The Yummiest Part of Wedding Planning—Wine and Food Tastings!

Real Weddings
wedding wine tasting Ilana Stern family

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next few months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dream dress.

Other than shopping for my wedding dress, my favorite part of wedding planning has definitely been the tastings. It's one of the few times throughout this process where you can sample every drink, dish, and delicious dessert on the menu without feeling an ounce of guilt! Needless to say, figuring out what we are going to serve at our rehearsal dinner and wedding was one of the most fun things we've done so far. We were lucky enough to have three tastings: one for the rehearsal dinner, another for the wine at the wedding, and a final one for our wedding dessert.

We are hosting the rehearsal dinner at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, so Jeff, my fiancé, and I got a group of people together for a special Friday night dinner to take a few dishes for a test drive. I recommend gathering friends and family whose opinion and palate you really trust to assist with tastings—I'm sure they'll be happy to oblige! Don Samora, who runs the events at the Viceroy, took great care of us and made sure we had a taste of absolutely everything on the menu, which was very helpful because we were able to leave the meal with complete confidence in our choices. We also made sure to sample wine options and small bites to really recreate the cocktail hour experience.

When it came time to make the final decision for our rehearsal dinner, we went for the dishes that stood out the most. We immediately knew that our pre-wedding gathering could not happen without the mini Spanish grilled cheese sandwiches with manchego and membrillo (see below). Another dish we couldn't live without was a burrata, pesto and tomato crostini—it was to die for! For the main course we chose a brick oven pizza station and for dessert miniature cake bites (in three flavors: red velvet, meyer lemon, and strawberry shortcake...yum!). To top our rehearsal dinner menu off, we crafted a specialty cocktail for the evening. Who doesn't love the sound of blood orange margaritas?

wedding rehearsal tasting spanish grilled cheese wedding rehearsal tasting burrata crostini wedding rehearsal tasting blood orange margarita

Photos: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

Jeff and I share a passion for wine, so we wanted to make sure that we really loved the one that we'll be serving at our wedding. But after checking out the selection at our reception venue, we didn't love their offerings (and loved the prices even less). So rather than spend more than expected on wine that we weren't excited about, we decided to explore other options. While corkage isn't cheap, we found that if we brought our own wine, we could get better quality at a better price. Plus, this gave us another excuse to do another tasting to find the perfect pairing for our delicious meal.

My family and I had an absolute blast at the famed Wine House in LA. JB Severin, their General Manager, took us through the tasting. He's incredibly knowledgeable and ended up finding some fabulous deals for us that didn't sacrifice quality. When it comes to stocking your bar, I say don't be afraid to explore your options—even if it means looking outside of your wedding venue.

Our last tasting was my personal favorite—dessert! I have never been someone who loves wedding cake, so I wanted to do something different (but still delicious) for our dessert hour. One evening I came across Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches online and a light bulb went off in my head. I had to have an ice cream sandwich cake for my wedding!

Ilana Stern wedding tasting coolhaus with founder Natasha

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

If you're not familiar with it, Coolhaus is this fabulous fleet of ice cream trucks that specialize in gourmet ice cream sandwiches. The founder, Natasha, and I actually went to high school together, so I contacted her and she was gracious enough to host Jeff and I at the Coolhaus flagship in LA. We lived every kid's dream as we got to taste over 20 ice cream flavors and 10 different types of cookies! We ended up selecting some exciting flavors: olive oil rosemary pine nut cookie with balsamic mascarpone fig ice cream, chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with kosher sea salt with mint julep ice cream, chocolate chip cookie with honeycomb ice cream, and sugar cookie with strawberry mimosa sorbet (and yes, the ice cream had booze in it!). I could not have dreamt up a more tasty treat to top off our night.

Wedding dessert coolhaus ice cream snadwiches

Photo: Courtesy of Ilana Stern

I think that every element of your wedding should reflect you and your fiancé—even the food! So have fun with your tasting: sample everything on the menu, share the experience with those you love (and whose palates you trust), don't be afraid to think outside of the box, and ultimately choose food, drinks, and dessert that you absolutely LOVE (because your guests will love it too!).

—Ilana Stern

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