As Douglas Quenqua notes in the New York Times, many vegans and vegetarians are faced with a bit of a dilemma when selecting the food that will be served at their wedding:
Quenqua points out that Chelsea Clinton's recent decision to have meat available at her recent reception, even though she's a strict vegan, raised a few questions within the vegan community: "By choosing to have meat," Quenqua writes, "she reignited a sensitive wedding-season debate among ethical eaters and the people who love them: To serve, or not to serve?"
Food is such a crucial part of any gathering that it can really make or break an occasion; if you've ever been to a formal event where the food was somewhat terrible, that's the first thing that typically comes to mind when you look back—not what you wore, or how you danced, or how lovely the ceremony was, but that the chicken was woefully undercooked and that the cake tasted like cardboard. Our memories are so clearly tied to our senses that eating something that tastes bad can leave a lingering bad taste about the event as a whole. I'm going through the reception planning process right now, and though my boyfriend and I have different tastes about things, we both agree that if the food isn't good, the whole reception will have a bit of a cloud hanging over it.
But making sure that your guests enjoy the food can sometimes mean questioning your own values when it comes to what you eat and what you feel comfortable offering your guests. Many of the vegans interviewed for Mr. Quenqua's piece refused to compromise their dietary ethics to cater to their meat-eating guests, which is understandable, for if you're committed to a lifestyle like veganism, it's a little unfair for people to expect you to let go of the principles you follow in your everyday life in order to please guests who are there specifically to celebrate your life with you. As vegan Kathleen Mink tells The Times, "The day was to celebrate us coming together and who we are, and our choices every day are vegan choices."
The argument that it might be selfish to not offer meat at a vegan or vegetarian wedding strikes me as a bit unfair, as it implies that vegan food can't be delicious or exciting or, at the very least, an interesting alternative to standard wedding fare. It's true that couples who have traditional menus often offer a vegetarian option, but offering a meat option at a ceremony celebrating two people who have ethical issues with meat is quite a bit different, as they're not just expanding their menu, but rather compromising their belief system in order to please others. Offering a meatless menu doesn't necessarily have to be a preachy thing, either, as Erica DeLorenzo tells The Times, "It's a teaching moment, not a preaching moment. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind. I'm just trying to share with people how we live and hope people enjoy it and learn something from it."
But having it come across as a teaching moment might not be that easy. I've never been to a vegan wedding, but I have been to a dry wedding, and though everyone respected and understood the bride and groom's wishes to keep things alcohol-free, it certainly didn't stop people from complaining about it during and after the reception. I distinctly remember one friend thinking it was "kind of selfish" to throw an alcohol-free wedding, as she felt she was being shamed or punished in some way for being the type who likes to drink at parties, though I'm sure that wasn't the happy couple's intention: they were just being true to their own belief system and throwing a party they felt comfortable with.
But weddings themselves are always slightly selfish, aren't they? You always keep your guests in mind, but in the end, a great deal of your own preferences, from the music to the decorations to the location to yes, the food, become the priority in terms of throwing a party you feel is the most reflective of who you are. It's tricky, at times, to plan a large celebration for others while staying true to yourself. You do have to keep the happiness and comfort of your guests, who cared enough to come to your event, in mind, and nobody wants to make their friends and family feel as if they're being forced to submit to a certain lifestyle. Finding the balance between your own tastes and lifestyle and that of your guests can be tricky But as long as the food is tasty, there should be a way to stay true to your own dietary beliefs and still ensure that your guests have an enjoyable meal.
What do you think, crew? Are vegetarians obligated to offer meat to guests? Or is it unfair to not offer a meat-based option? And if you've thrown a vegetarian or vegan wedding, how did it go?
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