Tantalize Your Taste Buds As You Plan Your Wedding Menu
Written by Bob Brichmann
Food is arguably one of the key elements a bride and groom and their families consider for that special wedding reception. It’s a signature of your tastes for display with family & friends. The right mix of food, beverage and dessert makes a statement.
As you search for the right hotel, chef and/or caterer, ask for referrals. Look at reputations and testimonials from past clients. Try and narrow down your choices to three or four caterers. Then the fun truly begins with the ever-so-necessary tasting three to five months before the wedding.
“This is really important. You build a relationship with your caterer and they in turn can offer a more caring, personal touch to their services tailored to your needs. You can see how the food will be presented at the wedding. You can sample from a variety of tasty hors d’oeurves and entrees and determine the quality of actual dishes,” explains Melissa Caputo, Operations Manager for Feast On This, Full Service Catering & Event Planning
Caterers almost universally endorse tasting sample cocktail hour offerings (food & beverage), entrees and sides and desserts to get the full experience. Pay attention to the décor and service. This is generally representative of how it will be at the wedding.
It’s good to start with perhaps just the two of you for the first visit. If the parents are foodies or helping pay for the wedding, they’ll probably need to taste test, too, but that can be a secondary visit. What may chaff some caterers is if you seek to bring a crew of 8 to 12 people. That’s not very practical as caterers have real labor costs and hard food & beverage costs. It is not uncommon for there to be a cost to cover expenses for a tasting session. It’s only fair to the caterer.
“Couples will share preferences ahead of time in a preliminary meeting or by phone so we know going into the tasting everything from linen color preferences to dietary concerns, such as vegan, gluten-free, lactose intolerance or perhaps shellfish allergies,” shares Kristie Emmons, Event Sales & Designer for Continental Catering
Some caterers are larger than others. Large does not mean a sacrifice in quality…it often means they are popular and in demand. If you like what you see and/or taste, snatch ’em up before others do. There are only so many Saturdays for staging weddings. There are boutique caterers, too, who pride themselves on their acclaimed chef’s technique, talent and style and who are sought after for their food and service.
“Brides and grooms need to be up front and honest about their expectations and budget. It’s a huge cost within the wedding budget. They can have normal sized entrees to see what portions they’ll get. There’s also a growing trend toward family style for stations using unique, small plating with almost a Tapas styling,” advises Meredith Bell, Director of Business Development for TK&A Catering
Don’t be surprised if off-premise caterers ask for a tasting fee. As stated, they have hard costs without a guarantee of resulting business in the end. Many, though, do apply a credit to the final bill if you book them for your event.
Don’t be shy about asking loads of questions or being specific with your tastes. This is the purpose of the tasting and pre-event planning process ~ to get it right on the “day-of.”
“Many are foodies with their tastes and critical about how the food and servings will look when served. They may want comfort food with an edge. Braised short ribs in a red wine reduction. Truffled mac-n-cheese. A shot of organic tomato soup with a bite of grilled cheese made with Vermont white cheddar & artisan bread,” offers Mark Vogel, Event Coordinator & Co-Owner with San Diego Authentic Flavors
It should be a fun process for you and whomever you invite to taste test. In the past, there was a wives tale that the groom just showed up for the wedding. That is no more. Grooms have discerning tastes now, too. They like food, music, dessert, etc. They want to give input. It’s their wedding, too.
“In our case, we don’t charge for the tasting. We really want to bond with them and for them to enjoy the process. Perhaps they have special requests from favorite restaurants they’ve been to that we can recreate. Maybe they stage a sushi bar with a special roll named after the couple. They can come to the tasting after work, dress casual, take pictures…have fun,” states Christine Ong, Event Director from Encore Catering & Events.
One thing to keep in mind is the guest list and feeding the masses. How many are truly foodies and will they really taste quinoa or dragon fruit and know what it is versus enjoying a well-cooked steak and nicely cooked traditional vegetables? We have many destination weddings here in the San Diego area which means people fly in from around the country and world to attend events. Their tastes fly with them.
Keep in mind seasonality with regard to fruit and vegetable choices. Listen to your chef or caterer. When they say in 6 months, it’s not brussels sprouts season, listen to them. They do this for a living. You’ll pay an arm & a leg for out of season items (and even then, they may not be available).
You may be looking for deals. You may be on a “budget.” The food and service element is crucial to creating a smooth-flowing, memorable, wedding day experience. Take advantage of the taste testing process to ensure you get what you want: peace of mind, your tastes reflected in your event, happy family & friends and a wonderful, stress-free evening.
You’ve earned a delicious night. Prepare for it in advance