question regarding food at your event (Are these gluten free?) so be sure to involve your caterer.
7) Make a note on how many of your friends and family may have dietary restrictions. If you have more than 5 vegetarians, you may want to have one of your entree options be vegetarian-friendly. Same goes for gluten-free or kosher guests.
8) If you are having kids at the wedding, find out what the options are for them in advance!
9) Serving bread? Ask to see/taste what the bread is like too.
During the Tasting
10) Pay close attention to how food is presented. Take photos as each dish comes out. After tasting so many things and talking about options, it’s easy to forget what you’ve already tasted.
11) Take careful notes on what you like about each item for presentation and taste.
12) If you like everything on a dish with the exception of one element, ask if they can switch it out. For example, a different sauce, side or garnish.
13) Note what type of plate/tray/dish the item is served on and compare with what you’ll actually have at the wedding. While it’s fun to have a beautiful presentation for BBQ ribs, if the dish will actually be served on a paper plate or from a buffet, take note of that. Sometimes catering companies have beautiful serving pieces for tastings, but they don’t actually use those items for the event itself. Be clear what each item is served on. Ask to see photos of food presentation from real past events.
14) Be aware of cost. It’s easy to get carried away at a tasting by adding more options or deciding you can’t live without the late night crepe bar. In the end, you should be aware how much each menu change will affect your total cost. Ask the chef for ideas on cost-effective changes.
15) Discuss preferences: Will you be doing toasts during one or several of your courses? If yes, do you want service to continue or pause till toasts are done? Are there tables that should be served first? Be sure your catering manager knows where these guests will be sitting as nothing is worse than mom & dad being served last when they are actually footing the bill!
16) The tasting is a great time to share your timing for the day of the event so they have a clear idea of what will be happening when. This can help flush out any possible problem areas or things you didn’t think about. For example, maybe you are re-purposing your ceremony chairs for dinner and had assumed the catering staff can move them. But, at the same time they need to be moved, the catering staff is busy tending bar, serving appetizers, and getting dinner ready. Anything that affects set up, service, rentals, staffing or clean up, should be discussed in advance to be sure you don’t have a surprise cost add on a few weeks before the wedding for additional staffing or rentals.
After the Tasting
17) Get a detailed revised proposal with menu after the tasting based on all the things you discussed. Compare this with your own notes to be sure they didn’t forget anything. DON’T assume that the person you did the tasting with will actually be present at your wedding. The catering chef & staff working on the day of your event will use your final menu to work off of so it’s imperative that it includes everything that was discussed during the tasting.
18) If there are any special catering details that are out of the ordinary, make sure to include those notes on your master timeline. This will remind your catering staff about that detail and ensure your day-of coordinator can help to make sure those things happen the way you envisioned them.
I hope you find these tips helpful. For more tips and advice on stress-free wedding planning, sign up to become a member.