by: Christie A. Brogan {9.8.17}

After almost 8 years and hundreds (and hundreds) of weddings and events, one thing is for certain…tastings have become a trend.  When we opened in 2010, approximately 25-30% of our clients requested a tasting. Today, our tasting dates fill up as fast as we can get them on the calendar.

What is a “tasting” you ask? It’s the opportunity to sit down with your caterer/chef (in our case we are both venue and caterer) and actually “taste” the food to be served at your wedding or event.  What’s included varies from caterer to caterer.  For us, a standard tasting includes any five items. (We do allow for additional items to be added to the tasting, but tend to cap that number around ten.)

Why do you need a “tasting”? The truth is you don’t. If you have contracted with the caterer, hopefully, you are familiar with the food quality and presentation of the company or you have done your homework (online reviews from previous clients can be a tremendous resource). The tasting can, however, be a helpful (and fun) way to make final menu selections. For example, are you trying to decide between a beef or a fish dish? What better way to make that choice then sampling the two dishes side-by-side. Tastings are important if you are having a custom menu or (more specifically) custom menu items created. This provides the Chef an opportunity to prepare the dish and get feedback on the taste and overall presentation.

How far in advance should you schedule a tasting? A good rule of thumb is not more than six months before the wedding date. By that point, the vision you have for the wedding should be coming together and – as we’ve discussed in previous posts – it should all “gel”…including the food selections. The one exception to the 6-month rule is for plated menus. In those cases you will need to order the invites and enclosures before the six month mark and in order for your guests to make menu selections, you need to know what’s on the menu.  Tasting availability is also contingent on the caterers schedule of events. For example, most months we offer at least two tasting dates, but during our busiest months, we can only offer one.

What should you “taste”? It’s a good question and here are afew things to consider when making that decision.
1. If you have requested a custom menu or menu item, those should be on the tasting.
2. Typically a tasting can be very helpful when deciding between main course selections or the side items to accompany them.
3. And, unless you have never been to a catered event in your life, don’t order the cheese display or vegetable crudités for the tasting. The creativity with these types of items comes in the presentation which you will not fully enjoy in a typical tasting setting.

Will there be a Tasting Fee? Again, this varies from caterer to caterer. Some caterers provide the tasting complimentary, while others make it an optional add-on. (In our company, it is an optional add-on. We charge a fee of $100.) Other caterers will waive the fee if you have contracted to spend a certain amount of money. You should note, if you have requested to taste every item on the menu you can definitely expect an additional fee to cover those costs.

What can you expect during the tasting? Obviously, there’s the actual food tasting and the opportunity for feedback. If there are other details your caterer is handling, they will often use this opportunity to review that information with you. Our company is unique because we are the venue, caterer, and often times the contracted event coordinator.  Our tastings include the food sampling and feedback, but then we sit down with the client and review all the details for the big day.

In the end, we have hosted many, many functions where the client never tasted the food before the day of the event. And, that’s fine. Whether our client chooses to have a tasting or not, it’s our responsibility to ensure they will be more than pleased with the final product and presentation…our reputation depends on it.

Always look for reviews. Former clients and fellow brides happily share their real opinions especially in online forums like The Knot or WeddingWire. Check them out.

Happy Planning!

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Christie Brogan {Co-Founder & Partner – 128 South and Bakery 105 in Wilmington, NC. Founder of SocietyWed – Wedding Collective. Entrepreneur, Small Business Mentor, Event Planner, Wedding Geek, Writer, Business Innovator, Idea Maker, Boot Camp Betty, Yoga Nut, Animal Lover, Avid Reader}