I absolutely LOVE weddings- the love! The dancing! The open bar! As a vegan lady, though, I have sat through my fair share of disappointingly dull drum wedding dinners- at the last wedding we went to, for example, my dinner exclusively consisted of a very sad, dry bread roll. So when it was time to plan my husband’s and my wedding, I, of course, was pumped and ready to plan an outstanding plant-based fiesta. As excited as I was, though, I also felt plagued with insecurities and questions- how would people react? How would I find someone to cook a feast that would please one hundred plus meat-and-potatoes-loving Midwesterners? Just… how?
Despite these challenges, our plant-based nuptials turned out to be a smashing success (read more about our wedding here)- so today, I pass on the baton to you, future bride or groom, and teach you all about planning your own vegan wedding.
All photos by the extraordinarily talented Courtney Smith Photography.
Think outside of the box
When we started planning our wedding, I had two local caterers in mind who I knew would make a killer vegan meal; however, one of them wanted to charge about $50 a person for EXCLUSIVELY SERVING TACOS and another one that completely refused to answer my phone calls or emails. So I started brainstorming other ideas (What about a food truck? Or something non-traditional, like Thai food? What about serving breakfast for dinner?) and contacting businesses that didn’t advertise themselves as serving vegan food, as well as vegan businesses that didn’t advertise themselves as event caterers.
Our venue, an organic brewery in a converted late 1800s bread factory, typically did not host large scale events like weddings (in fact, ours was the last one where they allowed the whole building to be privately rented) and, at the time, offered a pretty simple, completely non-vegan catering menu for its small private events (think barbecued meats and sandwich platters). Given its tiny galley kitchen, I wasn’t sure if it was even possible for them to cook a whole wedding feast, let alone a vegan one, but on a whim, I asked if they would be willing to create a special menu for us. And what do you know, the venue coordinator said yes (and they proceeded to totally knock it out of the park)!
While something as simple as our venue worked out for us, get creative and, depending on the vibe of your wedding, consider contacting places like Whole Foods (a great place to get vegan pies, cakes, comfort food, and pizzas); Chipotle; your favorite local Ethiopian joint; or call me crazy, even White Castle (can you imagine if cater waiters brought out Impossible sliders as a midnight snack? Yes, please!). For example, we used an all vegan Indian food truck for our outdoor rehearsal dinner- not only was it SUPER affordable (about $14 a person for an all-you-can-eat four course meal AND mango lassi), but it was a HUGE hit with our guests. The most fun part of wedding planning nowadays is that you are free to craft an event that fully represents you and your future spouse- so don’t be scared to go with a less traditional option that reflects your own unique style.
…. But don’t go too far out of the box
If you’re anything like me, you will have a plethora of loved ones who, despite their wonderful qualities, rarely venture outside of eating chicken fingers, french fries, and macaroni and cheese. And while it can be easy to fall into the “it’s my wedding, so I do what I want” trap, it’s important to remember that people are traveling long-distances and paying a lot of money to come celebrate you. So if you want to show your appreciation for them and for them to enjoy the wedding meal that you have presumably spent a lot of time and money planning, it’s probably best not to throw something completely unfamiliar or off-the-wall at them.
For our wedding, I asked our venue to come up with some options for a taco bar, as well as a soul food bar- again, trying not to venture too far outside of people’s comfort zones. Our caterer came up with some interesting options that I 1000% would have loved (for example, chickpea meatloaf or smoked coconut BLTs), but I knew would have had some of my less-open-minded family members heading for the hills (or, more likely, driving to the nearest McDonalds).
So, when planning the menu, put yourself in the shoes of your steak-loving Uncle Frank- what would he enjoy? What would he be comfortable with? Items like tacos; wood-fired pizza; buffalo cauliflower wings; or the Impossible Burger may be a great place to start.
For our wedding, I think we found a great balance of food we were excited about, as well as didn’t seem too “out there” for our guests. We wound up serving:
Nacho Bar with all the fixings, like vegan cashew queso, guacamole, and chili
Soft pretzels (if you’re familiar with St. Louis, get Gus’s Pretzels- they’re cheap, St. Louis-centric, and of course, vegan!)
Grilled portobello marinated in beer; Thai chickpeas; and grilled poblano, corn, and onion as the filling options
Toppings such as avocado and pickled jalapenos
Sides including Mexican street corn, black beans and cilantro rice
Soul Food Bar
Pecan-wood smoked tofu with spicy barbecue sauce
Jambalaya with spicy sausage
Braised Collard Greens
Liquid nitrogen ice cream bar (coconut-based German chocolate or soy-based cookies n’ cream)
Oatmeal creme pies for our gluten free guests
And as much as I heard complaints prior to the wedding (I’ll get to that in a bit!), I only heard positive things post-wedding, with several non-vegan people telling me it was the best wedding food they’d ever had. To this day, people still ask me how our venue made that queso. Score!
Provide lots of options for everyone
From our menu above, you can see that we provided our guests with a LOT of options- that’s because I didn’t want to provide anybody with the opportunity to say “...but they only had [insert mushrooms/tofu/whatever plant-based fare of your choosing]”. If a guest has numerous options and still can’t find anything he or she likes, it’s likely a problem of the guest, not the menu.
Furthermore, if you truly want everyone to enjoy the meal, it’s important to consider, beyond some people’s strong aversions to vegan staples, like mushrooms, that a LOT of people are allergic to ingredients commonly used in dishes, such as gluten, nuts, and soy. I’d recommend asking your guests on your RSVP cards about any dietary restrictions or allergies, and label your food clearly so everyone can happily (and safely!) partake in the festivities.
Don’t make a big production of it
While every enfianced person has experienced the incessant slew of wedding questions that friends, family, coworkers, casual acquaintances, and complete strangers shall rain upon you, it is atypical for most people to ask or want to talk about the food you’ll be serving at your wedding. So why should your wedding be any different?
While I didn’t broadcast that we were serving vegan food before our wedding, I always answered the question truthfully and as casually as possible. If you make a big deal out of it, it will probably seem like a big deal to whoever you’re talking to- and it’s really not (it’s akin to expecting a Jewish person to serve pork at their wedding). At the end of the day, it’s your wedding and it’s only one meal- so if Uncle Frank doesn’t want to get on board with your awesome wedding smorgasbord, it’s on him.
All that being said, no matter how cool, calm, and collected you are or how open-minded your loved ones appear to be, you will almost certainly get some kind of pushback; I had several friends who passive-aggressively told me that, while they were super excited to experience our wedding, their boyfriend/husband just couldn’t understand why we can’t have “a little” meat. I generally would respond by smiling and saying something along the lines of “We’re providing a wide variety of foods so that everyone can find something they’ll enjoy!”. Honestly, if it wasn’t serving vegan food, it would be something else (You’re not wearing white to your wedding? You’re doing a honeymoon registry?), so make like Taylor Swift and shake it off.
Beyond figuring out what you’re going to serve your guests, you’ve also got to figure out what to wear and unfortunately, most wedding attire includes some sort of silk or wool.
Bridal Attire- Wedding Dresses and More
For full disclosure, I bought my wedding dresses (yes, I’m a crazy person that had two dresses) prior to becoming vegan and thus, they both contained silk. While this is obviously not ideal, I bought both second-hand (via Once Wed and Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses), which makes me feel slightly better about the ethical implications of my purchases. I had a flawless experience with both sites and in addition to saving a TON of money (I got my dresses, which would have collectively cost over four thousand, for under a grand!), buying secondhand supports a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly approach to wedding attire.
If I could take a time machine and rebuy my wedding dress(es), I would have kept my eyes peeled for a dress made of lace, chiffon, or organza, which are usually made out of synthetic materials and vegan-friendly (added bonus- dresses made out of these materials are usually cheaper!). It is, however, super common for shells of dresses to be made of silk, so double-check those labels before falling in love with a dress.
As for brands to start looking at, Reformation and Halston Heritage have some stunning options, like this one or this- if you’re more of an alternative bride (let’s be honest, most of us vegan ladies are), you might even consider getting a jumpsuit like this one to wear while you boogie the night away.
For shoes, I’ve always loved the idea of your heels being your “something blue”- so what about these? For higher end brands, check out Stella McCartney or Beyond Skin, who both make killer, yet all-vegan footwear.
The Groom’s Suit
My husband, Justin, was initially pretty stressed about finding a vegan suit. Almost all well-made suits are made out of wool or silk, and the only plant-based material that suits are commonly made of, linen, was definitely more suitable (pun obviously intended!) for a beach wedding. And while most inexpensive suits are made of synthetic materials, they are usually ill-fitting and just look, well, cheap.
After going to shop after shop, he finally stumbled upon a secret weapon- Banana Republic Factory! Banana Republic Factory (the outlet brand of Banana Republic) offers many suits that are cotton and synthetic blends, but that still look and feel high-quality (I mean, my husband does look pretty dapper if I do say so myself, no?).
Better yet, they’re totally affordable- a new suit will run you about $250. Justin picked up his on sale for just $125. On our local vegan Facebook page, it seems like many guys struggle with where to find a good suit; I’ve sent a many men Banana Republic Facotor’s way and have only heard rave reviews!
TL;DR- while planning a vegan wedding can take a bit more planning, research, and preparation, it’s totally worth it and completely doable.So go forth and be married, with no animals harmed in the making of your matrimony!
Are you in the midst of planning your wedding? Have you gotten any pushback on your future plant-based menu? Let me know in the comments below!
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