Great source for planning a vegan wedding menu?
I recently decided to set up a section on my blog (Ask Annika) that would serve as a space to field questions about veganism and plant based eating. I look forward to exploring people’s questions, concerns and thoughts and doing the research necessary to help answer some inquiries.
My first question came from custom handcrafted gift and wedding broom maker A Gift for You and asked for a great source for planning a vegan wedding menu. What a fantastic question and also an exciting one to kick this space off with.
I immediately see 5 areas of exploration and decisions to make when beginning to plan for a vegan wedding menu.
• Use a vegan catering company
• Order from a vegan restaurant
• Work with a vegan friendly establishment or catering company & veganize dishes
•Do it yourself
• The Cake
Use a vegan catering company or order order dishes and platters from a vegan restaurant
If I were planning a wedding menu or catered party, there is no doubt in my mind that this option would be at the top of my list. Not only would I be able to rest in confidence that the caterers knew exactly what they were doing in terms of preparing delicious plant based dishes for my event, but it would also be a joy to in turn support a vegan business. Check out, for example, the catering menu for these 4 vegan catering companies:
Imagine the pleasure of putting together an order list from an entirely vegan menu! Looking through their menus I get excited myself about planning an anniversary party!
Of course not every city is so blessed yet to have fully vegan catering companies but doing the research to find a vegan friendly catering company could produce some exciting results. One Green Planet has a fun and mouthwatering article on some vegan and vegan friendly catering companies and reading articles like this, especially if you are not super familiar with vegan food, can help you figure out what style of catering and type of vegan cuisine you want.
So many people are on specific diets these days as well as reporting various allergies that for many companies accommodating requests and veganizing dishes is a non issue. If a company that you want to use really seems to take issue with making vegan dishes I would see it as a mutual learning moment or move on to another provider.
Order from a vegan restaurant
Along with using a vegan catering company, this option would also top my list. Being that I am basically obsessed with exploring delicious plant based cuisine, I consider any day a good one to go to a vegan restaurant. But wedding vegan menu planning is an especially opportune moment to really set out to explore the different options in your area (or area where the wedding will be) and view it as the essential research you require to help you figure out what flavors, ingredients and dishes you want gracing the plates on your wedding day.
To begin with, Happy Cow Guide is an essential reference for finding vegan and vegan friendly restaurants. Do a search for your area and make a list of all the establishments you want to visit. You can even call or email them in advance to see if they cater or can provide platters for events and if so then that will add depth to your “research” when you go and try their food. Making contact and opening that dialogue with owners and head chefs of vegan restaurants may even help you with your decision process.
If I throw a big party back in Hawai’i one day, I have no doubt that I will seek the divinely delicious services of Greens and Vines. If you told me a few years ago that one of my favorite restaurants would serve not only vegan but also raw food I might have raised an eyebrow. But it’s true. I was introduced to Greens and Vines shortly after going vegan and proceeded to collaborate with Chef Sylvia to photograph all of their raw vegan gourmet dishes as well as fall in love with their food. Greens and Vines is a wonderful restaurant that also caters. Check out their unique and inviting menu here.
Work with a vegan friendly establishment or catering company
First, remember that there is sometimes more to an establishment than what is presented on a menu, particularly when it comes to fine hotels where many plan their parties or celebrations after the ceremony. I recently stayed at the Fairmont DC and for lunch one day, the chef at Juniper restaurant went off menu to create a plate of Asparagus Broccolini, Tempura Carrots, Green Beans fired with Shallots & Quinoa for me. The dish was superb and were I to be working with this hotel and restaurant for an event, it is precisely the type of dish I would want to include on a menu, but experiencing it required taking a chance and asking the chef to just surprise me (obviously if planning for an event I would sample the surprises before ordering for all my guests).
While preparing this post I reached out to Honolulu based attorney Mits and her husband, music producer and singer Max. I met them at their home last year as part of my vegan portrait and interview series and recalled them telling me about their Four Seasons hotel wedding. When I inquired about their menu planning, Mits wrote, “We just worked with the Four Seasons chefs who pride themselves in accommodating all types of diets. Everything was vegan!”
Do it yourself
This option definitely seems for the very motivated ones, perhaps for budget concerns, because their region lacks vegan options or simply to have the experience of doing it oneself. I think dedicating a few hours to researching different menus and composing one’s own “dream menu” and then moving on to research vegan recipes for each dish would be the launching point.
Start exploring your local grocery stores to see if they carry the ingredients you will need and also do a google search for something like “vegan food shopping online” and explore sites like Vegan Food Essentials to perhaps bulk order ingredients you may need. Diversity and availability of speciality vegan food products can differ dramatically by region so online shopping can be a game changer in terms of menu preparation.
Hopefully you have some vegan or vegan friendly bakers in your region, savvy to preparing cakes without dairy or eggs. One bakery in the current area I live in has an entire section of vegan baked goods and will provide vegan cakes and pies on request as well- not because so many vegans frequent their shop but because so many people with specific allergies do.
Many modern and savvy bakers understand that there is an growing consumer demand for these goods by people who don’t consume these ingredients for varied reasons – or parents of children with allergies who are ordering for their children’s parties and special events.
I am not a big sweets person, but when I do decide to indulge in dessert I’m pretty specific about what I like. I love my husband dearly but have to share a memory of one of the most disappointing cakes I ever had. My husband ordered a (very expensive) cake from a Martha Stewart recommended baker. I wasn’t vegan at the time and neither was the cake but the frosting was so sugary I could barely make it through a piece. We were both so disappointed- also because for that price we felt it should have been a cake to really savor. Since becoming vegan I have had many cake slices I have really loved as well as some I really haven’t at all. For a wedding or anniversary party I would absolutely do a tasting to make sure there were no unfortunate surprises and that I absolutely loved the cake.
My mind piques with interest any time I hear someone talk about a vegan menu for an event. When I consider future events I know I will take great pleasure in planning a delicious and beautiful plant based spread for my guests. As a photographer I also excite at the prospect of working with future clients who incorporate veganism into their celebrations and special moments.
I suspect that the most difficult thing about planning a vegan menu for a wedding is not figuring out the food but handling potential criticism from family members about the choice for a vegan spread. Many people are not accustomed to the range and diversity of vegan food and don’t understand that you can have an exceptionally successful spread without any animal based products whatsoever.
Moreover, if you are making your decision for an ethical reason, these misunderstanding can lead to stress, contentious debates and honestly be a real drag. I have read many stories of guests being completely receptive to a vegan menu but I also have heard stories of family members who were not supportive, perhaps still trapped in the mindset of vegan food being weird or bland. In this situation I would consider penning a thoughtful letter or email for this person (or people) who are making the noise and letting them know why this decision is important for you and how you are planning with hopes that all your guests can enjoy and appreciate the event, have a good time and a wonderful meal.
Being that I love turning people onto plant based cuisine, I would probably have all sorts of beautiful labels on dishes the day of the event to let people know what all the dishes are composed of and at all the tables also include descriptions of the dishes and who I used to cater if I did so. For many people, eating vegan is s a novelty and when presented with a delicious vegan meal they are often really surprised (and looking for seconds). I would want the experience to be not only pleasurable for them but also informative.
Happy planning and feasting!
Featured image: The Classic Rich Dark Chocolate Cake at Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui
This was the first time I had a truly exceptional vegan dessert and it is due to exceptional talent in the Fairmont kitchens to prepare vegan dishes.
Regardless of style of cuisine- from a down home, buffet style to a luxurious multi course experience- this is the type of talent I would seek when looking for caterers for a special event or ceremony.