New York Times: For Starters, a Food Fight
- [EXCERPTS: Sometimes conflict occurs because of dietary restrictions
or because the couple wish to impose their own dietary inclinations
on their guests. ... Elizabeth K. Allen ... remembered doing a
wedding reception for a couple who were vegans. ... "I told them they
needed to loosen up a little," Ms. Allen said. She suggested ... that
the meal could include pasta, which has eggs in it. "I kept saying,
'This is your belief, but this needs to be an evening for everybody,'
" Ms. Allen said. "Great-aunt Betty doesn't necessarily want to eat
vegan." ... Because of the polyphony of religious, health and other
dietary concerns, event planners and chefs now typically anticipate
and have a few vegetarian and kosher meals prepared and tucked away
just in case.]
The New York Times
February 4, 2007
The Menu: For Starters, a Food Fight
By ERIC V. COPAGE
THE newlyweds and the 200 guests who had gathered at a house in the
Hollywood Hills for the reception were all smiles. But the father of
the bride was in a rage.
"He was a very intense wine connoisseur and wanted to make sure that
all of the food had absolutely no garlic, no onion and no citrus, no
vinegar - nothing with any acid," said an e-mail message from Mary
Micucci, the owner of Along Came Mary Productions, a Los Angeles
event planning company. "He was certain it would harm all of the
wines we were serving at the wedding."
So Ms. Micucci gave the caterer explicit instructions to avoid those
"In the middle of the entree our client stormed into the kitchen with
some lovely little herbs with purple blossoms and screamed, 'What is
this?' " Ms. Micucci recalled.
The florist, it was quickly determined, had used something called
society garlic in the table decorations.
Though the herb wasn't in the food, Ms. Micucci said her team rushed
to remove "all of those pretty little purple flowering herbs before
the Sauternes was poured."
That father of the bride may have been extreme in expressing his
passion about food at the wedding, but the passion itself was not
Conflict over the wedding menu can occur because of disagreement over
whether the ethnic cuisine on the bride's or bridegroom's side of the
family should dominate or whether it should be served at all.
Sometimes conflict occurs because of dietary restrictions or because
the couple wish to impose their own dietary inclinations on their
Elizabeth K. Allen, an owner of an event planning and design company
in New York and Boston bearing her name, remembered doing a wedding
reception for a couple who were vegans. That meant no meat, no eggs,
no milk or other animal products.
"I told them they needed to loosen up a little," Ms. Allen said. She
suggested they at least broaden their horizons to a vegetarian menu
so that the meal could include pasta, which has eggs in it.
"I kept saying, 'This is your belief, but this needs to be an evening
for everybody,' " Ms. Allen said. "Great-aunt Betty doesn't
necessarily want to eat vegan."
The conversation went on for five months, Ms. Allen recalled, and did
not end until two weeks before the wedding, with the couple finally
choosing a vegetarian menu.
Even more common is the struggle many couples face in planning a menu
that takes in all of their guests' dietary predilections. Reception
guests have been known to indicate on response cards that they would
like the couple to accommodate a restricted low-salt or Atkins diet.
Some have even telephoned their requests directly to the wedding
At one reception Ms. Allen arranged, nearly 30 percent of the 200
guests had varying dietary needs. There were vegan, vegetarian, low
sodium and lactose-free guests, as well as one who would eat only
cheese pizza or pasta with tomato sauce. The solution was an
appetizer course sampler of fish, pasta and salad.
There was a main meat course, with other entrees customized to the
guests' needs. And for that one special guest there were little
cheese pizzas as the appetizer and a main course of pasta with tomato
But some couples take a "make no concessions" approach. When planning
for her wedding last June, Amanda Mlinar, 26, an associate project
manager at Opus East, a real estate development company in Plymouth
Meeting, Pa., said she had to make a tough decision.
"My father's family are Orthodox Jews, but he doesn't practice, so my
brothers and I were all raised Episcopalians," she said. But her aunt
and uncle on her father's side practice Orthodox Judaism, and so do
Ms. Mlinar, her husband, Gavin, and her parents fretted for a week
over what to do. But when the caterer suggested individualized kosher
plates, the bride balked.
"If we started taking that into consideration, we'd have to take
everybody into consideration," she said. "We couldn't have any nuts
on anything for anybody who might have been allergic, and we couldn't
have any dairy for anybody who might have been lactose-intolerant.
"We felt that if we started making all those concessions, then we
wouldn't have had any food that we wanted."
Trying to meet the needs of kosher guests can be especially tricky.
"If you are an observant Jew, a Reform Jew or even a Conservative
Jew, kosher can mean many different things," said Marcey Brownstein,
who owns a New York catering and events planning firm bearing her
Recently a bride told her that 20 guests on the bridegroom's side
would need kosher meals. No problem, Ms. Brownstein said. She would
order 20 glatt kosher meals, which are prepared under the most
stringent standards. ("If you're Orthodox, kosher means one thing:
glatt kosher," Ms. Brownstein noted.)
But when she spoke to the bridegroom, he told her that in his family
kosher meant they could eat only fish and vegetables.
Differences over ethnic cuisines can be sticky to navigate. Carla
Ruben, an owner of Creative Edge Parties, an event planning company
in New York, recalled a reception for the marriage of an American
woman and a Korean man.
"There were tons of discussions because Korean food is very spicy and
eaten differently, with chopsticks," Ms. Ruben said. "She thought it
was ridiculous to impose something most people at the party don't
want to eat. Eventually the bride said, 'It's my wedding!' Things
became a little tense."
Ms. Ruben then suggested that the couple serve Korean foods better
suited to the American palate. And that they be served as an
appetizer rather than the entree. The couple agreed.
Because of the polyphony of religious, health and other dietary
concerns, event planners and chefs now typically anticipate and have
a few vegetarian and kosher meals prepared and tucked away just in
"Typically at every event, if they are serving beef, and you don't
eat beef, you'll look at the waiter and say: 'I'm very sorry. I don't
eat beef,' " said Polly Onet, who heads Ober, Onet & Associates an
event planning and marketing firm in New York. "And the waiter will
say, 'Would you like fish or vegetables?' "
But that option is not advertised.
"They're not listed on a menu," Ms. Onet said. "Because then, if the
guests didn't feel like meat that night and they wanted fish, things
would be out of control."
Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
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