11

Context

I'm at this stage of life where quite a good part of my friends are getting married. Yay!

Next Summer I'll attend two different weddings. The thing is, I have dietary restrictions (I'm vegan) and although there is a vegan option planned for the guests for the first wedding, I'm not so sure about the second one. Now I'm not able anymore to eat meat, both because of ethics and medical issues. I also have reasons to believe that my friend may have forgotten about the fact that I'm vegan, for it's been years since the last time we shared a meal and I'm not so talkative about my diet.

Problem

I do not want to bother my friend with making him plan a vegan meal if I'm the only one with such dietary restrictions at his wedding. In case he and his fiancee are planning a buffet, then I could pick what's suitable for me from it, but in case we'll have plates filled with meat and trimmings I'd be uncomfortable only eating the trimmings and wasting the meat. I can't handle the idea of wasting the meat.

Question

I'm ready to offer to bring my own food but I'm afraid it'd come across as rude. How can I initiate the conversation with my friend to remind him that I'm vegan and very willing to help him facilitate the planning of a meal that would match my dietary restrictions?

Notes & clarifications

  • The wedding will take place in a country and a cultural context where food culture mostly revolves around meat (in parties, usually 90% of the plate is meat & the rest is trimmings).
  • By "health issues", I mean that I can't digest meat anymore. I've been a vegetarian for 13 years and a vegan for 4, and I have IBS. On the rare occasions where I had nothing to eat but meat, I found myself sick. Call it psychological blocking if you want, but the fact remains: I can't eat meat, or anything that once was alive.
  • As far as I know, all that's yet decided is the wedding venue. They didn't mention anything about the menu or anything else yet.
  • Eating a vegetarian meal is an option if that could help my friend, as it's usually easier to plan a vegetarian meal than a vegan one.
  • @avazula Have the couple sent out invitations asking for an RSVP yet or just save the date reminders? – Rainbacon Jan 14 at 14:02
  • @Rainbacon I just checked, the mail we got was a "Save the Date". No formal RSVPs yet. – avazula Jan 14 at 14:20
9

This answer is based on my experience attending weddings in the US (if there's something different about French weddings that invalidates this, please let me know!). I was in a similar position when my high-school and college friends started getting married. Since we'd graduated, I had to go on a gluten-free diet, but I hadn't told any of them yet.

I know gluten free and vegan diets are usually followed for different reasons, however they're similar in that US weddings (and events in general) often don't have many things I can eat either, so I have to always ask in advance or risk skipping a meal. Plus, your friend doesn't need to know the specific reasons you're requesting a vegan meal, just that you are.

So, what I did was simply message my friend to ask about the menu, and tried to be as low-pressure as possible (planning weddings is often a very stressful time!). My message was something like:

Hey friend! I am so excited for your wedding and I hope planning is going well! I was just wondering if you had decided on a menu yet? I have to eat gluten-free now, which I know can be a pain, so I just wanted to plan ahead in case I should pack some snacks in my bag :)

Everyone responded with some variation on "no problem, we'll let the caterer know and they'll take care of it!" and it wasn't a big deal at all.

The key points of the message:

  • Acknowledge that your diet can be inconvenient - I find most people who get annoyed about other's diets do so because they feel they're acting entitled or demanding, so this deals with that stereotype up front
  • Mention that you're prepared to handle your own alternative meal, so they don't have to spend any extra time worrying about it if it's not easy to accommodate
  • Express your excitement for the wedding, and that you're looking forward to being there, regardless of the menu!

As far as timing - I found out after doing this a few times that caterers usually have a few meal substitutes available, so it's just a matter of the couple telling them how many of which to bring. That's part of what RSVP's are for, so you just need to let them know before that deadline when they send in the numbers.

13

You seem very concerned that you will appear to be a trouble to your friend, so one could not say you are using the opportunity to force your ethics on anyone or make a point. It is your friend's wedding, so obviously, you want him to enjoy the day and to enjoy celebrating it with him.

You have explained in your post that on a couple of occasions you have been flexible and either eaten meat, or a vegetarian (not specifically vegan) meal, but added that this has made you feel unwell. So while it may not be the advice of a medical professional not to eat meat, it is fair to say that you cannot eat meat, as well as choosing not to.

As your goal is to remind your friend of your diet without making too much fuss, I would suggest that you focus on the fact you cannot eat meat (as it makes you feel unwell) rather than say you don't eat it. This is not to minimise or hide your ethical stance, but rather to shorten the discussion that you want to keep simple.

Perhaps say:

I am really looking forward to your wedding. I don't know if you remember, but I follow a vegan diet. I don't want to be any trouble, I will eat a vegetarian meal if it helps you, but I am unable to eat meat.

As your friend will be instructing his wedding caterers to prepare you a meal, it probably does not matter to him whether or not it is a vegan or vegetarian meal, so if he is willing and able to cater for you then chances are you will get the vegan meal, even though you have noted that you will accept either.

I am sure that your ethics are very important to you and that this answer may not please people who believe you should not hold back from telling him your ethical stand; but I have taken into account that your goal here is to remind him of your diet and scope the possibility of being catered for without making him feel that you are causing trouble. I have also considered my own experience as a vegetarian (I followed a strict vegetarian diet for 6 years, although I have returned to eating meat) and also my knowledge of French culture (most of my family live in the country and I have been visiting them several times a year for 13 years). It is my perception that as food, particularly local or regional produce, is so important to the French, some people do not understand those who restrict their diet by choice perhaps as well as in some other cultures. It certainly isn't intolerance; it just reflects the strong view held by most that fresh produce of any kind must be good and the pride that comes from living in regions that produce great food. This is why I feel you would be best limiting what you say about your ethical stance at this time, simply because it avoids a discussion in which your friend may hold a strong and contrary opinion.

2

To start, I've gone through planning a wedding in Belgium (close enough in eating culture to France I think) and can say that any decent wedding planner / caterer in today's culture will remind their client of the possibility of guests with dietary restrictions. Even if your friend is not aware of your specific situation, a good host will take this into account. Most people celebrating want their guests to have a good time and can do without the drama of someone not being able to eat anything.

As others have suggested, I would wait until you receive the official invitation to see if it mentions anything about the type of party and meal options. Now there are several possibilities which would make it easy on you:

  • choice of menu, including a vegan/vegetarian option
  • mentions of a buffet (to be safe, maybe eat something beforehand)
  • it's just drinks and dancing

Only if it either is clear from the invitation that there will only be food you cannot eat or there is no mention of the meal anywhere, contact your friend. Do this as soon as possible after receiving the invite. Having to revise anything in your planning is hard, and the closer to the date of the wedding, the harder it gets. Most caterers also put a hard cut off date in place for any changes in the menu.

Preferably do this face-to-face or over the phone, in the same conversation where you confirm that you will be attending. Gently remind them of your diet and ask if this is something they can accomodate. Don't get into the reasons why too much, it simply is a fact you don't eat meat.

Do mention that vegetarian or even just the standard plate without meat is fine if vegan is too much trouble. They might reassure you right away that they already thought of this, but be aware that getting an answer may take some time if they need to get back to the caterer on this.

Don't mention bringing your own food. This will either be a hassle to the kitchen crew / serving staff to get it to you together with the other guests' food or it will look very strange to your table companions to see you open your own container.

After this, I don't see any reasonable person denying your request. If in the end they still do and you still want to be part of the celebration, eat something before the party and don't eat at the wedding / ask the staff to bring you a plate with just trimmings / simply leave the meat on your plate.

0

Since Invitations have not gone out yet, I recommend the Interpersonal Skill of patience, which is an important aspect of any interpersonal relationship.

How you approach this depends entirely on if the event is professionally catered.

It's too soon to basically nag them about meal choices.

Looking forward....

If the Invitation includes a vegan option, there is no problem and right now, you're worrying about essentially nothing.

If the Invitation does not included a vegan option, then you figure out how to approach this without creating a problem. At this point, you do not know enough about the situation to take any action. Only after actual plans have been made can you address this with your friend.

  • 4
    Patience is an intrapersonal skill, not interpersonal one. Also, do you have any suggestion as to how to "approach this without creating a problem"? As this is the core of the question. – Ælis Jan 14 at 15:36
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    It's being pedantic to treat patience as an intrapersonal skill. Sometimes it's an important interpersonal skill to be patient and not engage someone before appropriate. – Bryan Krause Jan 14 at 16:41
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    @Noon Patience is very definitely an interpersonal skill. When I used to TA computer science classes, I learned that the most valuable skill a teacher can have is knowing when to be patient, and let the student reason the problem out. – DaveG Jan 14 at 18:01
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    Perhaps waiting until after the invitation might be best an important part in not being seen as bothersome or keeping the best relationship with the friend, but like Noon said, your answer would be much better if it also answered the question asked, which is about finding out how to approach the 'no vegan option' scenario without creating a problem. Could you edit and explain how this preferably should be done, and why that should work? It would be great if you could include some references/personal experience as well... – Tinkeringbell Jan 14 at 19:17
-1

Maybe you can ask different first, regarding about leaving part of the food. For example:

Since I'm vegan. Do you think that somebody would feel uncomfortable seeing me leaving the meat? I wonder if anyone might think that the meat was not tasty enough, and I don't want to disappoint the person in charge of catering.

This opening would help to start the conversation about the menu, where you can discover your friend's plans about the food. Maybe differents options are already available, but the important thing is that your friend will be aware of the issue. After all, you're not yet really sure about how is going to be planned the catering in the weeding.

Only after getting more information about the menu, you might try a different approach to offer help to your friend.

  • 1
    Hi Santiago! Like I commented on another answer, perhaps waiting until information on the menu is available is a good way to go about this, but could you also edit this to answer the question asked, about offering to help/bring their own meal if there is no vegan option at the wedding? Also, take a look at our meta on writing good answers. Some other things you might add to your answer is backup (references or personal experience) like your familiarity with French culture and/or weddings in general, to improve it even further. – Tinkeringbell Jan 14 at 19:20

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