As I was writing a catering contract for a welcome party and pig roast for a client today, I ran into a dilemma that has become more and more common — what to do about the one or two vegetarians who were invited to the wedding when the bride and groom eat meat. I figured the issue comes up often enough that it’s worth writing about it for those of you who have the same questions. Do you check political correctness at the door and serve a whole pig if you know you have members of PETA on your guest list, and do you have to alter the details of your own special day just to accommodate a couple of people on your guest list? Or do you simply say “it’s my day,” and do whatever you want, regardless of who might be offended? It’s a tricky situation.
This dilemma can go both ways — and I’ve seen that. Sometimes it’s the bride and/or groom who are vegetarian, and the big question is whether they have to serve meat to their guests. So let’s start at the beginning and talk about the best ways to handle all of this.
The first thing to remember is that it is your wedding, or your wedding event (welcome party, beach party, etc.) and therefore, the food that is served should be things you and your fiance like to eat. Now, you know if you or your future spouse is a picky or weird eater. And you know if what you like isn’t what the rest of the world likes. If that is the case, you should make sure there is something you actually want to eat on every menu. But you shouldn’t necessarily tailor the menu to your specific taste. If only one of you is the weird eater, you should probably let the half of the couple with the more “normal” palate take the lead on choosing the food for your destination wedding weekend.
The bottom line is that whether it’s your big day or somebody else’s, everybody should be able to find something they can eat on the menu at each of your events. That doesn’t mean you have to offer a vegetarian entree on your buffet, but rather, you need to make sure there is a fruit or vegetable salad and at least one side dish they’ll be able to enjoy. You don’t want anybody to go away from your wedding event hungry.
Of course, there is “vegetarian” and then there is “vegan,” and those don’t mean even remotely the same thing. Most vegetarians eat dairy, eggs, fish, etc. Some do not. That’s when you get into the ovo- or pesca- or whatever different vegetarian combinations. You cannot be expected to worry about all of that and tailor your menu to meet the eating habits of every guest. If you have a couple items on your buffet that are meat-free, you should be fine. The only tricky situation is when you have vegan guests. Vegans don’t eat anything that’s even distantly-related to an animal and that’s a very difficult diet. Unless the vegan is a member of the wedding party, you don’t need to accommodate them. If they choose not to eat, that’s their decision. I have a cousin who is vegan and I’ve seen him eat very, very little at some major family occasions when the menu didn’t cooperate. He never says a word or complains, he’s just prepared for it with nuts or a snack in his pocket. People who eat this way every day are prepared for the eventuality that sometimes there’s nothing they can/want to eat at meals when they are a guest. But the strength of their convictions allows them to push on through it — and hang on until they get somewhere that they can get something they’re able to eat. My cousin was always very discreet and polite about it. I’ve seen some guests who aren’t as well mannered.
Vegan is sort of like Kosher in this regard. Unless the wedding couple or the wedding party has Kosher members, you are not expected to provide Kosher food at your wedding dinner. Even if you are both Jewish. However, if you know for a fact that you are going to have a bunch of Kosher/Orthodox/whatever Jewish guests at your wedding reception and that they won’t be able to eat the pork, shellfish, etc., you do need to make sure you have enough alternative options on the buffet so that they won’t go away hungry. If you have enough seriously Jewish guests, you might leave pork off the menu. It’s one thing to ask them to skip the raw bar, it’s another thing entirely to serve them porky pig on a stick.
It’s really up to you whether you want to go the extra mile and include a vegetarian entree option for your guests. Think carefully about how many vegetarians you have on your guest list and take it from there. Beware of vegetarians of convenience — those folks who only seem to be vegetarian when they’re not in the mood for whatever you’re serving. I had one bride who went out of her way to order a vegetarian meal for one specific guest. The night of the wedding, he demanded that he be served the regular meal, a surf and turf. In fact, he claimed he ate lobster but not beef and demanded two portions of the lobster. The next morning he threw a shit fit that he couldn’t have the cheese in his omelet at the brunch. Basically, this guy was a problem child who uses his vegetarianism to get himself attention. Pretty pathetic. But he was really nasty to all of the servers and staff involved in trying to make him happy at every turn.
There’s nothing you can do about those people — but you can do something to make sure that your other guests have something they can eat if they have restrictive diets. Like I suggested before, only do a vegetarian entree if you know you have a group of vegetarians. You can offer appetizers, salads and sides that are vegetarian if you think you may have a few people who are going to have problems with your overall menu. But don’t feel like you have to plot and plan things around two or three guests who have uncommon eating habits. These people have chosen these restrictive diets and they have learned to live with them. If they’re rude enough to complain, they weren’t taught proper manners. They just like to whine “there’s nothing I can eat here” everywhere they go. Screw those people. You’ll never hear a word one way or the other from the nice ones, so they’re the ones you should keep in mind when making your menu selections.
Remember, it’s your wedding menu on your big day — although you want everyone to feel satiated, you don’t have an obligation to research food allergies, dislikes and objections prior to the wedding weekend. Don’t even try. And if you’re the vegetarian and it’s your wedding, get a caterer who is very creative and you might find that there’s little need to add much that isn’t vegetarian to the menu.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra. I have to sign off now and start packing up my desk for the official move to new office space tomorrow. After weeks of painting and renovation, it’s time to finally move my desk. Woohoo! I can’t wait to get in there. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we have good weather!