Whether your wedding venue is providing catering or you're using an outside vendor, most reliable caterers offer potential clients a wedding tasting where you can sample their food, from hors d'oeuvres and salads to main courses and desserts — and it's a good idea to take them up on it. The tasting has become increasingly important as couples increasingly choose to personalize everything from their signature cocktails to their desserts, and this is the only dress rehearsal for food that you'll have.
Read on for key do's and dont's that will help you make the most out of your tasting.
Wedding Tasting Do's
1. Go In With a Budget In Mind
Not all menu items are created equally — serving filet mignon instead of chicken can increase the price per person by up to 25 percent! Furthermore, even if you offer two options, like chicken and filet mignon, at many venues the "higher price will prevail." Meaning, if chicken was $80 a plate and filet mignon was $100 a plate, you'd still have to pay $100 a plate of all guests. Make a budget for catering and see what options fit it. If you're dead set on serving a more expensive dish, you can always trim your guest list to stay within your budget.
Furthermore, you do have the power to negotiate. The per-plate prices aren't set in stone. The per-person rate typically includes things like hors d'oeuvres, a glass of wine at dinner, a champagne toast, etc. Things like a glass of wine or a champagne toast can be removed to bring the per-person price down, and it might even make sense if there's already an open bar. You can also offer three hors d'oeuvres instead of four to bring down the per-person price and make it fit within your budget.
2. Invite Your Wedding Planner Along
If you've hired a wedding planner or consultant, you should include him or her in the tasting; it's the wedding planner's job to be the clear-eyed troubleshooter, and to make sure you get the service you want.
3. Pay Attention to the Details
Look for signs of good-quality foods and ingredients. If the ends of cheese slices appear dry and discolored, that could mean that the cheese was cut hours before — or even yesterday. Are the vegetables brightly colored and not soggy? Is the salad fresh and not wilting? Are baked breads soft and chewy and not stale and hard? Even little things like butter having a refrigerator taste, can be a clue to a caterer's attention — or inattention — to detail.
4. Notice the Attentiveness of Staff
If you're attending a buffet tasting, note whether food is allowed to sit out for long periods without being replenished. The caterer should have sufficient staff to keep presentation as fresh looking at 3 p.m. as it was at noon.
5. Ask If It's Possible to Meet the Chef at Your Tasting
Another key piece of wedding food tasting etiquette is making sure to thank the chef and offer positive feedback. You want to get off on the [right foot with your chef and the catering staff, since they're going to be the ones responsible for creating amazing food on your most important day. Once you empower a chef with your attention and confidence, the results can be amazing.
Wedding Tasting Don'ts
1. Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
As with everything wedding-related, things must be planned well in advance. Schedule your wedding tasting three to four months before the wedding. If you are going to offer a choice of dishes, i.e. fish or chicken, on your RSVP card, you'll then need to figure out what the wedding tasting menu options are before printing the invitations. Given that invitations are to be ordered three months before the wedding, you'll need to have figured out your menu figured out first.
2. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Tweaks
Let's say you've chosen the Caesar salad but you really want to have cherry tomatoes added to it. Or maybe you want carrots even though the chicken you chose typically comes served with asparagus. Or, perhaps you'd prefer all white chocolate strawberries instead of an assortment of white chocolate and milk chocolate. When it comes to small things like these, don't be afraid to ask for tweaks. Small changes like these are perfectly acceptable to ask for, and the caterer will be more than happy to work with you.
It is, after all, your day and they want to make things exactly how you'd want them.
3. Don't Expect to Get Something for Nothing
If you've already signed a contract, your wedding tasting will most likely be complimentary. If, however, you're still shopping around for a caterer, don't be surprised if you have to pay for your tasting. If they have a restaurant, try the food there. If you're considering them as your caterer, and you want to hear more about their food, talk to former clients and search online for reviews.
4. Don't Ask to Taste Everything on the Menu
Be specific and reasonable when you choose what you want to taste. Some vendors will tell you exactly how many of each item (appetizers, soups, salads, entrées, desserts) you may try, and let you choose your favorites from the list. No matter what, the caterer's menu is probably extensive, and you're not going to try everything. In fact, you should select the fewest possible number of different menu items to try because the whole purpose is to narrow down your options and select what you actually want to eat.
5. Don't Take a Whole Peanut Gallery of Folks to Your Tasting
The tasting is for you and your fiancé, your wedding planner, and your moms if you want to include them. It's not an opportunity for a free dinner with all your bridesmaids. Besides, do you really care what everybody else thinks? You shouldn't. The food you serve on your wedding day should be things that you and your new spouse both enjoy.