I am a ravenous eater. Photographing one hundred weddings in a decade I've heard & told plenty of brides, “Don't forget to eat on your wedding day!” I knew this wouldn't be me. I'd taste & devour absolutely everything on our wedding menu…
But, that's because I'm a lucky gal: no food sensitivities, no inhibitions and little to no willpower. I love food! Jack and I being foodies (it's practically our love story), creating our wedding menu was a top priority as we wanted to ensure everyone had a fabulous dinner at our wedding. After all, why else would we drag everyone to Mexico?
And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. As tedious as it may have seemed to our chef, we wanted to ensure the ravenous eaters like me enjoyed themselves as equally as those with food allergies, sensitivities and special diets like pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free & dairy-free. We set out to make our menu inclusive to all of our guests, food sensitivities or not.
It was a smashing success! We served a family-style meal with a huge variety of dishes for each guest to try or forgo. Vegetarian options of our featured entree Chiles en Nogadas (honestly it was better than the meat version) was served amply near our veggie-forward guests. Our seating chart helped our caterer know where our tree-nut allergy guest was seated. The dinner was seamless, tasty & reported as “best wedding food ever” by many guests. Best of all, we didn't poison anyone.
If this is something you're also mindful of, our pals at Be Inspired PR rounded up their esteemed collection of wedding pros to offer their own advice on how to make your wedding menu more inclusive to all diets, allergies, sensitivities and tastes…
Aim to be inclusive from the start.
“When developing your wedding menu, it is best to try and be as inclusive as possible. Consider your guests and potential allergies by including various offerings -vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. If you have the opportunity to include a dietary restrictions option in your invitation that is a great option as well.” – HoneyFitz Events
Eliminate any problematic ingredients if you have multiple guests with the same restrictions.
“When thinking about your menu, review your guest list together with your fiancé and your parents. Think about anyone you know who may have allergies or aversions and what they may enjoy. If you have many guests with certain allergies, ask your caterer if they are able to ensure that the entire menu is free of that ingredient.” – Jamie & Stephanie, Cape Cod Celebrations
Communication is key.
“When it comes to guests with food intolerances, dietary restrictions, or pregnant guests, the most important thing is communication. Ask your guests if they need any accommodations and provide them information about food options. They’ll appreciate it more than you know!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events
Create a variety of customizations.
“Food sensitivities and intolerances are becoming more prevalent nowadays, and always something we try to navigate when creating a menu. Creating separate dishes that are specific for guests that require the omission of certain foods, can easily be done.
First, make sure you communicate on behalf of your guest's needs and requests. A best practice a caterer could do for dealing with different needs is to set-up a separate station in the kitchen area, so no cross-contamination can happen during service.
Another way to be inclusive is just omitting those ingredients or foods from the menu altogether. At Colette's, rarely use chicken stock or butter on our vegetables, have vegan dishes on hand, pan-sear our proteins in healthy oils, use gluten-free soy sauce in any of our Asian-inspired cuisines, and our breaded items can easily be done with rice flour or gluten-free bread crumbs. Some couples are pleasantly surprised at their tastings with the variety of customization our chefs come up with!” -Sarah Kuhlberg, Creative Director, Colette’s Catering
Be thoughtful about the meal selection.
“Whether you’re celebrating your wedding with 25 guests or 250, you’re bound to have a sensitive eater or someone with a food allergy. Plant-based, gluten-free and vegetarian options have become increasingly important to menu planning. When it comes to hosting guests who are vegan, have Crohn’s disease, have Celiac disease, or have other medical conditions that affect diets, they generally just want a substantial meal that’s safe for eating. Why not go above and beyond with their menu by being thoughtful about their meal selection so that they receive the same experience as everyone else, rather than ordering the same old salad?! Make sure the special meal option is something you would also enjoy, and make sure you try it during your tasting!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events
Opt for locally sourced food.
“We are finding more couples requesting menus with locally sourced and organic ingredients. Adding more local vegetables and fruits packs more nutrients onto your plate and it doesn’t have to be boring! Leafy greens and shaved carrots topped with a champagne vinaigrette are both healthy and delicious. Not only is locally sourced food healthier for you, it’s environmentally friendly, and you are also supporting the local economy. The fresher the ingredients, the better the dish!
When you’re planning a menu that’s locally sourced, your guests with food sensitivities will appreciate the thoughtful planning. You can create a duo menu with a set of options that are made from plants and gluten-free, and a set of options with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits and locally sourced proteins. Going local doesn’t stop with food. There are many wines and spirits that are locally produced, so you should ask your caterer about adding local brews, spirits, or even organic wines to your menu. This is a trend that’s here to stay!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events
Make a seating chart.
“While I'm typically a ‘let everyone do what they want' kind of gal and in most cases loath seating charts, it's particularly helpful when you have guests with food allergies.
One of my best friends is allergic to tree nuts. Thus, I am notoriously a worry-wart about him when we're out dining. Having a seating chart was something I never thought I'd do. However, it was actually quite helpful because then my caterer knew exactly where he was sitting. This way, he could be given his special servings that came nowhere near the cutting boards and knives that prepped any nuts.
If you have more than one guest with certain allergies or diets you can put them near each other. This allows for more streamlined serving, ensuring everyone gets the style of menu intended for them.” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings
Include a menu card in your wedding stationery order.
“I love a sleek & sexy modern menu. Clean design featuring a simple dish name with each ingredient listed below. If you're commissioning a wedding stationery suite have your invitation designer include a matching wedding menu that can be placed on each guest's dinner place setting. Be sure to include any common allergen ingredients in the dish (nuts, dairy, meat) so no one has to wonder or feel uncomfortable asking about every dish. There's absolutely a way to help your guests in a stylish & classy way. – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings
Provide some “everybody wins” options.
“To ensure your guests feel comfortable and included, make sure your menu has at least a few filling options that will work for everyone. Think crowd-pleaser bites that work well for major food sensitivities and restrictions like vegetarianism, dairy restrictions, and gluten restrictions.
Cocktail hour is a great time to satisfy all of your guests' taste buds while focusing on menu items for those with stricter dietary concerns. Try bite-sized baked quinoa cups filled with fire-roasted street corn with a mildly spiced aioli sauce –yum! Or opt for button mushrooms stuffed with garlic sautéed spinach, farro, and topped with feta cheese. Delicious and a much better accommodation! ” – Michelle’s Catering
Don’t overthink it.
“Don’t make things more complicated for yourself! There are plenty of delicious options out there that don’t require extra modifications or efforts to accommodate your guests. Choose menu options that are “naturally” friendly for those with dietary restrictions and food sensitivities. This is easier than having to tweak a dish to make it fit their needs.
Grilled cauliflower steaks served atop caramelized peppers and onions and roasted tomatoes is sure to satisfy any palette while feeling special, but not isolated! A trio of fresh berry sorbets presented in individual glass soufflé vessels mixed with spiced honey and dairy-free yogurt custard is a refreshing and unique dessert that even the pickiest of eaters would enjoy!” – Michelle’s Catering
Offer stations to please everyone!
“We are so much more aware of food preferences, allergies, and intolerances now. I've found that offering stations allow you to be able to meet the dietary needs of all of your guest. Plus, this can upgrade the overall experience. Baked potato, pasta, and salad bars are always a big hit and guest can choose what they'd like to eat.” – Taylor Brione Ballard, CWP, Experiences By Taylor Brione
Try a modular buffet.
“Creating a modular buffet option for your wedding is less formal but the best way to help serve your guests. Ingredients will be on the side, they build their own plate to how they like. Guests do enjoy this as they get more variety and not stuck with one salad and one entree. Make sure you label all the ingredients at the station. Have your labels printed with your paper goods vendor so it matches with your theme. Try a salad bar with all the fun toppings to choose from; for proteins, you can choose hangar steak or tri-tip and roasted vegetables.” – Lizzy Liz Chan of Lizzy Liz Events
When in doubt, choose to overshare information on food.
“On the invitation RSVP cards, list dinner choices with a detailed description of each meal choice. Additionally, include if it is gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, kosher, or any other description that may suit your guests. Sometimes, we do find that if we offer a list of dinners for guests to choose from with specific descriptions they still don't suit every guest's needs. Then, the guest can either write in their request on the card or give you a call directly. Most sophisticated caterers at the venues are accustomed to providing delicious options for even the most strict of eaters. Of course, this is so as long as they have some notice of the request. They should be able to create wonderful entrees for all guests.
For dessert tables, it is nice to include displayed cards of each offering with information about dairy, gluten, etc. as well and make sure to include some of those limited choices as well for guests who may need them.” – Valarie Falvey of Kirkbrides Wedding Planning & Design
These tips were gathered by Be Inspired PR, a PR + Social Media Agency for wedding, wellness & lifestyle clients. With over 10+ years of experience, we’re here to take our clients to the next level! Find oodles of stylish wedding inspiration on their Instagram & Pinterest.