Chicken, fish, or neither?

As a (mostly) vegan, I always snack before I go to weddings.

Even though venues are slowly evolving their menus in recognition of the growing population of plant-strong guests, you always want to be prepared for anything. 

To my delight though, I recently attended a couple of weddings and ate like a Queen!  My plate even turned out to be the envy of my tablemates, who admitted that the while the “filet” option sounded like a good idea 2 months ago when they filled out their RSVP card, after an hour of cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres they were ready for something lighter for dinner.   

Enter my stuffed pepper and lentils at the first event, and my roasted vegetables and potatoes at the second.  Both were actually quite good, and not just thrown together so the caterer could say they offer a veggie option. 

Because I’d ever want to upstage the drunk uncle on the dance floor to take the honor of “that guest” everyone talks about, I used to make no mention of my dietary preferences when returning my RSVP.  I’d randomly check one of the entrées on the card, and then I’d try to discreetly intercept the server prior delivering food to our table.  I’d ask if they could wrap up my meal and include it with the “unused meals” they’d be sending home with the host (or whatever they did with them.) 

I had thought this was the best way to handle it, but over time realized it wasn’t. First of all, I was breaking the promise that I’d made to myself that I’d never inconvenience a chicken. And now the bird I was fake ordering had to get dressed up for the party for no reason.  Second of all, I seemed to draw more attention to myself when I sat in front of a bare tablecloth while my fellow revelers were feasting away – attention I was trying to avoid in the first place. 

I decided the best approach would actually be to address the issue ahead of time. 

The truth is, brides and grooms are more concerned with their guests’ happiness, than the guests are concerned about their own happiness.  I’m perfectly fine pre-gaming with my own dinner at home, but the party hosts would feel bad if they thought I needed to do that. 

At both aforementioned weddings, the couple walked around at the reception to be sure all their veg friends (yes, there were multiple of us!) and their gluten-free friends were all happy with their dinners. In fact, in both cases, these couples proactively reached out to me early in the planning process to let me know they ordered a meal for me. 

But what happens when you receive an invite from acquaintances who aren’t familiar with your aversion to dishes adorned with animals?

Here are three scenarios and my suggestion on how to handle them:

  1. If the invitation gives 2 or 3 choices, most likely none of them are vegan. When this happens, I send back my card with a note that reads, “Please don’t worry about a meal for me, as I follow a vegan diet (or vegetarian, or gluten free, or whatever applies,) and I don’t want you to purchase food that will go uneaten.  I’ll be quite content with the good company, (and of course a glass of wine!)”   While I truly mean this, each time I’ve done this the bride ordered a vegan meal anyway because she wanted all her guests to be comfortable.  
  2. Sometimes you are given a choice once you’re seated at the table.  When the server comes around I quietly ask “I don’t want to be an inconvenience, but do you by any chance offer a vegan option, OR if not, could I possibly get a plate of (whatever vegetables/potatoes/grains being served) without the (butter/cream/meat?)”  I have yet to be somewhere that they weren’t able to accommodate without hesitation. And I’ve always been grateful for whatever they brought to me.
  3. Buffets are sometimes easier and sometimes not.  It’s usually not a problem to pick and choose items to put on your plate, albeit sometimes you need to ask the servers if certain dishes are prepared with butter, etc.  The tricky part about buffets is that often times the dishes are pre-made, and the kitchen isn’t set up for customizing meals after the service begins.  This is a case where I just take what I see is obviously vegan so I don’t stand out with an empty plate, and then supplement – if necessary – with the baggie of nuts or energy bar I’ve concealed in my purse (always pack snacks!)

The bottom line is, if you politely clue your hosts in about your food choices, at the same time be prepared to discreetly feed yourself if need be, you’ll more than likely make your hosts happier.  And, at a wedding, that’s what it’s all about right?

What is your vegan or gluten-free strategy when RSVP’ing to weddings?  On the flip side, any brides and grooms offer vegan options on your standard menu?  

About Kristin Dowell

Kristin is a group fitness instructor and personal trainer with certifications from ACE and AFAA, is qualified to coach over a dozen specialty programs, and is the creator of 3 exercise DVDs. From creating physical training programs for fire academies, to teaching preschool dance, (and just about everything in between)...
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