Whether your wedding venue is providing the catering or you're using an outside vendor, most reliable caterers offer potential clients a wedding tasting. This will likely be your only opportunity to try the food you'll be serving—from hors d'oeuvres and salads to main courses and desserts. The tasting has become increasingly important as couples are choosing to personalize everything, including signature cocktails and passed apps. Make the most out of your wedding tasting with these dos and don'ts.
Wedding Tasting Dos
1. Have a Budget in Mind
Not all menu items are created equal. Serving filet mignon instead of chicken can increase the price per person by up to 25 percent. 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 for all guests. If you're dead set on serving a more expensive dish, you can always trim your guest list to stay within your budget.
Remember: You do have the power to negotiate. The per-plate prices aren't set in stone. A glass of wine or 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.
2. Invite Your Wedding Planner Along
If you've hired a wedding planner or consultant, you should include them in the tasting; it's the wedding planner's job to be the clear-eyed troubleshooter and make sure you get the service you deserve.
3. Pay Attention to the Details
Look for signs of high-quality foods and ingredients. If the ends of cheese slices appear dry and discolored, it could mean that the cheese was cut hours before—or even yesterday. Are the vegetables brightly colored and not soggy? Are baked breads soft and chewy and not stale and hard? Even little things like butter having a refrigerator taste can clue you into 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 dishes as fresh 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 preparing delicious food on your most important day.
Wedding Tasting Don'ts
1. Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
As with anything wedding related, things must be planned well in advance. Schedule your wedding tasting three to four months before the wedding. If you're going to offer a choice of dishes on your RSVP card, you'll need to figure out what the wedding menu options are before printing the invitations.
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. Don't be afraid to inquire about tweaks up front. Minor changes are perfectly acceptable to ask for, and the caterer will likely be more than happy to work with you.
3. Don't Expect 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 your tasting comes with a fee. Do your research ahead of time by talking to former clients and searching for online reviews. If they have a restaurant, try the food there.
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.
5. Don't Bring a Whole Peanut Gallery of Folks to Your Tasting
The tasting is for you, your partner, your wedding planner, and your parents if you want to include them. It's not an opportunity to snag a free dinner with all your bridesmaids. The food you serve on your wedding day should include items that you and your partner both enjoy.