Every vegetarian in the world has had this conversation with a parent, grandparent, or in-law:
“I’m a vegetarian.”
“Oh. But you can eat chicken, right?”
“Well, no. That’s meat.”
“Oh. But it’s Easter. You’ll have a little ham for Easter, won’t you?”
“Oh, Well at least we have some green beans for you. You can eat those, right?”
“Yes! Thanks, I’d love some… Is this bacon on them?”
“Just a little – it adds flavor.”
I am not exaggerating for comic effect here. My sister had a version of this conversation where she was offered venison.
What I’m saying is that if you’re a carnivore, your vegetarian friends may have a slightly more pain-in-the-butt time with eating than you know. Sparing them that at your wedding will put you on their Awesome Friends List for a long time to come. Your caterer will be ready for this and should have some options ready. Unless you’re getting married deep in the heart of cattle country or anyplace where the kids get the first day of buck season off from school. If you’re in “unless” territory, definitely make sure that you and the caterer are on the same page about whether it’s OK to use chicken stock in the vegetable soup.
If you want to go for bonus points, you can make sure the vegetarian options are also vegan, or let your vegan buds know which dishes are safe.
And while we’re all being so considerate of each other, I’ll remind my fellow vegetarian brides and grooms that this consideration works both ways. Yes, I know: You’ve been waiting your whole life for the tables to be turned. But your wedding is no time to get vengeful. You absolutely don’t have to serve meat at your reception if you can’t stand the idea, but you are honor-bound not to skeeve out your guests. No matter how much they love you, your grandparents are probably not going to become sudden converts to Tofurkey.
I recommend Stealth Vegetarianism. Serve food that doesn’t call attention to meat’s absence, and no one will miss it. Italian food is a great way to go – it’s filling, easy to make meatless, and won’t frighten or confuse the older crowd.
If you are planning an all-vegan menu, I admire your moxie and your principles. I am also begging you to reconsider. I know how much you wish everyone knew how rich, tasty, and satisfying vegan food can be. I also know in my heart that you really believe this is true. I am also here to tell you, as a sympathizer and a woman who wishes she had the strength of character to be a vegan, that you are wrong. Really wrong. No, really: Wrong.
You love it with all your heart, but your guests are used to very different food. Your rich, tasty vegan meal will taste like cardboard and library paste to at least 80% of them. Or, worse yet, it will taste like the pale shadow of what the meal might have been. It will make them weep softly into their napkins. Your guests will be polite and tell you they liked it, but if you look deep into their eyes, you will see that they are quietly calculating how long it will take them to get to a bag of taco chips.
Talk it out with your groom and see if you can compromise with some options that are merely vegetarian. If not, you’re well within your rights and I am the first to admit that heaven is on your side. Just be very sure to make it clear on the invitations that a vegan meal will be served. And then politely pretend not to notice that your grandparents have stuffed their pockets full of taco chips.