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The vegan diet has gone from a one-time adventure or a passing dietary trend to a lifestyle that people everywhere are adopting and sticking to. While it is easy to eat vegan when you are at home, maintaining your dietary preferences at a wedding is a whole other ball game that can leave vegans going hungry because they feel uncomfortable asserting their diet.
Eating vegan isn’t the same thing as “I don’t eat tuna because I don’t like the smell,” it is a lifestyle that goes beyond just a preference, and it deserves to be respected. However, there is not always a checkbox on the meal card to indicate a vegan meal and the last thing most guests want to do is add more stress to the couple. So, what should you do if you are the only vegan at a wedding?
Be Honest About Your Dietary Preferences
Many can relate to the stress of choosing whether you want the chicken or ravioli at the reception, so imagine the anxiety a vegan guest feels when all options contain meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. If you are flexible with your vegan diet and feel comfortable eating a vegetarian meal for one night (again, if this is even an option), check off that box, and prepare for how your body may react from eating non-plant-based foods.
However, it is important to realize vegetarian and vegan diets are not equivalent and if you have been following a vegan diet for years, and stand by the lifestyle principles which (once again) go beyond a dietary choice alone, then there is no reason to “rough it” for one night even if it is your best friend’s wedding.
Instead, RSVP for the wedding and notify the newlyweds about your predicament; an easy way to do this is to add a note on the RSVP card. If you are nervous about sounding rude, express your excitement about attending the wedding, but anxiety about the dinner options over a phone call. You could even call the catering company yourself (well in advance of course) to inquire about preparing a vegan meal; this way they are informed before the date and you can have a one-on-one conversation to avoid any miscommunication. Being honest upfront will give more time for the couple, catering company, and you to brainstorm how you can have a vegan meal.
Arrive In Style, And With A Gameplan
Whether the wedding reception will be sit-down or buffet style, it is important to brainstorm strategies before you arrive. Guests often have more control over their meals with a sit-down dinner (marking their preferences on the RSVP card), but there can still be miscommunication. Meanwhile, a buffet may appear to offer more possibilities but more often than not these salads and pasta dishes contain cheese. No one wants to skip out on a full meal when they also want to enjoy the (vegan) drinks at the bar and dancing until dawn.
Instead, pack some snacks, eat before the reception, or even research vegan restaurants nearby to stop at between the ceremony and reception. If you've already told the wedded couple about your dietary restrictions, you'll probably know what to expect by now, so keep that in mind and remind yourself that you're here to celebrate them, not to eat the best meal of your life! We'd hope that your friends were able to arrange a suitable option for you, but wedding planning is a huge undertaking and even if they plan appropriately you never know what may fall through the cracks. It may feel rude or weird to casually take a tofu sandwich out of your clutch while everyone else digs into their lobster, but remember everyone will be more focused on eating their own meals so they can hit the dance floor ASAP.
Don’t Make A Huge Deal About Your Vegan Meal
As we suggested above, it is okay to pack a few snacks in your bag or pockets in case the vegan options are lacking — especially if this comes out of kindness to not bother the couple with more stress. You may luck out with vegan dessert options, but if you know you will need a sugar rush later in the evening to push through on the dance floor, pack some dairy-free chocolate or vegan cookies.
But, whether you bring your own or if a vegan meal is prepared especially for you, please don’t shame other guests for their non-vegan choices while they enjoy a prosciutto and brie canape. If a couple goes out of their way to provide a vegan meal for you at their wedding, it is important to retain wedding etiquette and be grateful for the dish (even if it isn't exactly your favorite). You shouldn’t have to hide your veganism like a dark secret, but be considerate about how you handle bringing your own food if you choose to do so. Just remember it is only one night of potential limp spinach (and whatever else you pack). But be optimistic about the potential vegan possibilities because sometimes receptions will surprise you!
Remember That You Need To Eat, But It’s Not Your Special Day
There is a certain art to kindly asking for a vegan option at a wedding if there is not already one listed (see above). On the flip side, there are plenty of ways to be a bit too rude or tacky; take for example writing out the specific vegan meal you would like at the reception. While your intention may be to describe a basic salad for the caterer to prepare for you, be considerate towards the couple who are going out of their way to make sure you are fed. Tonight is about celebrating marriage, not promoting animal rights, and explaining how meat can be harmful to humans’ health — equally unhealthy is thinking about food all the time.
If You Are The Newlywed Yourself Consider Offering A Vegan Option
Even if you are a hardcore omnivore, pescatarian, or vegetarian, consider including vegan options at your wedding. Many guests may be “flexible” vegans who prefer to eat plant-based when they can, but will opt for a vegetarian option when necessary. That being said, these guests will appreciate the option for a vegan appetizer or entree.
Some have a false perception that vegan food is fake and always comes with tasteless rubber cheese that melts into odd configurations when placed in the microwave. However, the reality is that vegan food has only improved as the lifestyle has become more popular. From delicious creamy cheeses, marinated veggies, lentils, and vegan wines there are plenty of options out there to include in your menu. Not to mention mouth-watering dishes including vegan cauliflower flower tacos, spicy baked tofu nuggets, vegan sushi rolls, and baked falafel. Granted, vegan alternatives can sometimes be more expensive, but on the other hand, opting for a veggie and lentil stew will probably cost less than a seafood stew and therefore help you maintain your budget.
Wedding food isn't always the best meal of your life, especially if you're a guest, but that doesn't mean vegan guests have to starve either. Starting a conversation and being open-minded (both the guest and newlywed) is the key to an enjoyable night that leaves all guests feeling full and happy.