Wedding season is upon us. If you are vegan and heading to a non-vegan wedding, how can you be sure that your stomach won’t be grumbling through the toasts?
(Toast? Oh, man. Now you’re really hungry!)
Here are tips & tricks that have worked for me to make sure you don’t go through the reception hungry.
When you’re vegan and going to the wedding of non-vegan friends or family, it can feel a little like getting on an international flight.
You don’t know if the vegan meal you requested will be there, if it will be given to someone else by accident, or if you’ll find out once you’re seated and unable to leave that the only vegan option is baby carrots.
While there are vegans who decide to make a meal of the open bar instead, that can get ugly fast. A wedding and reception can go on for hours, so it’s best to be prepared.
The truth is, I rarely get in the car for an hour drive without at least a banana in tow. So I am especially careful when it comes to social engagements, in which I don’t have any control over the food.
Plus, who knows if the chef will get the message since it’s being relayed second or third hand?
Being vegan in a non-vegan world often means advocating for yourself. That is also true when it comes to being sure that you have sustenance at social gatherings.
With weddings, it’s a tricky balance.
On the one hand, you don’t want to pile on added stress to the happy couple while they are knee deep in wedding planning. On the other, you want to avoid them paying for a meal that you won’t eat. And finally, you want to be sure that you take care of yourself & your own needs.
Top four tips
- Ask the betrothed couple ahead of time if there will be/can be vegan options. Or make a note on your RSVP card.
- Eat before you go. Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s good to not be overly hungry.
- Prepare your own snacks in case things go awry (or if it’s a case where you don’t feel comfortable making a special request to the happy couple.) Bring the snacks in a bag or keep them in your hotel room if you’re nearby.
- Look for restaurant options in the area, where you can sneak away for food if needed. Happy Cow is a great place to find nearby vegan options.
What about a formal sit-down dinner?
A sit-down dinner is the best case scenario. When meals are being prepared individually, guests tend to have a voice in terms of what they receive.
Very often couples will give guests a choice on the RSVP card. So there’s a chance to write in your needs.
When one of David’s co-workers got married, it was a formal wedding. There was a cocktail hour followed by sit-down meal.
When we RSVP’d for the wedding, there was a meal card with a few options. Along with a couple of meaty choices, there was a box for a vegetarian meal.
There was also a line for adding any additional dietary restrictions. We ticked the box for vegetarian and noted vegan after that. Then in the dietary restrictions part, we said that we don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs.
After that, David spoke with his co-worker in casual conversation and said that we’d sent in our RSVP. She assured him that vegan meals wouldn’t be a problem.
Sure enough, once we got to the reception, our place cards had little pictures of mushrooms on them, denoting that we’d be receiving the vegetarian option. Also on the card, it said, “Dietary restriction.”
Our server visited our table once meals were going out to check that we were the people at her table with special meals.
(You may notice that my name is different on the place card. The couple didn’t realize that I kept my last name when I got married.)
First, we received the same salads as everyone else, but ours came without the feta topping.
Next, we received spaghetti squash in pasta sauce with mushrooms.
Unsurprisingly, the wedding cake wasn’t vegan. However, the server went out of her way to bring us tea instead. She seemed to honestly care that we were taken care of.
Since we weren’t family or in the bridal party, I was really touched by the extra care and attention that obviously went into making sure we had meals.
So in this case, we didn’t need the snacks that I had in our nearby hotel room refrigerator. Since we were just a couple of blocks away, it wouldn’t have been hard to walk back to grab a quick bite before returning for dancing.
Still, when it comes to weddings, it’s better to have back-up food available and not need it than need it and not have it.
What about buffets at a non-vegan wedding?
When it comes to buffets at weddings, the chances of finding something vegan are often less promising.
Although there are salads and side dishes, very often those include cheese. It can also be more difficult to track someone down to ask questions about what’s in the various sauces.
David and I have done a couple of different things when the wedding will be a buffet.
First, I’d recommend that you don’t arrive at the reception too hungry. That way if there happens to be something vegan on the buffet line, great. But if not, you won’t be ravenous.
For one wedding, in which we’d been told by the groom that there would be nothing vegan on the buffet line, we went out for dinner between the wedding and reception.
There was an hour or two gap between them. So there was plenty of time to get something to eat and then return at the cocktail hour.
In that case, the reception was in an old Victorian mansion. People were going through the buffet line at their leisure. So it didn’t seem strange that we weren’t eating with everyone else.
Another time we smuggled sandwiches in my purse. I figured if luck was on our side and there was something vegan, we’d save the sandwiches for another time. If not, we had back up.
When it was our table’s turn to go through the line, we grabbed plates. We picked up the only vegan items on the buffet – bell peppers and cucumbers.
Then we returned to our table. And I unfolded the sandwiches I’d brought.
Everyone was so involved in the festivities, no one noticed or cared what was on our plates, which is exactly what we wanted.
Obviously, the most important thing at a wedding is being there to witness a couple beginning a new life together. The food is secondary.
Still, it’s best to take care of yourself and make sure your needs are met by making a note on your RSVP card, not arriving too hungry, pre-eating, or even smuggling.
Trust me. It’s a lot easier to do the Cupid Shuffle on a full stomach.
Have you had any experiences (good or bad) in regards to getting a vegan meal at a non-vegan wedding?
Originally posted July 2016. Content updated May 2019.