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Banquet dinner options--how to choose what to eat?

Got an invitation to a wedding and on the response card is listed 3 different entree choices, all indicated by a symbol, for vegetarian, fish and chicken+cow. I'm not usually a very picky eater but there are quite a few ingredients I don't like that will and one will literally make me gag (bleu cheese). And sometimes, one option might be more interesting than another. I know the parents of the bride so can casually inquire what the menu is, and then will make my choice and send the card back.

But I got to thinking, how would I choose if I couldn't find out the menu? Hounds, what would you do?

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  1. If I was that picky, had food aversions or allergies I would call the venue. They can describe the dishes as the bride/groom will have already decided by the time the wedding invites have gone out.

    1. Fortunately or unfortunately, most wedding food I have had was pretty middle of the road. Blue cheese is one of those items I would expect most caterers to keep off the main course because of dislike. I usually choose the meat only because vegetarian choices tend to be boring (unless bride/groom is a veg) and never trust fish to be fresh and properly cooked. I also never expect good food at a wedding..

      1. I don't usually go to weddings for the food. I'd pick meat because I like meat. Guess if it had bleu cheese I could scrape it off.

        1. I think I would just pick one and be sure to wear my big girl pants to dinner. Everyone involved with the wedding probably has a million other things to deal with without guests who must be sure the menu is to their liking. If you truly find the meal inedible you can always eat a roll and butter while being the epitome of graciousness while you butter the roll. The wedding truly is about the bride and groom, and they have done more than their part by offering 3 choices for guests to choose from.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Samalicious

            Completely agree. And load up on hors d'oeuvres.

            1. re: Samalicious

              Well said. Kind, but direct and on point.

            2. Arrange your day so that the banquet isn't going to be a critical part of your food needs. At just about any meal occasion, where the choices are fixed, there's always the chance that *none* of them will be suitable. Eat what you can of what's provided and if there's something you literally can't abide, just don't eat it. More often than not caterers allow for the possibility of additional arrivals, strange and unforeseen diners, etc. etc. so if what you originally asked for turns out not to be suitable, but something else is, you can usually ask to have your plate replaced with the other choice (unless the banquet has been EXTREMELY tightly planned and budgetted)

              There is, of course, the true no-win scenario, namely, everything on offer has something you can't abide, the hosts will be mortally offended if you don't eat everything, and they will likewise feel snubbed if you decline, however politely, their invitation. However in that situation it's simple: You Lose. Other than that most of the time these things pass over without anyone even taking note at the time. The whole point is that it's not about a meal for you, but a celebration of a major event for the couple.

              1. As a vegetarian i eat a substantial snack before i go. Generally i'm stuck with a platter of over oily roasted veggies, including the obligatory portabello mushroom, plus/minus some cheesey pasta dish of some kind (i can't have dairy).
                So i end up with an appetizer salad (and push the cheese to the side), and a few bites of whatever the entree is. Which is fine since i had a snack beforehand and i enjoy wine and the company :))

                But if you're omni only choose the veg option if the bride and groom are veg, or it will be an event with ethnic food (indian, asian, etc... have many creative and flavorful veg and legume based dishes)

                I think that anyone who is either vegetarian, a picky eater, on a self imposed restircted diet, etc should have a similar strategy with a hefty pre event snack and just be pleasantly surprised if the menu is delicious and fits your dietary specifics.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  On a side point - but one that always causes me to wonder: I'm definitely not a vegetarian, but even so what I find surprising is the proportion of catering where the people involved don't seem to understand that vegetarians need something substantive too - and that this means, generally, beans and grains. As you've said, cheese is a non-starter for vegans.

                  Furthermore from the POV of the caterers, beans and grains are cheap (=> profitable!) so it surprises me time after time when I see what's presented to vegetarians that so often this concept - of a dish that's bean-and-grain-focussed - is missed. Any insights as to why, anyone?

                  1. re: AlexRast

                    I wish i knew why.... But its also astonishingly common to see on menus in restaurants in general where the veg choice is cheese lasagna, a roasted portabello mushroom, or just a plate of the various sides from the omni options.
                    Why it is so difficult to do an entree salad with chickpeas, nuts, and a side of toasted bread with hummus, or a braised lentil ragu with the pasta or a napoleon of roasted veg with tofu or gigante beans is really beyond me. I can only attribute it to people who don't know or care about what the veg choice is.... At this point i've just lowered my expectations and on occasion i am pleasantly surprised.

                    1. re: AlexRast

                      I've often wondered that too. I was vegetarian for a few years in the 90s and man, did I eat a lot of pasta primavera at weddings.

                  2. Im not picky but wedding food is normally designed for picky eaters so just choose the protein you want.

                    1. I know it isn't about me, I really do. It's more curiosity than anything else. I was intrigued with 3 choices--haven't seen that yet, and it is a truly a quandry as to what to pick. I wouldn't call the venue, they have enough work to do than to satisfy curious guests.

                      I work for a catering company and have to help my clients design menus for many, many, more guests than at a typical wedding. But for banquets (we only serve one entree), we always have options for typical dietary issues, i.e. no-dairy or no-nut salads, gluten free, always have a vegetarian entree, and will have kitchen staff available to dish-up any last minute plates for guests that have dietary issues that we haven''t thought of. I have dealt with allergies to things I never would have suspected. Ground pepper? That was a new one a few months ago.

                      But back to my question--assuming you eat everything, how do you choose given the 3 options? Will I be in the mood for fish that night? I just don't know what to pick.

                      Thanks for all your responses.

                      32 Replies
                      1. re: alwayshungrygal

                        Just pick the protein you least care about being overcooked.

                        1. re: alwayshungrygal

                          How do you pick one? What mood will you be in? It's a wedding! Who really cares about the food! You can get whatever you want to eat on the drive home.

                          1. re: Firegoat

                            There is no drive home. It's out of town and the wedding is in the hotel I'm staying in.

                            and yes, I care about the food, no matter where I am or the occasion. I hate waste of any kind, and it would upset me to think I was wasting the brides well spent money on food I didn't eat.

                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                              Oh, but weddings in the USA tend to be the ultimate in waste anyways, goes with the territory unless one elopes.

                              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                Then eat it whether you're in the mood for it or not. I'm assuming you'll choose something that you will eat, It might not be what you're in the mood for but you have to make choices--eat it or waste it. There's no way to predict how you're going to feel weeks after choosing but it's your choice whether to waste food or not. Really, as I said, it's a blip in the enjoyment of a wedding. I've never heard anyone say, "It would have been a great wedding but I was forced to eat the fish because I chose it 6 weeks earlier and I was in the mood for chicken that night and that ruined the wedding for me."

                            2. re: alwayshungrygal

                              You mentioned "I was intrigued 3 choices-Haven't seen that yet." I can recall having choices of main course requested with the response card back about the time when my daughter was attending many a Bat Mitzvah, and that was 18 years ago!

                              If you are in the business, why not canvas some of your clients when you are working with them, what they do when given the choice?, and maybe get back to us with the results

                              1. re: PHREDDY

                                My clients are all business. We don't do social catering, no weddings or bar mitzvahs. Thankfully, tho what I do is just as stressful.

                                1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                  Wouldn't it add stress to you if you knew the people you were serving felt the same as you do about needing to have the food they WANT to be eating, rather than what you were serving?

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Exactly, and that's just part of what makes my job so stressful.

                                  2. re: alwayshungrygal

                                    Thus my point...I am a plumber...all people sh-t...you are a caterer...all people eat..Yes? most people in the USA us a toilet...
                                    Why pose your question here ?
                                    I just don't get it...unless it is a post -grad study..

                                    1. re: PHREDDY

                                      Geeze. I don't think the OP was really in a serious quandary, just curious as to what seems to people to be the most reliable choice. She didn't indicate that it's a make-or-break thing. I thought it was an interesting question. I don't have any dietary restrictions, and hardly any strong food dislikes, but you do wonder, when given this choice, what's "safest" as far as most likely to be tasty. Lay off a little, maybe. (Not just you, PHREDDY, sorry.)

                                      1. re: juster

                                        It's a puzzling question given that she's a caterer and a professional in the matter. I'd like to know how she'd handle it if she had to field 150 some requests for items people dislike (I don't eat mushrooms, I don't like eggplant, I hate medium rare meat, I only eat organics, etc.). IMO, sometimes you just have to let go of control and accept what you're given.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          I would NOT like to handle 150 requests of the menu, which is why I won't call the venue. We accommodate dietary and religious issues with advance notice and if something comes up during service, then we deal with it as best as we can.

                                        2. re: juster

                                          THANK YOU! This isn't a make it or break it decision. It's just that I've never had 3 options, and only once (just recently for another wedding) had a choice at all. I just don't know what to put. Do I pin three pieces of paper on a dart board, throw a dart at it and pick the one it gets closest to? Shuffle cards and see which one I pick? If you are given a choice, don't you want to make a good one?

                                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                            It's possible you are waaaay overthinking this.

                                      2. re: alwayshungrygal

                                        As I said, this trend existed at least 18 years ago...what don't you understand?...is this a bogus post?

                                        1. re: PHREDDY

                                          C'mon, give me a freakin break. This is definitely not a bogus post. As for trends, I've been to exactly 2 weddings in the last 20 years and 7 bar/bat mitzvahs. None of them had a choice of meal on the response card. Oh, and 3 were buffets, very helpful.

                                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                            AHG....perhaps you might want to consult a trade group or even some of your competitors and find out what happens with them in these instances?

                                            Again given your position in the catering/food service industry and your obvious experience , beyond all of us here..one has to question why you would ask a question like this?

                                            Perhaps if you prefaced your credentials it would be less suspect....and you would not have been "flamed" as you have pronounced....
                                            But what are we reguarlbee's to expect?

                                    2. re: alwayshungrygal

                                      It doesn't matter. The worst that can happen is you get there, you've gotten the fish and are in the mood for chicken. Would that register in your blip meter for more than a second? Unless someone goes all out for the food, does anyone remember what their meals were at weddings? I have no idea what we had at mine.

                                      1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                        Wait. You work for a catering company and yet you "wouldn't bother the venue"? I find that extremely odd.

                                        I don't go to weddings for the food. I go to celebrate the couple. I would choose whatever main sounds the best at that time. Who cares if I am "not in the mood" for it on that day?

                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                          FX2....I asked the same question...

                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            I agree, it's about the couple, but please see my post just above re waste. That's what concerns me. Why pick something you won't eat? I'd almost rather have no choice, and deal with what I get. Weird, I know.

                                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                              Then flip a coin/toss a dice. No choice.

                                              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                Whose picking something they won't eat?? Color me confused.

                                                And if "waste" really bothers you then why wouldn't you call the venue? A single phone call could avoid you ordering something you won't eat.

                                                1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                  Did your mom tell you to finish your food because there are starving people in China??

                                                  1. re: monavano

                                                    No but she sure made sure she served food she knew we (4 siblings) would eat.

                                                    1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                      wow!! the bride and groom have zero obligation to do that for you

                                                  2. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                    Just respond that you will not be eating. I am sure the couple will understand.

                                                2. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                  Go back and reread the reply from samalicious.

                                                  1. re: justicenow

                                                    I've read all the posts. I don't understand why I am being flamed. I'm just trying to make a good decision. Given that the bride made an effort to give options, I'd like to make sure it's not a wasted effort (on her part).

                                                    1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                      Go with the chicken cause it's usually the least likely to be messed up.

                                                      For my SIL's recent wedding, we got the salmon, advertised on the card as "pan roasted salmon with shallot white wine reduction over wilted greens with seasonal vegetables"

                                                      What I was served: a barely 3 oz sliver of salmon with a tablespoon's worth of white "sauce" barely covering it, with an oz of wilted greens (which were surprisingly tasty) and 3 undercooked/raw baby red potatoes and half a pound of steamed carrots and green beens. Over half the plate was the veggies. Should have taken a pictures.

                                                      Also reinforced my belief my in laws have no palate as they RAVED about how good the food was. My kiddo won the meal with the baked chicken tenders, which had a nice peppery coating.

                                                      1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                        You will not be the first, nor will you be the last person to pick at their meal at a function, and food WILL be wasted.
                                                        It's just the nature of the beast.
                                                        I think what's perplexing is that you seem to be dithering over what appears to be a very easy decision for most.

                                                        The fact is, you won't know what the "best" choice is until you get your plate in front of you.
                                                        Order the beef, and it may be shoe leather, while the fish managed to get cooked perfectly.

                                                        It's a crap shoot, and we all get what we get, and we don't get upset.
                                                        We especially don't bother the wedding party or their family with wanting to know the minutiae of each entree- especially when your not doing it for health or religious reasons.

                                                  2. Chicken + cow gives you two options on one plate. Vegetarian is often gooey and uninspired and fish can be iffy in this situation.

                                                    That said I assume the food will be a nonevent at catered celebrations and am pleasantly surprised when it is good. Eat a light meal prior or bring a protein bar just in case.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                      EVERYTHING can be iffy at a wedding.
                                                      The last one I was at, the fish was the best option. Unfortunately, I ordered the shoe leather beef ;(

                                                    2. I would consider myself lucky if there was any food to eat that I liked, and plan my eating around not expecting anything positive in that regard. The hosts are only obliged to consider medical/religious obligations, and take reasonable common preferences into account; otherwise, it's up to guests to deal, and be cheerful about it.

                                                      Have something (very neat and tidy that won't spill; also bring cloths to cover yourself - you can't be too careful with dress clothes) in your car so that you can (if you wish) imbibe alcohol without getting a hunger drunk on.

                                                      1. My advice would be to get over yourself ;-)
                                                        Pick around what you don't like, don't make a big fucking deal about it, and try to be happy for the lucky couple and socialize with other guests like grown ups do.

                                                        Oh, and don't bother the parents about this petty crap.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                          Absolutely do NOT bother the parents.

                                                          As I once told my mother when she was disturbed about people bringing her gifts at her 50th wedding anniversary party (she asked me why I had failed to order people not to bring gifts), I replied: because you raised me better than that - your job is to smile and say thank you. At which point, mom turned on that smile that most women of her generation learned, and then actually relaxed and enjoyed herself. Similarly, guests at any party need to learn to smile, relax and be gracious. That is the single most essential thing guests *must* bring to a social gathering to which they are invited (more important than any gift). If one cannot manage that, one should decline social invitations.

                                                          1. re: monavano

                                                            the op, she is a caterer of parties...she is playing all of us..right here on Chow Hound and the moderators don't get it...

                                                            1. re: PHREDDY

                                                              Well, then I'm glad I didn't sugar coat it!

                                                              1. re: genoO

                                                                Thanks.
                                                                This wedding, with 4 different entree choices, sounds like they are spending some bucks. So, I imagine there will be a smattering of apps before the sit down.
                                                                The worst that happens is that the OP doesn't eat some of the entree, so big deal.
                                                                Eat more bread.
                                                                Hit up Micky D's on the way home.
                                                                Put a granola bar in your purse.
                                                                You won't waste away!

                                                            2. Thank you all for your replies. I never thought I would be flamed so badly as I was. I posted what I thought was a simple question and stated my reasons in response as thoughtfully as possible. Some responses provided suggestions, some were downright...nasty and hurtful, not to mention unnecessarily so.

                                                              Believe me, I have much better things to do with my time than to "play you" or write a "bogus post" as has been suggested.

                                                              To those of you who actually gave HELPFUL advice, my thanks. The rest of you....whatever.

                                                              I'm done.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                I took your inquiry seriously, which is why my response was so direct.
                                                                A nicer way to say it is "let it go". Make your decision, and be done with it.
                                                                If your choice wasn't the best one- perhaps something on the plate makes you gag- you might be able to ask for another entree.
                                                                If not, deal with it gracefully.

                                                                I just feel it's rather navel-gazing and a bit self-centered to think about needlessly bothering the parents with this inquiry.
                                                                I wish you could put your mind at ease without inserting yourself needlessly.

                                                                Most of all, I really do hope you can enjoy yourself.

                                                                1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                  It is a simple question, which makes the angst about it so puzzling.

                                                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                                                    the problem with the question is not it's simplicity nor lack thereof.