Planning a wedding reception menu has never been easy, but with today’s increasing number of dietary restrictions the challenge is even bigger. Fortunately for anyone planning their wedding, most caterers are well aware and equipped to accommodate your guests without any problems.
Before choosing “chicken or fish” as the menu options, take a moment to consider what you’ll be dealing with.
While restrictions can vary, there are a few that seem to be the most common.
While most people know what a vegetarian is (someone who abstains from eating meat), a vegan is someone who does not eat any animal or animal by-product such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and even honey. It’s important to speak with your caterer ahead of time to prepare food that is free of any and all animal or animal by-products. It’s also a good idea to find out what ingredients are in common dishes, so you can inform any vegan or vegetarian guests. However, I know from experience that it can work better to tell your caterer that you have guests with egg and dairy allergies, just to be safe. Being vegan or vegetarian is often simply a preference and can sometimes be overlooked or treated as less important when creating a menu; however, no caterer will be willing to take the chance if there’s an allergy involved, and there will be extra effort put in to ensure the food is correct.
Nut allergies are very serious and can be life threatening, so it’s very important to know if any of your guests have one and to alert your caterer right away. Nut allergies are also very common, so it’s highly likely your caterer will know how to prepare food safely.
Gluten-free is becoming a very popular option at not only grocery stores, bakeries, and restaurants, but also catering services. A gluten-free diet typically excludes anything made with wheat, barley, and rye, which also includes most bread, cakes, and other baked goods, as well as beer. If you can’t offer a gluten-free alternative, at least make sure to have a variety of foods that don’t contain gluten like fruits and vegetables.
Kosher foods are those that conform to the regulations of the Jewish dietary law known as kashrut. Kosher observers have restrictions on not only the type of food and beverages, but also how they are prepared, what utensils are used to be prepare it, how plates are handles, and more. This means that any kosher meals will most likely have to be catered by a separate company.
Ask On the Invitation
Now that you know what some of the most common dietary restrictions are, you should also know how to find out if any of your guests have one. The easiest way is to include an insert in the invitation along with your menu options. Let guests select from a list of menu items, and make sure to ask if there are any allergies or other dietary restrictions you should be aware of ahead of time.
Talk to Caterers
Once you know what everyone’s dietary restrictions are, you must talk to your caterer about it. Chances are, your caterer will have enough experience accommodating guests to know what to prepare. If you haven’t already chosen a caterer though, you can do a bit of research to find one who does.
Label the Buffet
If you’re having a buffet-style dinner, make sure to clearly label each food item. It’s also a good idea to inform the servers so they can correctly answer any questions. However, adding a cute, little label that describes any needed dietary information will be the easiest way to ensure your guests can find something on their own without having to ask someone or risk eating something harmful to them.
While the main course is important, you shouldn’t forget about dessert! Consider adding a few gluten-free, vegan, and nut-free options on the dessert table since guests with these dietary restrictions most likely won’t be able to indulge in a slice of wedding cake.
Keep Food Separate
When it comes to food allergies, it’s very important to keep the food separated from the rest in the kitchen and out on the buffet. Even most vegans prefer their food cooked with separate utensils and on separate pans from any meat or animal by-product, which is why it can help to say it’s an allergy rather than a preference.
Budget for Cost
There might be additional costs when accommodating someone with dietary restrictions, so it’s a good idea to cushion your catering budget a little bit to make sure any extra fees are covered. Having to spend a little extra is to know your guests are safe and satisfied is worth it, though.
Still Your Wedding
While it’s important to think about your guests and what foods they can safely eat, it’s still your wedding. So make sure you have options that you enjoy, too. On the other hand, you might be the one with a dietary restriction. If this is the case, don’t force an entirely vegan or gluten-free menu on your guests! Add food that they will also enjoy.