Should Vegans Throw a Vegan Wedding?

The title of this post is not so much a question I want to ask as it is a question that’s been making its way around the web, causing vegans to opine at great length about their values and bacon lovers to proclaim they’ll boycott any and all meat-free wedding receptions. Why, you may ask, shouldn’t it be a question that’s, excuse the pun, on the table? Simple. It’s the bride and groom’s party, so they get to decide what is served. If they make concessions for dietary restrictions such as veganism or gluten allergies or diabetes, fantastic!

And if they don’t… well, frankly, as a vegetarian, I’ve been to weddings and events where the meat-free option was an absolutely boring plate of limp, overcooked vegetables no doubt scraped off the plates of meat eaters who turned up their noses at such a sorry side dish. It’s disappointing when that happens, and The Beard and I may have laughed at such a meager meal, but we didn’t complain to anyone or make a big deal out of it. After all, I could go to a wedding and find not one but two vegetarian options, both of which I hate. Or I could discover that I’m allergic to the main ingredient in the main dish. The host of a party should provide refreshments and a meal if it’s mealtime, but he or she is under no obligation to send you home stuffed to the gills with your favorite foods.

I mean, really, the notion that vegans shouldn’t serve a vegan (or vegetarian) menu because it is selfish – an opinion I’ve seen expressed quite a bit in the past few days – ignores the fact that there are plenty widely-enjoyed foods that are vegan by default and lots of great, filling meat-free foods suitable for different flavors of vegetarian. That being the case, I certainly can’t understand behavior like this:

When Patrick Moore, a salesman from Attleboro, Mass., arrived at an old friend’s wedding in 1999 to discover nothing but vegetarian options, he made an excuse about leaving the gift in his car so he could visit a sandwich shop across the street.

It was Moore’s prerogative, I guess, to go and fulfill his craving for a chicken parm, but he couldn’t wait until the wedding was over? It strikes me as rather rude to not only leave a wedding reception to go pick up food you like – really, there was nothing on the vegetarian menu he cared for? – but then to bring it back inside with you instead of scarfing it down at the shop… Classy! Maybe he could have grabbed a 40 oz. and brought that back, too, just in case the bar ran out of his favorite beer.

Anyway, here are the five main reasons I think that vegans should put together wedding menus that appeal to them instead of serving food that they can’t even eat:

Vegan Food Is More Than Just Salad
Oh, another crack about ‘rabbit feed,’ how clever. It seems to me that many of the people arguing against letting vegans have their vegan wedding menus must have had their heads in the sand for the past decade because there are about a zillion vegan recipe blogs and cookbooks out there. Vegans must be eating something beyond the occasional lettuce leaf or there’d be no money in printing all those books. If there’s one thing people attending a vegan wedding should not worry about, it’s getting enough to eat. And frankly, anyone who thinks they’ll be munching a great big healthy boring salad at a vegan wedding or dinner party should come to one of the vegan restaurants in Boston. My favorite foods on the menus at those places are probably some of the tastiest and least healthy stuff I consume.

Vegetarian and Vegan (and Gluten Free, etc.) Food Can Be Food, As Opposed to a Political Statement
A veggie menu doesn’t have to be preachy or even teachy because it’s just food. If I’m served Korean food at a wedding, I don’t imagine for a minute that the couple who just said their vows is trying to give me a sneaky geography lesson along with my namul. Likewise, I wouldn’t attend a backyard barbecue wedding and spend the reception on the lookout for someone from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Would you? My first impression would be that the groom has Korean roots or that the Bride loves her bbq. I’d suggest that anyone attending a wedding that features a vegan reception menu should not think of the main course as a lecture. Eat the food, don’t analyze it. It is not a criticism of your lifestyle.

Specialty Food Doesn’t Always Mean Unfamiliar, Weird Food (But Why Balk If It Does?)
I’m old enough to remember when you had to go to the health food store to buy tofu – now chain groceries have their own store-brand tofu, but people still assume that specialty foods are going to be something weird and gross and *gasp* healthy. It’s an attitude that strikes me as a bit silly being that I can buy gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan stuff at Stop & Shop, along with familiar stuff like slabs of meat and ice cream. Why do people assume that if they’re going to a vegan wedding or gluten-free wedding that they are going to be served something that they’ve never seen before (and is probably yucky)? A wedding guest at a vegan wedding might be served something unfamiliar, sure, but brides and grooms choose their reception menus quite carefully. There’s every reason to assume that whatever it is, it will be tasty. And really, isn’t trying new foods fun?

Most Omnivores Eat Veggie Food All the Time
I know one person who does not eat vegetables. Literally, I do not know how he manages to have bowel movements because he does not consume any veggies at all. But him aside, everyone I know who eats meat also eats grains and plants and nuts and all of the other stuff that one might find on a vegan wedding menu. They eat vegetarian foods and some vegan foods without even thinking about it. Like my dad, for example, who for whatever reason used to call The Beard’s homemade pizza ‘vegetarian pizza.’ Not because he was addicted to the meat lover’s supreme, but because we’re vegetarian. This automatically made The Beard’s regular plain pizza somehow different, but it was just pizza! Like I said above, there is no reason for a meatophile to assume that she’s going to be served tempeh bake with tofu sauce and a side of natto at a vegan wedding.

You Can’t Please Everyone
Anyone who’s thinking about serving anything at a wedding should remember that there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like the food. And that someone will not complain if they have good manners. If you want to try to please almost everyone at your reception, have a buffet with a variety of choices, but don’t include things in it that you detest or are morally opposed to just because you’re afraid someone will find your reception menu odd. Like I said, I’ve been to weddings where there wasn’t much I could eat, and that was okay. I’ve been to weddings where I just plain didn’t like the food, and that’s okay, too. Most of the people at those weddings loved the food, and maybe I stopped for fries on the way home or just filled up on delicious cake. I did not starve to death, and I wasn’t offended at the lack of real vegetarian options because it was not my wedding. The brides and grooms were not thinking about Never teh Bride when they planned their menus.

I’ll admit to having had a vegetarian wedding menu myself, and I was a tad afraid that certain relatives would wonder where the ham was hiding. But if anyone was bothered by there being no meat in the buffet, no one said anything to us. If someone had, I would have been both appalled and quite surprised. I chose a very tasty menu of foods that even the most meat-obsessed omnivores will eat fairly regularly without thinking about it, so there was, as I saw it, no reason for anyone to feel particularly deprived. Or as one Jezebel commenter put it: “…if you attended a wedding and were served crudités with pesto dip, garlic and olive oil breadsticks, pasta with marinara and sauteed summer squash, followed by blackberry sorbet, would you really go home and grumble that there was no meat?”

ed. — I’d add in some vegan sushi!

20 Responses to “Should Vegans Throw a Vegan Wedding?”

  1. Risi says:

    I assume that by “one of the vegan restaurants in Boston” you mean Grasshopper, and by “tastiest and least healthy stuff I have consumed” you mean No Name.

  2. Melissa B. says:

    All of this whining about how “selfish” it is for vegetarian couples to serve vegetarian food drives me bonkers. I’m an omnivore, and I love few things better than a perfectly grilled steak served with a nice Cab. But the best wedding food I’ve ever had was 100% vegetarian. The menu included stuffed mushrooms, garlic mini-pizzas, mini spinach quiches, an artichoke and cheese strudel, and a great cake. Know why I remember all that, three years later? *Because the food was awesome.* I hope no one there was whining about “rabbit food.” If they were, I would have happily eaten their share.

    I can’t describe how embarrassed I am on behalf of meat-eaters when people complain that there’s no “real food” at vegetarian weddings or duck out for a chicken parm the second they realize there’s no meat in the entrees. A lot of people need a lesson on how to accept hospitality graciously and be open to trying new things. I’m not saying you have to love it, but refusing to even try it and calling the couple “selfish” for serving the kind of food they like instead of the kind of food you like is … pretty selfish itself.

  3. @Risi It’s like you read my mind!

  4. mkb says:

    At my aunt’s wedding, we did, in fact head to the liquor store for nips once it was revealed that the wine purchased for the reception was running out.

  5. @mkb I think there is a difference between making a run to the store when it’s for everyone or everyone who’s drinking versus one guy going and bringing back half a sandwich (or my hypothetical 40, heh) that he eats in front of others. That’s almost like saying right out loud “Why didn’t you think about what I wanted?!”

  6. SarahDances says:

    Honestly, it is a much bigger bugaboo of mine when I go to a reception without vegetarian options. I am an omnivore, but I am exceptionally picky about meat, and usually go vegetarian when I eat out just to avoid the drama.

    I will say that the one vegan wedding I attended did have awful food (or maybe it was just my 13-year old self’s definition of awful), but I’ve been to omnivore weddings where there was bad food, so I guess it could happen to anybody.

  7. Claire Gosse says:

    I think it’s ridiculous that meat eaters make such a big stink about having to eat vegan for 1 meal, when as a vegan I usually get stuck eating salad and potatoes for dinner at weddings. I have even had to leave a wedding because there were no vegan options available to me.

    If you are vegan then you should have a vegan wedding and everyone coming should respect that.

  8. Jennifer P. says:

    There are so many things that are vegan that most people don’t even realize they’re eating something that is “vegan”. I mean, did you know that Chicken in a Biskit crackers are vegan? I’m not making this up.

  9. @Jennifer P. Hold up, where’d you get your info from? An ingredient list I found floating about the Internuts listed ‘dehydrated cooked chicken’ among the component parts of Chicken in a Biskit. Because I loved those and wouldn’t mind being able to eat them again!

  10. Anne says:

    Even before I gave up eating meat, whenever I had people over for dinner, I always made sure that everything I cooked was edible to the most food-restricted people I invited. If I invited a bunch of people and one of them was allergic to eggplant, even though I and the rest of the guests really loved eggplant, I’d keep it off the menu out of respect for the person that couldn’t eat it. Same for meat and cheese and eggs and whatnot. No one ever complained if I left meat off the menu or made pasta with mushrooms instead of pasta with cheese. I think it’s ridiculous that vegan weddings should even be such a big issue, because if you were going over to someone’s house for dinner and they served you something like pasta primavera and black bean salad and vegan pumpkin bread and any one of a million other options, you wouldn’t think of complaining. But somehow since it’s a wedding, whining about it is okay.

    That said, I do think that while the folks getting married shouldn’t have to plan their wedding meal around other people’s desires, they should throw in an option or side dish or two that everyone can eat, just to be polite. And I don’t mean in concession to just the vegetarians or vegans, but also to the folks with food allergies. Because if you really want lactose intolerant Cousin Jean to enjoy your wedding, having one non-dairy option would probably help with that. (And yeah, as a non meat-eater, I tend to eat a lot of salad and bread at events hosted by other people, but I generally don’t complain about it unless they try to use dinner as a platform for telling me my food choices are silly and I should really try the steak. Then I usually never attend another event with them, but for entirely non-food-related reasons.)

  11. Yolanda says:

    “When Patrick Moore, a salesman from Attleboro, Mass., arrived at an old friend’s wedding in 1999 to discover nothing but vegetarian options, he made an excuse about leaving the gift in his car so he could visit a sandwich shop across the street.”

    That man is incrediblely cute.

  12. caia says:

    As a picky eater who is technically an omnivore, I could understand cutting out to grab something one can eat/enjoy. But bringing it back? The hell?

    I find this part most amazing:

    The groom had a sense of humor about the incident, but it still bothers Mr. Moore.

    “I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you,” he said. “Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that? Just print a bumper sticker.”

    Wait. The guy whose wedding reception you dissed had a sense of humor, but you’re still bothered? Talk about a sense of entitlement.

    There’s a huuuuuge difference between an allergy that can cause you to get a rash or your throat to close up, or an intolerance that could cause you GI symptoms and/or weeks of not absorbing nutrients properly (like celiac), and a jones for animal protein. The former is a threat to your health or even your life that you need to be aware of at all times; the latter is a craving you can always satisfy later at a drive-through.

    And even in the case of allergies and intolerances, unless you’re a close friend or close family member, I don’t think you can expect the happy couple to keep track of all your needs. If they do, great. If there’s something you can eat, great. If not, eat before and after, and enjoy the party with people you’re at least supposed to care about.

  13. Edwardina says:

    I have been to plenty of weddings where I knew I was going to have to go get something else to eat after the wedding. Would I dream of saying anything about this to anyone in the wedding party, or in any way letting them detect that I wasn’t having the time of my life? Under no circumstances, never, and no! I would die of shame.

    It’s terrible to think that people who are about to be married, or in the process of getting married, or have just been married, are surrounded by people so self-absorbed as to ACTIVELY COMPLAIN

  14. raincoaster says:

    Who goes to a wedding for the food?

    When this vegan wedding thing came up on Gawker I came up with this response:

    I’m not a cannibal, but I plan to serve human meat at my wedding and look down my nose at everyone who consumes it.

    It makes about as much sense as expecting people who are vegan or vegetarian because of their principles to serve meat.

  15. Tiff says:

    While it is indeed ridiculous and rude to go get your own food and bring it back, I think tossing a nutrition bar in your purse or pocket if you suspect you might otherwise go hungry can be a smart tip. 😉

    I’m not sure why people don’t understand that throwing a wedding reception is just like throwing any other party: the hosts have every right to decide what they will and will not serve at their own freakin’ party. That does not, of course, mean that there is no obligation of hospitality to try to reasonably accommodate your guests’ comfort and wellbeing, but accommodating every single person’s food hangups (not allergies) for attendees numbering well into the double or even triple digits is well outside the bounds of “reasonable.”

    For any party I throw, my rule of thumb is that everyone does not have to be able to eat every single thing on the table, but no one should feel like they’re piecing together a meal out of side dishes.

  16. Cha Cha Heels says:

    Who goes to a wedding for the food?

    Italians go to a wedding for the food, believe me.

    When I got married I was a vegetarian, albeit ovo/lacto; but I did a variation on the traditional Italian “courses” that covered vegetarians and meat eaters alike (had I known any vegans to invite, that would have been vegan–enough for a meal–as well as vegetarian). We included fresh veggies, fruits, and nuts (in salads, appetizers, and soup); cheeses, eggs, and creams (in stuffed pastas and pastas cooked with vegetables); a variety of cooked vegetables in all the “contorni” dishes; and red meat, poultry, and fish in separate courses. It’s traditional, but that tradition solved a number of food and guest problems nicely (and I bet that’s why it’s traditional). We also had a cheese course and a dessert table that featured a variety of desserts that anyone could have. The one place I didn’t think about vegans and vegetarians was the wine list–but you can’t cover absolutely everything, so even there, I made other drinks to have with food an option. The vast majority of winemakers all over the world still use traditional filtering/fining materials, and they’re not vegan, not by a long shot.

    There’s a way to plan a party well and a way to limit the joy in the place when you throw it. You’ve got to cover peoples’ needs or they can’t relax and have fun. I just think it would be best to be inclusive, whether that means looking after the omnivores as well as the vegans, or looking after the vegans as well as the omnivores. That way you never have to think of any of your guests “making do” and going without, even temporarily.

  17. BBC says:

    “It’s the bride and groom’s party, so they get to decide what is served.”

    Well, to a certain degree, yes.

    A wedding is a social affair that includes, and yes, obliges people to attend who otherwise would not socialize with the couple on a regular basis. So, there are obligations for the couple to meet that go beyond the their personal quirks.

    If the couple is wise, considerate, gracious and civilized they will serve a variety of foods to satisfy all of the people they’ve invited.

  18. Twistie says:

    I am not a vegan. I am not a vegetarian. In point of fact, I’m the one in the crowd who’s always thrilled to try out some sort of meat I’ve never had before. I have no intention whatsoever of changing my habits in that direction.

    BUT, if I am at a wedding of a Jewish of Muslim couple, I do not expect to be served pork. If I am at the wedding of a Hindu couple, I do not expect to be served beef. And by the same token, if I am at the wedding of a vegetarian, I do not expect to be fed meat. If I am at the wedding of a vegan couple, I don’t even expect another of my favorite goodies, cheese.

    I do not expect anyone to compromise on their religious or ethical beliefs for my sake at their wedding.

    Besides, I’ve had plenty of amazing vegetarian meals, as well as exotic meat-based ones. And if I hate the food at the wedding, I can always drive through Burger King on the way home.

  19. Yes. You eat what is served or politely decline, planning to eat elsewhere later. In any social situation. I’M TALKING TO YOU, MY HUSBAND’S FRIEND!

    They came over for supper on Sunday. We had bratwurst, with chicken sausage for the kids. They were coming over again on Monday (they were staying at a hotel while in town). We told them on Sunday that we were preparing steak, cheese grits, and collards for Monday.

    Monday evening, as my husband is putting the steak on the grill, the friend asks if we have any kid-friendly food. Because you know, the kids won’t eat what we’re serving.

    My husband said, “You’ve seen what we have.”

    Friend says, “All our other friends have kid food.”

    Husband: “We don’t have any kids.”

    The kids ate leftover hot dog buns and a third of a jar of mayonnaise. I guess it’s better than sharing my steak with them, but really. If you know they are not going to eat what we are serving, stop at McDonald’s on the way over or give us more than five minutes’ notice.

  20. Doc John says:

    I had a vegan wedding a few years ago. It was really interesting how it revealed a very small minority of people with huge phobias of eating vegetables. We had a few rebels, my brother being one of them, but we also had a lot of people say they were really looking forward to somehting a bit different to the usual. I think the word vegan scares a lot of meat eaters, wheras the word vegetarian is a lot more accessible, so if you want to avoid rebellions, market it as a veggie wedding. At the end of the day, its your wedding and its the biggest meal you will ever be responsible for paying for, so, if you don’t want to kill animals in your day to day life, then it would be totally wrong of guests to expect you to forgoe your morals and buy them meat – anyone with that view is totally missing the point that they are there to celebrate your wedding – your big day. In the end, we had a great day with two meals and nobody did the walk to the local curry house to find meat! The really interesting thing for me was that some of the people who were most nervous about the meal were the most complimentary afterwards.