Your wedding may be the most important day of your life, but in the planning phases, you can start to feel like an elopement would be the best possible option. The decisions you need to make never seem to end, and neither do the checks you need to write, which appear to get bigger and bigger as the day approaches. One of the most fraught subjects of discussion can be the menu, especially if members of the wedding party are vegan or vegetarian.
While the wedding is theoretically about the people committing to each other, the guests carry their own expectations, and for carnivores, one of those is meat on the menu. As the courses come out of the kitchen or they sidle up to the buffet, there will be some downcast and disappointed faces if meat, poultry or fish aren’t represented among the options.
“It just doesn’t feel like a meal,” some people say, “without meat.”
Which leaves vegetarians and vegans in a sticky spot.
Option one: serve an all-vegan or all-vegetarian meal (and skip a lot of food sensitivities along the way, which can be a significant issue in today’s era), and prepare for some seriously cantankerous guests.
Option two: compromise, serving some vegetarian items even if the wedding party is vegan, or some meat products as a concession to carnivorous guests.
I talked to two different vegan friends who made two different choices for their weddings: one who opted to cater to the requests of family and friends, and one who chose to stick with his ethical beliefs when it came to what he served at his wedding. Their responses were interesting and illuminating.
Both have been vegan for more than ten years. As the friend who chose to serve meat described it, though, he felt like the wishes of his father were an important consideration. While his father didn’t outright demand that meat be served, he certainly implied it, and my friend felt that other relatives with conservative tastes might prefer to have a carnivorous option. Since his father purchased the animal products for the wedding menu and handled the preparation, his concession didn’t involve having to personally pay for or handle the meat, and thus he felt it was a reasonable compromise to make.
On the other hand, my other friend was staunchly opposed to serving meat at his wedding, for ethical reasons. No matter who paid for it — and who asked for it — he had no interest in having meat available, although he and his fiancé did agree to serve some dairy, since she’s vegetarian. He told me that thanks to his infamous reputation for stubbornness, the family effectively accepted that no meat would be served and the matter wasn’t up for discussion.
The decisions behind choosing to serve meat at a wedding can involve some complex exploration of personal ethics and willingness to compromise. For practicing vegans who choose to refrain from eating animal products because they have concerns about animal welfare or believe strongly in animal rights, participating in the distribution of meat, even indirectly, may be too much of a compromise to make due to personal values. Those who aren’t eating meat for health reasons may feel less passionately about it.
In both cases, though, external pressures from family and friends can add unnecessarily to already-existing stress about a wedding. If you’re helping plan a wedding, or you’ve been asked to comment on it, it’s worth considering whether you want to ask people to compromise their values for a day so you can have some salmon with butter-lemon sauce, or if you can go a day without animal products in a diet.
Going vegan or vegetarian for a day isn’t likely to kill you, and you might just be introduced to some cool new flavors.
Vegan cake photo by Andrew Hitchcock.