At Vegans’ Weddings: Beef or Tofu?

“I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you…Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that [serve only vegetarian options]?  Just print a bumper sticker.”

Did this article that concluded with this choice comment in today’s NY Times Sunday Styles section annoy others as much as it annoyed me?  Of course weddings should reflect one’s values, so if you’re kosher, or vegan, or vegetarian, why wouldn’t you serve kosher, vegan, or vegetarian food?  As the vegan Kathleen Mink quoted in the article said, it was  a “no brainer” to have a vegan menu at her and her husband’s wedding.  But another vegan pastry chef served meat at her wedding because she was afraid celebrity chefs like Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud would think she and her husband “were crazy” if they didn’t serve meat.  Yes, it’s important that the couple be good hosts and make their guests feel welcome, and it’s hard for a guest to feel that way if there’s nothing they can eat at the wedding banquet. Vegetarian guests or those with others with dietary restrictions certainly appreciate their hosts’ thoughtfulness in offering them options they can eat. But since when is it a hardship for omnivores not to have everything they can and will eat on the wedding menu!?

There’s an underlying assumption here that somehow vegetarian, vegan, and I would extend this also to kosher food cannot be prepared deliciously for discriminating palates.  If vegan, vegetarian, or kosher food is not appealing to non-vegans, non-vegetarians, or non-kosher folks, it’s the failure of imagination and skill of the chefs, not that these foods can’t be tasty.  These cuisines have come a long way from the bad old days of “rabbit food,”  as the readers and contributors of the Jew and the Carrot know well.  In Jewish tradition, the wedding banquet is a se’udat mitzvah, a meal celebrating the performance of a mitzvah, which has a moral connotation. As does veganism and vegetarianism for many of their practitioners. But there doesn’t need to be a divide between morality and aesthetics.  In Judaism, we have the concept of hiddur mitzvah – the “beautification of a mitzvah”.  Good food at a wedding can, indeed should reflect both our moral and aesthetic values.

But that point is made only to the extent that indeed our guests enjoy themselves. That’s the proof of the pudding (as it were)!  Indeed, I know from my own experience that weddings are a chance to prove to our family and friends that keeping kosher can be no less fulfilling than eating lobster and pork belly, even as vegetarians “see their weddings as a chance to prove that they are eating more than tree bark and lettuce.”

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6 Responses to “At Vegans’ Weddings: Beef or Tofu?”

  1. Ariel Says:

    My husband and I got married in March and had all vegan food at our wedding. Not only did no one complain, but people were raving about how delicious the food was (I’ll have to rely on their reports, I know I ate some but was way too delirious to focus on it).

    We had a vegan cake as well, and it was one of the best cakes I have ever had. Everyone else agreed. The caterer couldn’t believe how much food people ate! I still have people telling me how much they enjoyed it.

    So my point is, the food at a wedding needs to be delicious. It doesn’t matter if it is vegan, kosher, whatever. As long as it is tasty and filling, no one will complain.

  2. Serenade Says:

    A person who complains that only vegan food is served at a wedding is a person who doesn’t appear to have realized a fact often overlooked by omnivores: YOU EAT VEGAN FOOD TOO. Not all vegan food is “fake meat”. I’m vegan and I don’t touch the stuff. NORMAL FOODS ARE VEGAN! Bread, juice, pasta, peanut butter, tomato sauce, many chocolate chip brands are even vegan! To complain that you’re only being served vegan food is to complain that you’re only being served your fruits, vegetables, and grains….all things EVERYONE is supposed to be eating anyway.

    I can’t believe there are actually people that are arguing about this. Just goes to show how little they know about veganism, or perhaps even healthy diets period (are vegetables, fruits, and grains REALLY such a radical idea at your dinner table!?).

  3. Jonathan B-K Says:

    Exactly! Serenade, I agree completely, and I too couldn’t believe that people were arguing about this! Good food – tasting good, good for us – is good food, and much of the good food vegetarians, kashrut observers, and omnivores alike normally eat is vegan, as you say. Ariel, when my wife and planned our wedding some 20 years ago, we were on a very tight budget and so we each made a ranked list of our priorities of things we wanted to have. At the top of our list were delicious food, beautiful live music, and a meaningful Jewish ritual. Notably, all these things turned out to be the very things that made our two extended families and friends together feel like a community, and on that day we experienced sensually the power and presence of that community who shaped who we were, and continues to to shape who we are long after, even though many of those present that day are no longer with us. The memories of that moment of community spirit on that weekend remain so palpable for us and for those at our wedding (according to their reports, one even yesterday!) that we still carry them with us, and can share them with our new friends and family that we have since that time added to the community who knows us and continues to shape who we are.

  4. suzette tanen Says:

    My vegetarian daughter already asked me if, when she eventually gets married, could we serve pizza and salad. Of course I said, yes we can, and we’ll give you a check for what we would have had to shell out for prime rib & chicken!

  5. Hannah Says:

    I agree that the inability to tolerate a vegan meal is ridiculous, but one more thing bothered me in the article. It completely ignored Chelsea Clinton’s husband, Mark Mezvinsky. She might be the celebrity, but he is half the couple. To the reader’s knowledge he had no part in the food decision, so the article assumes and reinforces traditional gender roles in wedding planning.

    Further, the article has no quotes from Chelsea or her husband explaining their food choices, just saying it was a compromise on her part. As the reasons for vegetarianism are varied and some vegetarians are not against serving meat, it is not known if it really was a compromise for Chelsea.

  6. Hannah Lee Says:

    Thank you, Hannah, for some level-headed thinking.
    Thank you, Jonathan, for posting a thought-provoking entry (that’s not cross-posted).

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