There's a saying when it comes to contractors: always get three bids. That's great advice for a home renovation project and it also applies to your wedding catering tasting. To be honest, there's not much you can actually sample before your wedding. Sure, you can see how your vendors performed at other events but it's hard to know how they'll do in the very specific set of circumstances of your own wedding. You can't really ask the DJ to come play a 10-minute party to see how she does and it's pretty impolite to ask a prospective photographer to take some trial photos during your interview. For most of the hiring you'll be doing, you get to look at a video or a website and make your decision. With catering, though, it's a different ballgame. That's because picking what food to serve comes with wedding catering tastings.
Wedding food has gotten a bad reputation. Years of chicken breasts in brown sauce and overcooked filet mignon have made guests wary of what to expect when it comes to dining options. Buffets can feel like a dressed up version of Sizzler and fancy plated meals don't mean much when the food arrives cold and limp. To really impress your guests, you have to plan a meal that erases all expectations. To do that, you can't just go in for a single wedding catering tasting and expect to snap your fingers and have a fantastic meal waiting for you on your special day.
There's some work involved with a wedding catering tasting, but lucky for you it's usually quite yummy work.
The real choice isn't the food you're going to serve. It's the caterer.
Wedding catering tastings (and their sweet cousin, wedding cake tastings) are among the best parts of planning a wedding. It's like a dating reality show where you're the prize and all the contestants are entrees. While it may be easy to think that the main decision is to decide on the food itself, the real dilemma is who to choose as your caterer in the first place. This obviously doesn't apply to anyone who's locked into a single catering choice as dictated by your venue. If you're able to select your own caterer, though, you're going to want to play a few rounds of “Who's Going to Make My Wedding Food?”
Figure out your menu first, then find caterers.
My fiancee and I actually worked backwards with our catering decision. First, we picked out the type of food we knew we wanted at our wedding. We both love Italian and Mediterranean, so we knew we wanted to focus on pastas, salads, and dips as those are easy to pull off for a big group. Once we had that locked in, we identified a couple of different caterers that seemed reputable and set up our wedding catering tastings.
When it comes to caterers, looks can be deceiving.
The first caterer had a fantastic Instagram account full of creative presentations that looked delicious. As my now-wife is a food stylist, she was really rooting for them to win the job. We had what seemed like a million phone calls and emails with the catering coordinator (who was absolutely lovely) and crafted a menu that hit exactly what we wanted. On the day of the tasting, we were both genuinely excited to dive in... and then we dove in.
The whole thing was a major disappointment. Meatballs were swimming in a pool of oil, salads were overdressed, our cocktail hour cheese plate looked like it came from the grocery store. We were completely crestfallen. These people had fantastic reviews and their work looked amazing. Unfortunately, the wedding catering tasting was awful and the results just weren't there.
Trust your past experience.
Our second wedding catering tasting was through the catering arm of a restaurant we've dined at and enjoyed. I was personally pushing for them because I knew they put together a great menu in their restaurant and I was confident they could do the same at our wedding. After the wedding catering tasting, I was so happy to be right. They knocked it out of the park.
We left that tasting completely sure that they were our choice and our guests confirmed that on our wedding day. People raved about the food. It felt good to know we had put in the time to get different options and we had landed on the best choice.
Finding the perfect caterer takes time, but it's a delicious project.
When you're deciding on catering for your wedding, remember to treat it like you're remodeling your home. Having multiple wedding catering tastings gives you the freedom to explore. Just as you were able to find your perfect match in life, you need to find your perfect catering match, too.