Catering Complexity

How to plan for food restrictions

By Frances Badgett

  Gluten-free vegan mother-in-law-to-be? Vegetarian groom? Maid of honor with Celiac disease? There are a lot more considerations for wedding catering than there were even a decade ago. Considering your guests’ restrictions isn’t just good etiquette, it’s life-saving to that parent whose child can’t be in a room with a single peanut. But it puts a lot of pressure on the bride (and caterers) to come up with big meals that can please a range of diets.


  Step one is to find out from your guests what their food restrictions are. Separate the deadly allergies from the preferences. Those who insist on non-GMO food can take a back seat to those who have allergies or digestive disorders. It is not okay to ask your guests if they need GF foods for their health or if it’s a choice, and it’s never okay to question someone’s allergies. Next, there will be vegetarians at every event. For their restrictions, go with vegan. It’s fairly simple to make vegetarian food vegan, depending on the cuisine, and vegetarians are happy with vegan items. Vegan cuisine can also take care of the GF and dairy-free restrictions, so having meat and vegan options is a good bet. Kosher options may require a separate caterer, as Kosher has as much to do with preparation as it does with type of foods, so be sure to have your guests state this as a dietary observance. For plain old common sense, it’s a good idea to omit whole nuts from your event.


  The next step is to find cuisine that you will enjoy that can accommodate restrictions. Some cuisines are more easily adaptable for varying degrees of allergies and preferences than others. Greek is pretty versatile, though it can be dairy-heavy. Gluten-free pasta makes Italian an easy choice. Your caterer can probably find a paella or Asian dish that will work with most dietary restrictions. You might want to plan for an additional gf-vegan cake for those who can’t have dairy, eggs, or gluten. Getting those preferences back from your guests early in the process will be key in planning well, but a few gf-vegan cupcakes just in case will probably serve you well.


  The goal is make sure that your guests get a good meal, regardless of their restrictions. People with dietary restrictions have lived a long time accommodating to others’ diets. Including them is both good manners, and potentially life-saving.