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When it comes to attending a food tasting, what can you expect? For years, this question has been a source of discussion in bridal message boards, forums and groups. What does it cost? Is it free? Can you try to food before signing a contract? Will you get to bring a friend or family member? How many? Will you get to try the entire menu? Should you tip?
The truth is, depending on the venue, your experience can largely differ. So if you find yourself asking any of these questions, we’re here to help. Here’s a sampling of some typical food-tasting experiences, and how to navigate them.
GROUP OR PRIVATE?
Jamie Casale, 29, and Jaymes Lombardi, 32, of Paramus, were not expecting such a grand presentation for their food tasting at Waterloo Village in Byram Township. The venue, which uses Jeffrey Miller Catering, organizes a group tasting for brides and grooms who have signed a wedding contract, so that couples can test out a menu and ambience similar to the real thing. “I expected a few appetizers and entrée choices—the standard beef, chicken and fish—but what we got was so much more,” says Jamie, who is planning an October 11, 2019, wedding. During the “mock” wedding reception—complete with a cocktail hour, formal dinner and after-party—the couple sampled in-house cured charcuterie, Korean BBQ, cannolis, hot pretzels and more.
Many New Jersey wedding venues, including Liberty House, The Ryland Inn and Stone House at Stirling Ridge, offer this “group” style tasting, often for 100 guests or more. However, numerous other venues opt to coordinate a small tasting for just the bride and groom or offer a voucher to attend a dinner with them if there is a restaurant on the premises.
Emilia Radovanovich, 27, and Brian Vanderstad, 30, of Wayne, sampled cocktail-hour selections such as bacon-wrapped scallops, jumbo shrimp and specialty drinks in a private room at Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park. The venue coordinates private tastings on the same dates as booked events, so that couples can taste a few menu staples as they are prepared in real time. At these private tastings, it is typical to sample only a limited grouping of foods, not several courses.
DO YOU HAVE TO PAY?
These days, most New Jersey wedding venues offer complimentary food tastings for brides and grooms who have already signed a contract. Some venues, like The Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station, even allow up to four additional guests to attend at no added cost.
For couples who haven’t committed to a venue yet, there are usually other options available. “The great thing about having our restaurant onsite is that prospective clients are able to come and sample our food on their own at any time prior to booking.” says Lara Nestler, director of events at The Ryland Inn.
Other venues such as Mayfair Farms in West Orange offer monthly tastings where you can bring up to six guests for no fee whether you’ve signed a contract or not.
If you are still shopping around and interested in a venue without a restaurant on premises, it’s best to ask your wedding coordinator what they can offer before you sign a contract. Often, venues are willing to work with prospective clients’ requests and may arrange a private tasting (at an additional cost).
SHOULD YOU TIP?
Most venues that offer group tastings do not expect gratuity on the spot. Instead, industry professionals encourage taking the good service into consideration when it comes time to tip your venders and wedding attendants on your wedding day. “Tipping is not mandatory but a great way to show your appreciation—especially to the key people,” says Danielle Villa, director of events at Liberty House Restaurant in Jersey City.
If your tasting takes place in a more private setting—especially if it’s a dinner with one dedicated server—tipping, though not required, is always appreciated.
AT A GLANCE:
• A food tasting can be in a private or group setting, depending on your venue.
• If you have signed a contract, a tasting will usually be included for the bride and groom, though there may be a fee associated with additional guests.
• When it comes to tipping, use your judgment…but always tip when dining at a venue’s separate restaurant.
• Before signing a contract, ask your wedding coordinator what their food tasting process is, who can attend, what they charge (if anything), and which foods you can sample.