Choosing the right food to serve your guests can be an exciting process, but it's about more than just choosing the best tasting food. From the first bite of an appetizer through the end of the meal, to the dessert bar and late night snacks, the selections you serve should tell a story that mimics the theme of the wedding, is an expression of the couple's personality, and creates an overall atmosphere for guests. Couples who want an elegant wedding are less likely to serve a barbecue buffet, and those who want to create an intimate feeling are likely to steer clear of lobster and steak. Developing the idea of what the food experience should be is the first step to picking a caterer, but once you've narrowed the list down to two or three options, it's time for everyone's favorite part of wedding planning - going to tastings. But before you get caught up in trying all this amazing food, remember that you're at these tastings for a reason, and it's important to get the most out of a tasting so you can make the best selections for your wedding.
1. Prepare Beforehand
As with any wedding vendor, having a good idea of what you need and want is key to making sure that you find the right fit, and understanding your budget will help you stay on track. Before you get to your tasting, let your potential caterer know about your menu preferences, and what you're most interested in trying. You don't need to taste everything they offer to be sure that they can provide a great meal to your guests, so if you're certain that you want a chicken and beef option, it's not necessary to sample the seafood. Keep your budget in mind when preparing a tasting menu, so you don't fall in love with something that's out of budget.
2. Don't Lose Sight of the Goal
Keep your guests and overall wedding experience at the focus of your tasting. Sure, you might love the pork medallions, but if most of your guests steer clear of pork, it isn't a good fit for your menu. Also, make sure you remind yourself that you're not just enjoying a nice dinner out. Whether it's just you and your fiance at the tasting or you bring along your parents or two friends as extra opinions, you need to make sure everyone is thinking about what will best serve the tastes of your wedding guests. If you think you'll get caught up in the moment and forget to treat the tasting as an interview, bring your wedding planner along to provide an unbiased opinion that will ask all the questions and keep the meeting on track.
3. Consider Specialty Requests and Needs
Tying back to point 1, come to your tasting prepared with information about if any of your guests will have specialty requests or needs regarding the food. Are any of your guests vegan? Vegetarian? Do any of your guests have food allergies? Will you need a specialty plate set aside for your one vegan friend, or will enough vegan friends be in attendance that there should be a special dish on the main menu? If you're unsure of these answers, you can still ask your potential caterers how they would handle allergies, needs and requests. Ask the caterer about the latest date you can provide them with information on these special dishes and options to make sure all guests can eat happy, and see what the caterer is able to do to accommodate everyone.
4. Take Detailed Notes
Whether you're trying food from one caterer or more, it's important to take detailed notes about the foods your sampling, in case you want to make changes to the menu or need to remember details. If sampling something similar from two places, you want to know why you loved one chicken dish more than another, so making a note of the great spices on one versus what you loved about the sauce on another dish may help you make your final decision. Also pay attention to presentation! If something doesn't seem super fresh, or if the plating doesn't look beautiful during the tasting, you can be pretty confident that the same level of service (or worse) will be provided at the wedding - after all, the tasting is their chance to impress you!
5. Don't Be Afraid to Adjust the Menu
So, you love this crab dip for appetizer, but you wish it was served with pita chips instead of tortilla chips. Just ask! Or maybe you fell in love with a pasta salad made by Caterer #1, but you prefer everything else on Caterer #2's menu - perhaps a similar pasta salad can make an appearance with Caterer #2! How about if you absolutely want a steak dish served at your wedding, but the budget is tight - can the caterer serve a cheaper cut of steak with that marinade you love? Sure, the caterer might say that your request isn't possible, but you'll never know until you ask. It's important for you to be able to express what you want out of your menu and ask for adjustments that make it perfect for you and your day, rather than just agreeing to a menu or service that you're not in love with.
6. Ask Questions About the Caterers, Not Just the Food
Finally, and this ties back to point 2, remember that this is an interview, not just a dinner. You want to know about more than just the food when it comes to your caterer, just like you want to know about more than just the photos when it comes to the photographer. Ask questions during your tasting about what the catering team does to make your wedding day perfect. Some important topics include service, the level of set up (like if they set the place settings or fill water glasses), if they offer a kids menu or price, how many staff they will bring the day of, and if the catering team will stay through the end of the night, or just through the end of dinner. Additionally, be sure to pay attention to the way you are served during the tasting, and how attentive the caterer is, as this is like a job interview and you should see them putting their best foot forward to get your business. If you're not impressed with the service, that may be a sign of how the wedding would go.
Not sure how to find a caterer to meet your needs, or what questions to ask to make sure they're the one for you, our team is always happy to help with vendor recommendations. Reach out today to set up your free consultation!