14 Questions to Ask Your Caterer During Your Meal Tasting
Picking your wedding menu can be an overwhelming task, especially when there are so many tasty options to choose from. But planning the perfect reception meal isn't just about deciding what your guests will eat. In fact, there's a lot more that goes into the process than simply picking chicken or fish.
To help simplify the process, wedding industry insiders share the questions they think every couple should ask during their food tasting. From how dishes will be plated and presented to where the caterer sources their meat and veggies from, you may be surprised by how many important questions there are that you've never thought of before. And the questions aren't just about the food either. Have you thought to ask your caterer exactly how many of each hors d'oeuvre will be passed during cocktail hour? What about which beverages will be available at the dinner table? Do you know which cuisines or dishes your caterer considers their specialty?
To find out the secret questions you need to ask at your tasting, we asked everyone from caterers and wedding planners to venue managers to identify the points they think are most important to discuss during a tasting. With the help of this handy list (and an A-team of your own!), you'll be well on your way to a memorable, delicious reception dinner.
On the wedding day, will the food be prepared exactly as it is today?
"This is especially important if you are working with an outside caterer that may not have access to the same kinds of equipment that they typically do in their own kitchens. You should also ask about what is prepared on-site vs. brought in to be rewarmed or re-plated. This all contributes to food quality."—Lori Stephenson, Owner & Principal, LOLA Event Productions
How many pieces of each type of hors d'oeuvre will be passed?
"Quantities are everything. How many pieces of each type of hors d'oeuvre will be passed? How many signature cocktails? How many late-night bites? Quite often, you'll find there's a discrepancy or that your expectations aren't the same as your caterer's. Hash through the math now so that guests are happy and well-fed."—Calder Clark, Owner & Creative Director, Calder Clark
Which foods are local to where we will be getting married?
"Maybe you're getting married on the shoreline of Newport, Rhode Island, and you'd like to feature a raw bar with local catches. Maybe you're hosting your event on a working farm and want to include fresh herbs and vegetables grown right there. Trust your chefs to work with the location they are familiar with and know well as that will enhance the success of your menu."—Diana Chouinard, Lead Event Planner & Designer, Jubilee Events
How do we make the food fun?
"Find a way to incorporate your food into the evening's entertainment. Talk to your caterer about adding interactive food stations—like a hand-stretched mozzarella station, a ramen bar, or a dessert jar station—to the dinner or cocktail service. It's not something you'd always think of putting into a wedding, but it's a great way to create a party atmosphere and get your guests mingling together."—Helen Pole, Sales Manager, Blue Plate Catering
What type of food service do you recommend?
"Identify the style of food service you prefer: Plated, family style, stations, buffet, or heavy canapes. Avoid assuming that buffet or stations will be less expensive. Your chef will have to prepare more of a bounty for presentation stations and that can run more on the catering front."—Stephanie Cole & Sarah Drake, Founders, Cole Drake Events
Which menu items can be tweaked?
"Do some work beforehand to narrow down your choices and create a rough draft of your desired menu. Then, use the tasting as a time to finalize your menu choices with the chef, ask questions about the presentation and service of the meal, as well as tweak the flavor profile of the dishes you choose."—Ashley Culicchia Cash, Owner & Creative Director, The Graceful Host
What food items do you specialize in?
"Caterers have specialties, include them!"—Carla Ruben, Owner & Creative Director, Creative Edge Parties
What other sweets can we serve besides cake?
"Dessert bars have become a fun way to provide your guests with sweet options. Consider a customized dessert bar that includes your favorite macarons, cupcakes, or pies—this could be instead of, or in addition to, your wedding cake."—Magnolia Echeverria, Senior Conference Services Manager, Rosewood Mayakoba
What do we need to do to make the food look as good as it tastes?
"Consider the presentation of hors d'oeuvres and ask your caterer what it will take to guarantee the food looks as good as it tastes. Food is a multi-sensory experience—utilize this to make the most of your choices!"—Virginia Edelson, Owner, Bluebird Productions
What options do we have for guests with dietary restrictions?
"There is a growing prevalence of gluten- and dairy-free requests both from our clients and our clients' guests. I like to suggest that my couples are mindful of selecting a couple hors d'oeuvres that accommodate these restrictions. Their guests are delighted to know that something so delicious meets all of their needs."—Shana Sperling, Director of Weddings & Social Events, Pinch Food Design
What beverages will be available tableside during dinner?
"It's important to have an understanding of what servers can offer by way of wine and cocktails versus when they should direct guests to the bars. Typically, servers are able to offer red or white wine and water tableside and refer guests to the bars if they want spirits, cocktails, or nonalcoholic drinks."—Tamar Frieze, Event Planner, Hopple Popple
Where do you source your produce and proteins from, and are they organic, ethical, and local?
"This question is a truth serum at your tasting. The chef and/or salesperson should be able to provide you with specific vendors that source their products. Weddings can be incredibly expensive, and you'll want to make sure that you're getting what you pay for: Quality, fresh produce, and proteins that are cooked 'the right way.' Locally sourced organic product should only be sacrificed in the name of better products. Don't be afraid to ask, 'Where do you get your chicken?' or 'How do you prepare the Branzino?' The answer will reveal a lot."—Bill Coyne, Director of Business Development, Cloud Catering & Events
Do you have a choice of what the wait staff will be wearing?
"Presentation really is everything, and that includes what the servers will be wearing. Make sure you communicate with your caterer or venue to ensure that the wait staff's attire will align with the event aesthetic from formal to laid back. Ask what the wait staff will be wearing at your wedding. Is it the same as what the tasting waiter is wearing? Do you have a choice?"—Ashley Capra, Executive Vice President of Client Service, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events
What type of wine or cocktails do you recommend?
"While the focus is on the food at a wedding, you also want to make sure whatever you are serving to drink—from wine to cocktails—pairs well with the meal. Work with the caterer to craft a signature cocktail or wine service that compliments your food choices."—Melissa Davis, Owner, Melissa Davis Designs