How to Cater for Vegans at Your Wedding
Tea without milk? Bread without butter and hours without food? How to avoid starving your vegan guests.
Planning a wedding can be both fun and stressful. That’s because you want it to be the best day of your life for you and your partner and the best day of everyone else’s year! If like me, you want to make a fuss over everyone and give them a wonderful day, you need to think about what they want — and what they need. The more thought you give to your guests, old and young, able-bodied and disabled, straight and LGBT+, the more you make everyone comfortable and included. And food is a way of making everyone feel special.
Lots of us are now vegan — not just shunning meat, but animal products completely (no dairy, or honey or even gelatine). Before you assume it’s not your problem, consider that unlike when booking a restaurant, your vegan guests have little control over what they’re getting. They rely on you and have to hope for the best! Here is a two-part guide for some quick and easy tips to be mindful of your vegan guests, with some expert advice from a seasoned wedding guest for those who want to go the extra mile (which is a must if the vegan is a really special guest, like a bridesmaid of mother of the groom).
1. Talk to the chef, caterer or venue host. People vary in their attitudes towards veganism (even more than vegetarianism) and they need to know that it’s important to you that your guests are catered for. Do this by giving them the information very clearly (on the seating plan) with names and any details. Ask the chef to let you see or test the meal options. Ask them not to remove ingredients without substituting them for something else. If a chef or host isn’t keen to meet your needs, find another venue. It’s an obvious red flag.
2. Ask the venue manager to have non-dairy milk and butter available. Almost every café and restaurant these days has soya and oat milk. But butter is often forgotten, meaning dry bread at dinner and dry toast at breakfast! This is an essential and its best if your guests don’t have to keep asking, as it gets embarassing and distracts the caterers from other tasks. They may need to put some in the rooms if your guests are staying overnight.
3. Think carefully about each serving. It’s common to have a veggie or vegan option for the main course. But starters and deserts can easily be made vegan. Soup, for instance, is an easy win. Even better, non-dairy milk, butter and yoghurt are now high in quality and are very tasty — making deserts just as yummy for vegans as everyone else.
4. Delegate responsibility. You will have lots to do on your wedding day. Your celebrant, your parents/in laws, your venue hosts and your photographer will all demand that you go here and go there. Ask the staff at the venue as well as a member of the bridal party to look out for your veggie or vegan friends — ensure they are able to participate.
5. Weddings are an all-day (and all night and then breakfast) thing. Keep in mind your guests might arrive at the venue before midday and be there for 24 hours, having lunch, an evening meal and breakfast before they leave. I’ve sometimes had to get a taxi to a supermarket in the middle of a rural area, because I was starving. Think beyond the ‘Wedding Breakfast’ and ask the venue staff to do the same. Food is so central to weddings, and you pay a lot for it. It will be one of the things your guests remember most, so getting it right makes it even more special.
Sticking to this advice will mean you will have one less thing to worry about and can focus on enjoying your day and making wonderful memories. Although it’s a bit of effort, you are probably planning your big day a year or more in advance, so taking an hour or two to make some extra preparations will be worth it.
Want some more expert vegan advice?
Perhaps you really want to push the boat out. I’ve been to some weddings where the bride and groom really outdid themselves and it was amazing for us. Here are some tips for being a pro. I would really recommend this if you have a group of vegan friends, or if one or both sides of the family have religious objections to animal products (Vegan food may be very welcome to your Jewish, Muslim or Sikh friends for example).
1. Be original. The average UK vegan is under 30, just below the average age of first time brides. The chances are that any vegans at your wedding are people who go to lots of weddings! Don’t serve them their fourth mushroom tart this Summer. Give them something special. If you have a competent head chef, she’ll be able to whip up something unusual or exciting. A good cook always likes a challenge and wants to get a “wow”.
2. Add a vegan tier to your cake. It’s actually pretty simple (it can be the smallest one) and good bakers can make vegan cake taste like heaven. We bought our daughter a birthday cake from a reputable London vendor and no one could tell the difference. Even the plant-based “buttercream” was delicious. Since we went vegan two four ago we haven’t been able to share in this part of a wedding yet and it would mean a lot to us to be able to take part again.
3. Verify your drinks. To most people’s surprise wine is traditional clarified using a substance called “finer” which could be anything from milk or egg white to gelatine or even isinglass (fish bladder protein). Most wines don’t specify whether they are vegan or not but wine suppliers can easily find out and this website will help you make a quick check.
4. Make the situation work for you. Sometimes when making a seating plan it’s difficult to know who to bunch up on a table. Sitting vegans and veggies together is practical, it helps the servers. But more importantly, we herbivores tend to be foodies who love to talk about cooking and well…eating! We’ll find lots in common to talk about.
5. Go all out for the evening buffet or barbecue. This one is actually easy but it’s often forgotten. It’s not great to have only salad to eat in the evening after hours of dancing and beers. There are many amazing vegan hotdog sausages and burgers out there. Not to mention easy wins like veg skewers, grilled corn-on-the-cob or cauliflower steaks. All of these are cheap and easy. Also — and this is just a general tip, you should always serve up carbs in the evening — potato salad, fried rice, French fries or bread. This is great for vegans who might just need the calories. But it will go down well with all your guests.
I hope that this advice will help you make the day special for all your guests. Recently we attended a wedding where the bride and groom had put a lot of thought into catering for us. We had vegan cream tea with scones, cake and sandwiches. There were gelatine-free gummy bears at the sweet stall and sorbet at the ice cream stall. It made all the difference to us. Since we had been included, we didn’t have to opt out all the time. I didn’t have to leave the venue to go and buy a bag of chips because I was hungry, which I’ve had to do before! I love weddings and hope that sharing this advice can make others get the best out of theirs.
Oh, and congratulations! Have a wonderful wedding.