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Wedding RSVP etiquette - no vegetarain option

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I got invited to a wedding and am filling out my response card, but under the food options it only lists "chicken kabobs" or "sirloin burger". Well, I don't eat meat.

What is proper etiquette? Do I write a "side note" or just order one of the options and not eat it at the wedding? I don't want to be a hassle, but was surprised they didn't have a vegetarian option.

  1. What about the kabob - you could eat all the veggie stuff unless just having the chicken touch it would be a turnoff? They will probably also serve salad and a dessert so I'd just order the chicken, eat a roll, salad and dessert. JMHO, Linda

    1. Perhaps you could write a note on the response card asking if it's possible to prepare a vegetable kabob. I can't remember the last time I had to choose my entree before I arrived at a wedding, although it's definitely happened at least once or twice. I just ask my server for a vegetable plate, and it's never been a problem. You can try that, too - the upside is that no one involved in planning the wedding will know what a terrible, fussy, demanding person you are (kidding, kidding).

      1. It could be worse - it could be "chicken kabobs" or "sirloin burger" or 'vegetarian option" - because we all know that vegetarians don't care what specific veggies they eat.
        Sorry, just my personal pet peeve!

        1. It's a wedding you were invited to, not a banquet. I certainly wouldn't burden the bride with your special diet request, she has much else to attend to. Eat a bit before, or plan to eat after. Write "no meal" on the response card so they are not charged. Maybe the servers could whip something up for you after the rush to serve the others is over.

          47 Replies
          1. re: Veggo

            Wow. Surprised you didn't tell the OP to brown bag it, or just go into the kitchen and cook her own damn meal. People who don't eat meat are SUCH a drain on polite society.

            1. re: small h

              For as occasion such as this, I think it is the bride and groom only who are deserving of special attention. And with no disrespect, is brown bagging it that bad of an idea? If I were kosher and invited to a pig roast or lobster bake and wanted to enjoy all the people and festivities, that's what I would do. I don't suggest that vegetarians are a drain on polite society, but in general I find people in a crowd who demand special treatment to be somewhat selfish and out of step with what the world owes them, and should be prepared to take care of themselves. Celebrating a special day when friends marry should count more than guests departing with full bellies.

              1. re: Veggo

                Yes, yes and yes. Weddings are about two people and two people only. They've honored the OP by inviting her/him. Eat the salad, the bread, dessert. DO NOT WRITE ANYTHING ON THE RESPONSE CARD. Check mark for chicken.
                BTW, I know that all caps is shouting :)

                1. re: Veggo

                  <...in general I find people in a crowd who demand special treatment to be somewhat selfish and out of step with what the world owes them...>

                  Yeah, me too. But what does that have to do with this thread? Unless you think "ask" and "demand" are synonyms. Usually couples invite people to their wedding because they actually want their guests to have a good time - imagine! even though some people think weddings are about "two people only" - and part of that is serving food those guests will enjoy.

                  1. re: small h

                    I couldn't agree more. I hate this "me, me, me" attitude that has come up these days with weddings. There are some couples that expect gifts at every step of the way, make people travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles to go to some fancy location, and then get annoyed when someone might ask for a vegetarian entree? Seriously? If it's just about the couple, then they can elope or go have a private ceremony for two where they have no guests to worry about!

                    1. re: queencru

                      no one is requiring you to go to the wedding. If you really think it is all about the couple, you certainly can decline the invitation. And personally, if I cared enough about the couple that I'd travel thousands of miles at my own expense to attend, there is no way I'd let the fact that I might be faced with not eating the entre keep me away!

                      It may not be all about the couple, but it isn't all about the guests either.

                      1. re: queencru

                        queencru, what am I missing? You hate the "me, me, me " attitude of marrying couples hosting a party for you? While you and small h cry "give me, me, me vegetables?
                        Some flawed ratiocinating here...

                        1. re: Veggo

                          You're determined to make this a guest vs. host, or vegetarian vs. non-vegetarian issue, which it is not. It's one of recognizing that it's desirable to have flexibility on both sides.

                          There is no harm in a guest asking to have an entree assembled from ingredients already on site. As mentioned, I've done it many times and no one has batted an eye. Caterers cater to guests: that's why they're called caterers.

                          1. re: small h

                            There's no harm in the guest being considerate enough to take care of hir own needs, either. Eat the veggie hors d'ouvres, sides, salads, dessert and no whining. I was veggie for years, and I never demanded attention to my own choice of diet at anyone's event.

                            1. re: mcf

                              <...I never demanded attention to my own choice of diet at anyone's event.>

                              Again with that word, "demand" (see: Veggo's post of 8/2 1:56pm). Where do I advocate making demands? Where does ANYONE on this thread advocate making demands? Requests are not demands. Questions are not demands. If you ask and you get turned down, so be it. But I don't understand why you can't ask. Asking is not demanding!

                              1. re: small h

                                As a guest, asking for special treatment makes you a PITA. My mother would've smacked me upside the head if I'd done such a thing. (I can see it now -- our family is eating at a friend's house and I ask for chocolate milk instead of plain. Ouch!)

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  the analogy with asking for chocolate milk is rather a stretch. Just sayin'. I'm not vegie but have plenty of friends and relations who are. Maybe I'm just more attuned to the difference here.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    So if someone comes to your home for dinner, and you've forgotten to put the salt shaker on the table, your guest is unspeakably rude if she asks for it? I'm trying to take this example to its logical extreme. And to understand this strange tribe of silent sufferers we've got goin' on in this thread. People must be gobbling Zantac by the fistful.

                                    1. re: small h

                                      Taking things to their logical extreme is of absolutely no value.

                                      That said, the usual etiquette norm in the USA when hosted has been not to request a condiment that is not available on the table, sideboard or such. The rules in Western culture about salt and pepper are not quite the same as other condiments because of their totemic role as markers of hospitality; hosts who had means would not in times gone by failed to put them out lest they be considered inhospitable, but since the cracking of the salt and pepper monopolies in the modern era, they have become somewhat less totemic in that regard.

                                      1. re: small h

                                        I would not ask for something not on the table, period.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          Yep, that's the silent suffering I'm talking about. It must be very stressful.

                                          1. re: small h

                                            I don't suffer, and it's not stressful. My desire for a little more salt would not excuse causing my hosts any embarrassment. You obviously feel differently.

                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                              Yes, in that I don't think it would cause your hosts any embarrassment. I would not be embarrassed to be reminded to put the salt shaker on the table. I can't imagine anyone would, but then there are apparently myriad things beyond my imagination.

                                              1. re: small h

                                                I wish it wasn't so, but there are restaurants where the chef gets very put out if you ask that salt be brought to the table (they purposefully do not put it there) because he/she believes the food is perfect as is. So there are in fact people who would be upset if told their food needed salting.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  And therein lies the crux of this entire conversation (maybe). In this corner, we have a crowd that thinks the bride/chef/host needs desperately to believe that the event has been planned perfectly, to the last detail. Any suggestion that this is untrue (and how could it be true? there are no perfect events) would send the bride/chef/host into a tailspin from which she has no hope of recovering. Must! protect! bride! Must! not! shatter! illusion!

                                                  In the opposite corner, we have those who think brides/chefs/hosts are - or should be - a little tougher (and more flexible) than that.

                                                  1. re: small h

                                                    On the other hand, there are those who thing guests need to be a little tougher and more flexible in terms of their expectations in this context.

                                                    Which gets us exactly nowhere. Fruitless discussion.

                                        2. re: small h

                                          actually yes it is rude to ask for a salt shaker at someones house, you are implying that the food is not good.

                                          1. re: LaLa

                                            Anyone that is so self centered to believe their food is perfect would make a pretty miserable friend.

                                            1. re: LaLa

                                              I think I've read that about some Asian cuisines. Adding anything implies that it's not perfect as cooked. Of course, little to nothing is perfect but polite society demands the illusion.

                                              Karl S, I think you've said before that the host's job is to host and the guest's job is to be the guest. Once the guest starts asking to change things about, then the guest has partially crossed the line and entered into host territory. Bound to cause friction.

                                              1. re: LaLa

                                                Or maybe I'm implying that I like my food saltier than my host does. How sensitive have people gotten? I'm amazed anyone has the courage to leave the house anymore.

                                                1. re: small h

                                                  I'm gonna hazard a guess that polite, non-demanding people get invited out alot more than other types. I saw Batali on the Daily Show recently. When asked what kind of food he prefers, he said "something that someone else prepares." That's a good guest.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Are you perhaps snarkily suggesting that I am impolite, demanding, and don't get invited out much? I invite you to clarify. I would hate to misinterpret you, because I've been generally in agreement with your posts in the past and want to keep my positive opinion of you.

                                                    1. re: small h

                                                      I'm not talking about you. I'm generalizing. And if you and I can't disagree then positive opinions be damned :) It's obvious there are two strong sides on this argument (what? On CH? I'm shocked!) and we're never going to agree. So until this thread gets locked,the heads are going to continue to butt. BTW, I think I'm clearly right and you are wrong :) hahahahahahaha.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        I've actually forgotten what we disagree about. But who cares? The important thing is that we do not see eye to eye! And we never will!

                                          2. re: small h

                                            Altering the provided card to make an alternate choice is a demand for special attention no matter how you word it. There is no excuse for placing one's personal wants or desires ahead of the bridal party's choices. Call the caterer discreetly instead, if you can't take care of yourself otherwise. Don't require personal attention from people who are already swamped with details as a rule.

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              I word it as a "request," which is what it is. It's interesting that you are so particular about etiquette while being so cavalier about language. And you seem to have absolutely no qualms about telling ME what to do, which isn't very gracious at all.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                I think one thing missing from much of this discussion, and which you've managed to bring up, is how monumentally different hosting a wedding is from hosting a dinner party or other small event. It can involve invitations, music, flowers, linens, hotel reservations, rehearsal dinner, etc. etc. etc. And it is being arranged by one or two or three people who likely have very little experience in handling events of this magnitude.
                                                Any guest should realize that their special request is one among potentially hundreds of others (if all guests felt they needed to make a special request). Thus, one should weigh very carefully whether it is really necessary to burden the hosts with a special request before doing so. If everyone took the attitude that it was no big deal, it would be unbearable for the hosts.

                                        3. re: Veggo

                                          Apparently you aren't aware of all these new trends- destination weddings where you have to stay in a set resort, several expensive events you have to pay to take part in, and engagement parties where you are expected to give a gift on top of the shower gift and the wedding gift. It may seem like if you cared enough about the couple you'd attend, but in this economy going to these types of events can be a real strain on the budget.

                                          1. re: queencru

                                            As I said before, you don't have to go...don't go if it is too much of a strain on the budget. "We love you and wish we could be there, but can't make it to the festivities. Will be thinking of you on your day" is a perfectly acceptable and polite RSVP.

                                            1. re: susancinsf

                                              Absolutely. Our younger daughter and SIL have ELEVEN couple-friends getting married this year. All over the country and one in Berlin (they went to that one). You do what you can.

                                              I think even putting a note on the RSVP card of "vegetarian if possible" is causing the wedding couple to have to consider something they shouldn't have to consider.

                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                Exactly - it is an invitation, not an obligation.

                                                I don't eat red meat. When I'm invited to one of these things, occassionally the options will be pork, lamb or beef. I just go with the flow and eat around the protein. It isn't like anyone expects to actually enjoy the food at most weddings, is it?

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  Do the people saying it's ok to write in "vegetarian" on the RSVP card also think it's OK for Lulu's Mom to write "chicken or fish" on hers? My feeling is, if that was an option the hosts were offering, it would be there. If it's not there, it's not being offered, and requesting it is out of line with the behavior expected from guests.

                                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                                    Oh, no, no. Sorry if I didn't make that clear. I didn't mean to say that I then ask for chicken or fish. I just go with whatever seems most easy to eat around, and make do with sides. I also eat a bit before the event.

                                                    One time I was at a business dinner, sitting outside right next to the Adriatic Sea. And can you believe not a single seafood option was offered? Beef broth, cold meat platter, and then beef or pork for the entree. I didn't say anything, and just happily drank a lot of wine and ate what little sides were offered. Man, was I suffering the next morning (my own fault), but I had a GREAT time.

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      Sorry, I wasn't suggesting that YOU would ask that! You seem very reasonable and logical in your approach.

                                                      I was just wondering if the posters here advocating for a "write in" on the invitation would find any write in acceptable, or if it's just the vegetarian write in that somehow deserves a nod.

                                              2. re: queencru

                                                I live off -and-on in Playa del Carmen, Q. Roo, Mexico, which has become such a popular venue for weddings of Americans that several wedding planners there are overworked. I connected two C'hounds with contacts there, and I attended both weddings plus another of a friend. The wedding affairs are very expensive for all parties, but I assume that those guests who attend have thoughtfully considered the expense and are fortunate to have had the means. A high cost to a wedding guest due to exotic and expensive conditions is certainly a valid reason to decline a kind invitation.

                                    2. re: Veggo

                                      I completely agree with Veggo. If you don't like chicken or beef, should you then write in, "How about some fish? Or lamb?" Or "I don't eat ground meat, can you make me a steak, please?" The bride has ENOUGH to deal with. This is what is offered. Pick one and send it back. Eat before you go, push around food on your plate and have polite conversation, maybe even ask the server if there is anything vegetarian available when you get there. It's not about you having the meal of your life, you've been invited and this is what's being served. If you know you're not going to like it or can't eat it, eat something beforehand and/or afterwards.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        Veggo,
                                        I have to laugh about this thread. We are invited to my wife's nephew's wedding later this month. Reply card called for a choice:
                                        Eggplant or Vegetarian..................................................
                                        WTF????????????????

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          That's amusing. Maybe you could bring some meatballs in marinara sauce and they could work it in with the eggplant for you with some cheese.
                                          In the other extreme, I attended several wedding receptions at Green Gables, the jewish club in metro Denver. No reply cards asking for food choices, just mountains of food of every sort, among the ice sculptures.
                                          Maybe you and the OP could do the old switcheroo?

                                          1. re: Veggo

                                            Veggo, No meatballs, it's a Kosher wedding, apparently dairy and vegetarian main available

                                          2. re: Veggo

                                            The bride and groom will still be charged even if the OP writes "no meal". Most weddings also include a buffet and/or cocktail hour. Also, many will charge by groups of people and not by the individual.

                                          3. If it were a business or charity banquet or other function where you were paying to attend, (or a work meeting where you weren't paying but where you were required by your employer to attend) yes, I'd definitely write a side note. Indeed, at a business function where I was paying I'd send a note to the meeting organizers asking for vegetarian options both for that event and in the future.

                                            However, at a wedding or other event where you are an invited and hosted guest, to call attention to the lack of a vegetarian option (or whatever option you wanted that isn't there) is, IMO, rude. I think your options are:

                                            1. Put kabob on the card and quietly (without making any sort of fuss that the bride or family hosting could hear) ask the server if you could have a kabob without meat, or some other veggie option. As small h says, it probably wouldn't be a problem. Particularly if the event is held at a hotel or similar venue, they are used to folks asking for vegetarian options.

                                            2. Eat around the kabob. Probably not a satisfactory option, but one to consider.

                                            3. Eat before you go and/or after you get home.

                                            4. Politely decline the invitation.

                                            BTW, while I think it is fine to let the serve know not to bring you a plate, I wouldn't write 'no meal' on the card and expect that they won't get charged. I think most caterers would charge if a person was sitting at a spot, even if they weren't actually served. Besides, won't you want to have a drink, and perhaps a salad or whatever if there are some vegetarian options? ( and see option number one).