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Wedding Menu Ideas: Working with Dietary Restrictions

purple, pink blog header wedding menu ideas

Wedding food doesn’t always have a great reputation. There are a thousand wedding menu ideas out there, but so many of them are geared toward meat- and dairy-loving carnivores. What about those who have a plant-based diet? Or people who have celiac’s disease or can only eat kosher or halal meat? They need to eat as well!

When talking about what a couple wants to have at their wedding in terms of food, make sure you are asking if they will have any guests with dietary restrictions. There are many out there, ranging from life-threatening food allergies to simple lifestyle preferences. 

Regardless of the reason, having food available that all your guests  can eat is a pretty nice gesture considering they’re at the wedding. Clients can often feel overwhelmed about dietary restrictions. They might have questions like, what’s the etiquette for accommodating people? How do we ask about food allergies on an invitation? 

Well, don’t worry. We have the answers for you.

Putting Together a Dietary Restrictions Wedding RSVP

The consensus in the industry is for clients to ask about food allergies on an invitation. It is the easiest way to not only find out who is coming, but what their dietary needs are. To make things easier, encourage couples to use checkboxes.

wedding reception table, flowers, dishware
Make every quest happy by taking into consideration dietary restrictions.

Not only will this make it easier to tally who needs what, but it’ll avoid the whole, “Oh, I don’t like onions” debacle. If someone doesn’t like onions, they can just not eat them. If someone is allergic to onions, however, that’s an entirely different story.

The most common dietary restrictions are:

  • Having a nut allergy
  • Having a shellfish allergy
  • Being vegan
  • Being vegetarian
  • Keeping kosher
  • Eating halal
  • Needing gluten-free food

A more direct way to ask on invitations is to simply have a section where the guest can indicate they have a dietary restriction. It is then up to the couple to reach out to that guest once they get their RSVP and find out exactly what they need, or need to avoid

Erin Heidenreich, RD, founder of The Celiac Space, did this when planning her own wedding.

 “If they say yes and they tell me what it is, I’ll reach out to them and tell them what we have provided and try to work through anything we can to help give them a safe meal,” she told A Sweat Life.

While this may be more work on the couple’s part, it does give individualized attention to each person with a restriction. It may give them some wedding menu ideas if they don’t already have them.

Hear from couples interviewed by HGTV about their wedding menu ideas from their own special day.

Conversations With the Chef (or Caterer)

Conversations with the caterer, or ideally the chef, regarding dietary restrictions is vital. Don’t just take their word for it, though. As a wedding planner, make sure you have a section of allergy-friendly chefs in your little black book.

It is important to know what they can accommodate and what they can’t. This is especially important because of cross contamination. If any guests have food allergies, cross contamination must be eliminated. Many catering kitchens have separate sections for this reason, but it is best not to assume. Always check.

How to Identify Dietary-friendly Meals

Asking the caterers or waitstaff to have every bit of food labeled with what is exactly in it will help a lot. This is especially handy for buffet-style dinners. With buffets, however, different dietary restrictions should be separated, again, to eliminate cross contaminations.

Having notecards or placards with the ingredients will allow guests to make conscientious decisions about their meal. This way, a bit of stress is lifted off the couple’s shoulders. If everything is labeled and separated, then the last part is truly up to the guest.

Making the caterer and its chefs available to talk to guests is a great way to alleviate worry on everyone’s part. People with restrictions like to know their needs are being met safely, and facilitating such a conversation is a great way to do that.

For a sit-down meal, having name cards with color-coordinated markers will let waiters and staff know who gets what. These can be subtle as not to potentially embarrass anyone, as well as not interrupt the flow of the reception. Other options are different colored name cards pertaining to what type of meal each person get.

The Cost of Dietary Restrictions

When it comes to accommodating dietary restrictions, chances are it is going to cost couples a little bit more. This is especially true in a pandemic world where food safety is a top priority and thus comes with a higher price tag.That said, it is incredibly important to make everyone comfortable.

According to McHale’s Catering, “Recognizing and accommodating your guests’ dietary restrictions-whether they result from food allergies, lifestyle choices, or religious convictions is an important part of hosting a wedding reception.”

Very true words. If clients want everyone they invite to come to the wedding, they need to make sure they will be cared for when it comes to food, regardless of the reason. As such, having a few wedding menu ideas will serve clients well when negotiating with a caterer or venue’s chef.

It is a joint responsibility of the wedding planner and caterer to make sure needs are met, and also that it is clear what those dietary restrictions actually entail. Don’t want people mixing up vegetarian and vegan after all. A hospital bill or a lawsuit for an allergic reaction will cost much more than an extra plate or two of special food.

Wedding Menu Ideas

When it comes to building out a wedding menu, especially when working with a caterer, it is important to know all the dietary options that will need to be accommodated. There is nothing more frustrating than going to a caterer two weeks out and telling them they need to prepare a kosher menu when it was never discussed before.

We spoke with Ashely Gould, a chef and owner of Ashley’s Sweets & Treats for some intel on planning a restrictive dinner menu. 

Here is an easy breakdown of what each of the most common dietary restrictions mean so there will be no confusion with talking with your clients during a consultation.

Gluten-free Menu

Whether it is just gluten intolerance or celic’s disease, gluten-free is a prevalent dietary restriction. As per Gould, “Most things can be changed in recipes to make gluten free these days.”

But, cross contamination is a serious concern when it comes to these meals. They are usually prepared in a different part of the kitchen.

There are plenty of gluten-free alternatives to flour out there these days, as well as a robust gluten-free culinary world. This should be a common offering from chefs and caterers who know how to prepare things properly.

Kosher and Halal Menu

halal and kosher menu
Dietary restrictions can be just as delicious as the regular menu.

If guests are Jewish or Muslim, they can only have kosher and halal food, respectively. These aren’t just styles of cooking, but religious law too. It’s in the sourcing, preparation, and inspection. 

As such, food that needs to be kosher or halal needs to be sourced from a reputable place. It has to be prepared a certain way. If there are Jewish or Muslim guests that eat this way, make sure there is a corresponding chef available to do it. This way, all the rules are adhered to.

Vegetarian Menu

Vegetarians don’t eat meat. Some may eat fish, but that is something couples will need to ask, and it’s best to avoid meat altogether. Vegetarians do consume animal products like cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, and honey.

As long as it is not the animal itself, the rest is safe. The allowance of dairy makes vegetarian options quite easy to accommodate and are pretty standard offerings by any caterer.

Gould suggests vegan gnocchi with a burnt butter and mushroom sauce and sage with pine nuts. Or, even easier, vegetarian lasagna. Made with eggplant it’s delicious Who can resist?

Vegan Menu

Like vegetarians, vegans subscribe to a plant-based diet. Vegans take it one step further. They also do not eat any animal-derived products like milk, cheese, or honey, or wear leather. If it came from an animal, it is not to be consumed or used.

For a vegan menu, it will need to be 100 percent plant-based. There are many meat substitutes out there. You’ll often find vegans don’t like the texture of meat or the idea of eating something meat-like.

So, Gould often chooses something like vegan croquettes that use chickpea as the helpful ingredient instead of eggs.

Wedding Menu Ideas, Inspired by Dietary Restrictions

We know, planning a wedding isn’t easy. The reception food is just one part of the whole picture, but it is a very important part. Hungry guests aren’t guests who are having fun, and when it comes to what a person can eat, it’s important to be respectful of that.

The good news is that there are so many resources available to wedding planners and clients alike when it comes to wedding menu ideas. Whether there is a small budget and allergy-friendly meals needed or it is a mix of carnivores and vegans, there is a chef out there who can do that.

The important thing is to be organized, ask for dietary restrictions on invitations, and take it one meal at a time.

Annette Corrie

Annette Corrie

Our ‘Certificate of Professional Wedding Planning Course’ is here to help you through the process, by providing a step-by-step guide to getting started and becoming successful in your new career. This course will help you gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need to oversee all the details of a wedding. This course will help you prepare a successful and magnificent event!

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Annette Corrie

Course Director

Our ‘Certificate of Professional Wedding Planning Course’ is here to help you through the process, by providing a step-by-step guide to getting started and becoming successful in your new career. This course will help you gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need to oversee all the details of a wedding. This course will help you prepare a successful and magnificent event!

Annette Corrie

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Certificate of Professional Wedding Planning Course’

This course will help you gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence you need to oversee all the details of a wedding. This course will help you prepare for a successful and magnificent event!