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Wedding tasting etiquette: 10 things you should be aware of

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The food that is served at your wedding has an important role in determining the overall wedding experience. Most of the guests, if not all, will look forward to the food that is provided on your wedding day. So, you do not want them to be unhappy with the meal offered, while everything else was done to perfection.

Most wedding vendors offer a wedding tasting session before you book your order. With this option, you can actually see, taste, and experience the food that will be served on your wedding day. We suggest that you take your caterer up on this offer of wedding food tasting and make sure everything is just right, so there are no regrets later.

As with anything wedding-related, there is a catering tasting etiquette that you should adhere to. We will be looking at the do’s and don’ts of wedding food tasting etiquette. But before we move to this list, let us first try to understand what you can expect at your tasting session.

What to expect at your tasting

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Tastings allow you to sample the menu you have chosen for your reception. It gives you a real idea of how the service will be, and how the food will look and taste. While some caterers offer complimentary tastings, others charge you for it. Some vendors, however, offer complimentary tasting if you sign the contract first. This is because it can end up being very expensive for the vendor otherwise.

If you are just shopping around and want to taste the food prior to committing to an order, this is also usually possible. The caterer may then ask you to pay for the food that will be served at the tasting. 

If a vendor disagrees to conduct a tasting prior to paying a deposit, you can ask him to make an exception if you would be ready to pay for it. If he refuses, think twice about booking. The service at the reception may go either way, and the last thing you want is to regret booking it without an idea of what you would be receiving.

Prior to your tasting session, you will be expected to discuss your expectations and choose the dishes you want to try, from their menu. Full-size portions are usually served, so you can actually see and experience how the wedding meal will be. The drinks that will be served, will also be included with the meal.

Now that you know what to expect at the tasting session, let us move on to the general etiquette for a successful tasting session. Follow the list we have provided, and you are sure to have a positive experience, whether you choose to go with the caterer or not.

Wedding food tasting Etiquette

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Keep your entourage limited

While many caterers offer complimentary tasting sessions for up to 4 guests, you should be able to include more if you are paying for it yourself. However, as with bridal dress shopping, it is not only good food tasting etiquette, but you can actually achieve the best results if you keep the entourage to a minimum. With more people, you can easily lose focus and this isn’t favorable for neither you nor your caterer.

Bring a small group of three to four people at the most, and they should be ones who can give honest and helpful feedback. If you have a wedding planner, she should be at the tasting. This is because she is experienced enough to look beyond basics, and can spot potential problems in the quality of food and service. She can also relate the service and dishes to how the meal would actually work at your venue, and make suggestions that will help.

Be flexible with your schedule

Remember that there are a lot of factors that go into planning a tasting session. Your caterer will have to put his staff on duty to prepare the meal, however small it may be. Different vendors handle tasting sessions in different ways. While some conduct open-house tasting sessions for a number of couples, others may give you a special session where you can have a personalized sample of what you would like for your wedding day.

In certain cases, your caterer may even ask you to attend a function that they are catering to. This may be so you can see how they conduct their service, and also sample the food as it will be done on your wedding day. Whichever be the style of your caterer, you should be able to accommodate it into your schedule, if you want to consider his services. This is also where you should consider what to wear to a wedding tasting. If you will be attending a function they are catering at, make sure you dress appropriately for the event and not look out of place.

Don’t lose focus of why you are there

A tasting session is about understanding how your reception food will be. Your caterer would prefer that you focus on the food at the tasting, instead of any other things that are going on in your life. Do not consider this as an occasion for family discussions or friendly feuds, and try to limit your conversations to the food and the wedding. Remember that your caterer will be near, observing you throughout. So, don’t be disrespectful or ignore the purpose of why you are there.

Save the serious discussions for later, unless you want to sound rude. Keep the chattering to a minimum and pay attention to what is provided. Attend your session with a notepad and camera, so you can make notes and click pictures for future reference. This will also help you better to make suggestions for changes.

Come prepared for the tasting

Apart from being prepared to take notes and pictures, it is important that you are also involved in the tasting. Plan your tasting session for a day when you do not have any other pressing engagements. Only then can you concentrate and make the most of the experience. Be mentally prepared and attentive. If you have any pressing work problems or other things on your mind, schedule the tasting for another day.

Do not eat a heavy meal or fill your stomach up with snacks, prior to your session. Neither should you starve yourself. You should be hungry enough to enjoy the session, but not too hungry to just gobble it down without recognizing if it is actually tasty. Remember that it is a full course meal that you will have. So, make sure your evening is entirely devoted to the tasting. You’ll probably also have to cancel any other plans later that day, as you will just want to crash into bed and snooze, once it’s over.

Don’t be too intimidating at the service

There are some couples who stare and keep such a close watch, that it can seem creepy to the waiters at the service. Don’t feel like you have to be so attentive, that you intimidate the people who serve you. Stay composed and relaxed, and try to enjoy the experience of how it is. If you aren’t happy with the dried out cheese, wilted vegetables or shabby presentation, don’t look upset or openly cringe. If there are things that you aren’t happy about, don’t worry. This is not the actual thing, there is scope for improvement once you give your suggestions. You can even consider switching to another vendor if you are entirely unhappy with what you experienced at the tasting.

Don’t go overboard with the drinks

You will usually be served wine or another beverage at your tasting, and the same will usually be served at your wedding. Don’t drink too much, so you become tipsy and can’t focus anymore. Just take small sips to identify how it goes with the rest of the meal. Remember that you should have a clear head to identify how the tasting is, and too much alcohol can damage the possibilities. Not only is it good manners to not become inebriated, but it is also essential to the purpose of why you are at the place.

Be discrete when you discuss things

We know that you may want to discuss certain factors with the rest of your group, before making a verdict. There may be other things that you want to draw their attention to. If these are negative factors, don’t be too loud or overly critical when discussing it. Discuss it briefly, and keep it on a positive note. Don’t hesitate to check with your catering in-charge, if its a factor that really bothers you. But don’t get into an argument or be too patronizing about it.

Most people are open to positive criticism, but may not be too happy if you only have negative things to say. As with any other social situation, mind your manners when you voice your opinion. Be courteous and clear, but do not insult or embarrass with what you say.

Be honest with your feedback

If you enjoyed your meal, it isn’t likely that you will have much trouble saying so. Now, if it were the other way around, we know why you may feel a little hesitant to say so. Nevertheless, you should provide honest feedback. If there is anything that you would have liked to be different, make sure your chef or waiter knows. This way, they can rectify it on an actual day and make sure you are happy.

Whether it is about the food, the presentation, or the service, telling your vendor at your tasting session will help him move things around to meet your expectations. Nonetheless, be mindful of the way you say things. Even if it is a negative opinion, try to focus on the positives as well, so you don’t sound like you are reprimanding them. Be diplomatic, offer suggestions on how they can improve it, and appreciate all that you liked. This is just being plain courteous.

Tip the waiter who served you

The fact that you are at a tasting session shouldn’t alter the way you normally behave at dinner. It is in fact pretty similar, considering that there were people who served you and who were attentive to your needs, at your tasting. Even if it is a complimentary tasting, it is customary to tip the waiter who attended to you. So, make sure you do it. Do it as you would do when you eat out otherwise. Consider the total amount the meal would cost, and tip the same percentage that you would do normally for that price.

Personally thank the chef

The main person behind the scenes is obviously, the chef! You will be in touch with the catering manager or venue manager. However, remember that they are not the ones who are actually responsible for whipping up delicious food. This happens in the kitchen. The chef and his team are the star players in creating the flavors that your guests will feast on. So, it is good wedding tasting etiquette to meet them and thank them for their efforts. It is not necessary but is nice if you do so.

Request to meet personally with the chef, and appreciate and thank him for his work. This nice little gesture can do amazing things for your wedding. The chef will remember you for how nice you were, and will add that extra dose of care into his dishes for your wedding day. This can be really worth that little effort of yours.

If everything goes well and you enjoyed your tasting session, that is one thing you can strike off your wedding planning list. However, if the opposite happens, and you hated it, what do you do? If you haven’t signed the contract, you can just walk away from there and keep searching for a better option. If you have already signed the contract, consider the following options.

  • Provide specific details about what you didn’t like and ask them what they can do to change it
  • Be polite, but firm and vocal when you insist you want something changed, as it isn’t up to your expectations. It is right to expect your caterer to make adjustments to please your palate. So, don’t shy away from it and settle for food you aren’t happy with.
  • Do you have suggestions on how they can improve things? Tell them about it and see if they can accommodate these changes.
  • If they offer different menu items, make sure to taste them before you approve the change.

Visit us at Best for Bride for more wedding-related tips, advice, and shopping needs. You can find everything you need, including vendors for your wedding in our list of services. Check out our website today, and move one step closer to having a fantastic wedding day.

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10 questions you must ask your wedding caterer

Good food is a very important factor in making your wedding memorable. However detailed and unique your wedding décor may be, or how beautiful you look on your wedding day, all this becomes insignificant if your wedding menu is not up to the mark.

Food lovers are aplenty, and there will be more than just few at your wedding. So, you are responsible for providing hearty and interesting fare, that will appeal to them. Only then will they go home happy, and consider your wedding a total success.

The responsibility of serving delicious food and creating an interesting menu, lay with your wedding caterer. With a reliable and talented caterer on your side, it will be easy to satisfy your guests and even exceed their expectations, where food is concerned.

How do you find the right person to cater to your wedding? Find out for your self, by asking the following ten questions to potential candidates.

1.What are your service charges, and what does it include?

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Everything in a wedding is closely tied to the wedding budget. To choose a caterer, you have to first obtain quotes from caterers you wish to consider. This helps you to decide if the charges will be within your budget, and you can proceed with further discussions. Caterers do not just supply the food for the wedding, they also provide the associated services. These may or may not include setting up, serving the food, clean-up after service, cake slicing and serving etc.

The services included in the quotes may differ from one vendor to another. So, you should ask for what is included specifically, as this not only contributes to the experience, but will also impact your budget. If the caterer provides only the food, you have to spend extra on the staff for the service. When collecting quotes, ask for a detailed break-up of what is included in it. This will help you compare caterers and find the best option that works within your budget, after considering all the extras that you have to arrange separately.

2.How many staff will be present at the venue?

This is obviously tied to your guest count and type of food service. This cheat sheet on Wedding planning for dummies gives an apt representation for different types of services.  The ideal staff to guest ratio can vary from 1 or 2 waiters for up to 12 guests at a formal sit-down style meal to 1 for 25 guests at a buffet meal service. However, not all vendors use the same server-to-guest ratio.

It is important to obtain this detail, as this will affect the quality of service at your wedding. You should also consider details like what other jobs the waiters will simultaneously be handling, to determine if the count works for you. Whether the staff will be refilling glasses at the tables itself, or whether guests will be collecting their beverages from a station, can alter the required number count. Take the numbers and your wedding menu style into consideration, before deciding whether a caterer’s staff count will work for you. If there is more self-service happening at the wedding, you can afford to have fewer waiters.

3.How do you obtain your ingredients?

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Local and seasonal ingredients are always cheaper. If you are looking for some help with your budget, ask your caterer how they source ingredients. While comparing rates, you should take this factor into account. When you have to pay more for quality ingredients, it is likely that the food will also taste better. So, it is basically a compromise you have to make between the price and quality. If you consider it important to serve organic or reliably sourced food, you will have to pay more for caterers who can handle this requirement.

4.Will there be any extra charges that you will have to bear, apart from what is quoted?

There are factors to consider, such as the rental charges of the cutlery, glassware and tableware that will be used at your wedding. Do these come with the venue, does your caterer provide it along with the food service, or will you have to arrange for this on your own? Clarify this upfront, so there is no confusion after you place your order. Some caterers will add the rental charges to their total quote, while others will assume you will take care of this part. So, make sure you know what you are paying for.

Apart from this, you should also check whether the final bill will include any additional or overhead charges like transportation or clearing up charges. Or, is what is mentioned on the bill, the final price you have to pay?

5.How will the food be prepared prior to service?

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You should be concerned about whether the food will be ready-to-serve when it arrives, or whether the caterer will be doing the finishing touches on-site? The right option depends on the menu you choose. Some items have to be prepared right before service, as this is the only way they will taste good and look appetizing. Crisp and fried food are examples.

On the other hand, you can afford to have other items prepared early and simply transferred to the serving dishes at the time of service. Cold salads and dips fall into this category. It is likely that you will have at least one or more dishes that require assembling or finishing, just prior to service. Ask your caterer how this will be handled. If the lower quote is associated with food that isn’t served in the best way it should be, you should either replace the dish with another option, or be prepared to pay more for a caterer who will do it on-site.

6.Have you worked in a similar venue before?

The venue where your wedding is held, has a huge role in determining the appropriate type of service. If your caterer has already hosted a service at the same venue, consider yourself in luck. Otherwise, you should identify whether the vendor is capable of arranging a good service in the given conditions.

If you have shortlisted vendors you to choose from, you can take them to the site and ask them about how they intend to work with it. An experienced caterer will immediately recognize if the type of meal that you suggest—plated or buffet—will be practical in a certain venue. They will also offer suggestions on how the service can be streamlined to progress smoothly. This is usually based on their previous experience in catering to weddings of similar scale and in similar venues, if not the same one. This brings us to the next important point; the experience of each vendor you consider for the job.

7.How experienced are you at handling weddings on a similar scale?

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Weddings are usually huge events, and very different from regular restaurant services that most caterers are used to. Experience in handling weddings is a definite advantage. However, it isn’t necessary that the most experienced caterer will be the best for you. This depends on whether their experience includes weddings of a similar nature as yours. If your experienced caterer has only done different styles, or entirely different menus, the less experienced candidate may be a better choice.

The scale of the wedding is also a concern. If your wedding caterer has always done smaller weddings, make sure he has the equipment and staff to cater to your wedding before you confirm your booking. Ask for the additional adjustments they will make to accommodate your wedding needs. Are you convinced they will be able to pull it off? Or do you foresee a disaster? Take a call accordingly.

8.What suggestions do you have for my wedding?

Rather than telling your caterer everything he has to do, you can welcome his suggestions too. As experienced professionals, who have tended to several weddings, they will have ideas you may never have considered. Run your caterer through your wedding vision, the theme and what factors you want focus on. Then ask him for his suggestions. Similarly, gather feedback for your suggestions.

At times, a caterer may not be enthusiastic about a certain idea you suggested. If this is the case, ask him for his reasons. If he thinks it is impractical due to the logistics involved or unavailability of ingredients, you may benefit with following his inputs than forcing him to agree to do it. Your vendor may also have suggestions to make certain dishes more interesting, or suggest substitutes that may better match the meal style. Take these into consideration. When comparing vendors, look at how enthusiastic the different candidates are about your wedding. It is always better to go with someone who is more excited about cooking for you, than someone who is totally bored with your ideas.

9.How many weddings will you be handling simultaneously?

While it is not reasonable to expect your caterer to entirely dedicate his services to your wedding alone, you should be wary of vendors who take on more orders than they can handle. This will affect the quality of service at your wedding. It is even more important to know how many more weddings they will be handling on the same day as yours. If it is only yours, you can expect a more personal service. The preparation for the dishes will also be better, as they wouldn’t be shuffling orders. Communication will be better and there is smaller chance for confusion.

You should also confirm who will be in-charge of your wedding. It is inconvenient if the person who deals with your order changes mid-way, or if new orders will cause the planning associated with your order to be changed. If you attended a tasting session that you loved, you can also clarify whether the same team will be preparing the dishes for the actual wedding. This brings us to the importance of having a tasting session prior to the wedding, so you can see what you will actually get on the day and how you can accommodate any changes that may be necessary.

10.Is the dish at the tasting session final?

Like this article on the Brides blog suggests, every couple should have a tasting session before they finalize a caterer.  This is because you cannot guarantee the quality of service, based on what you see on paper. You have to actually try it out for yourself, to know. So, ask for a tasting session with your shortlisted caterer, before you finalize your order. When attending it, look at the quality of food that is served. Are the vegetables fresh and bright? Is the food served at the right temperature? If it is a buffet, check to see if the food is being replenished in a timely fashion.

It may be a good idea to include a third person with you, when you go tasting. This should be someone who can give you an unbiased and frank opinion on whether they think the food is good or not. You can assess the caterer’s attention to detail and reliability, based on the service you are offered. If you like what you taste, but would like certain modifications, check with the caterer on whether they can customize the dish as per your taste. A good caterer wouldn’t hesitate to take on your suggestions, unless it means overhauling the entire dish.

With these tips, you have all the information you need to successfully choose your wedding caterer. You will find plenty of helpful tips on deciding your wedding menu in our previous posts here and here. Apart from the food, you should also pay attention to the beverages served on the day, and the china that is used for the service. It is only when all these come together in tandem, that your overall meal planning will be a be a total success. Continue visiting us at Best for Bride, your one-stop bridal destination, for more valuable tips, advice and inputs on planning the perfect wedding.