Manuel and I are agreed to get married in the formal ceremony that both our parents want, but we have a special situation that is causing a lot of anxiety and fighting among us all. My parents want a formal sit-down dinner at the reception – you know, roast beef and steak and that sort of thing. Manuel and I are both strict Vegans–we don’t eat ANY eggs, chicken fish or shellfish or foods containing these items. We believe so strongly in not killing and using animals for food and clothing that we don’t even wear leather. My mother is adamant that we serve non-vegetarian food and says ‘you can’t serve just tofu and mung beans at a wedding!’ We agreed to forgo the really casual celebration we’d prefer out of respect for our parents, but we draw the line at purchasing and serving animal parts! Where is there respect for US? How do we handle this one?
Nancy and Joe
Tony”s Take: Weddings may make people crazy. But weddings are very simple things, and if you divide them into their component pieces then they can be dealt with in a much more humane and reasonable manner. In most of the world a wedding starts at the civil registry bureau or getting the marriage license in the United States. In actuality, the completion of these forms is all that is necessary to marry you. You take the oath, you sign on the dotted lines and it’s done. You can do that at the marriage office in front of a municipal judge or have the religious leader of your choice perform the oath on behalf of the civil authorities.
Once that is completed there is no need for a religious ceremony or a reception. Everything else is optional. As the celebrants, the one part that you have entire control over is who and where the official marriage is done by and at. No matter who expresses other input, this is your absolute choice.
It’s My Party?
The confusion sets in with the reception. The reception isn’t your party! It is paid for by the bride’s family and as a courtesy, the bride’s family coordinates with the groom’s family on the guest list. Although you as the celebrants can offer up names, unless you are paying for the whole thing by yourselves, you do not get a call as to what party your parents are going to throw for you. You suck it up and smile at them for being nice enough to throw you a party and to invite the groom’s guests, and yours.
Truly, a quarter of all the weddings I have been to have been wedding celebrations as opposed to receptions. The wedding occurring in some far off exotic locale, and then the bride and groom returning, with their friends throwing them a party –his parents throwing them a party —- her parents throwing them a party– they throw themselves a party — but the rule always is: “they who pay, decide on the menu.” You might gently remind them that if they want the bride and groom to eat at the party, they should have a vegetarian entree, and it would also keep several of their guests from collapsing in hunger, but that is as far as you can push it.
If you feel so smug and self-righteous that you can’t let your parents and your parents’ friends live the life they have been living for the last 50 years, then decline to have a reception thrown by them. Hire the vegan chef and invite whomever you want.
Alison’s Take: My twin sister Jessica and I (the original second half of “The Advice Sisters”) spent a lot of our early years online offering brides and grooms, wedding advice. We were known not just as the Advice Sisters but also “The Wedding Belles” for BlissEzine and other sites. We also wrote plenty of wedding advice for our own advicesisters.com website.
But one of the things I find so amusing (and distressing) about wedding planning is the amount of pressure that couples place on themselves and that society and friends and family place on the couple, concerning the celebration of their union. A wedding is the beginning of a lifetime together in a legal union, but the ceremony is a moment in time in front of witnesses. The reception or celebration is optional, although few would choose to do without one to mark this very important occasion.
A marriage is supposed to last forever, but the reception is just a few hours, easily forgotten by the guests. The only exception to most of the unmemorable parties is if a party is grotesquely extravagant, or if someone gets carried out ill or dead, or there is a terrible fight. You might also remember someone’s otherwise unmemorable reception if someone does something terribly embarrassing (even better if it’s caught on camera).
Weddings are serious affairs and require some protocol, as do the receptions, so most receptions, no matter how unique the couple tries to make them, simply contain the basic elements of food, drink and a gathering of loved ones, plus perhaps, some entertainment.
And that’s how it should be!
Weddings tend to bring out the best and the worst in people. When I got married for the first time my mother planned a beautiful, elegant and expensive (but small) reception for me and invited just her friends and immediate family, plus the groom’s immediate family. I was allowed just one friend (without a date, which upset her a great deal). I choose the music but otherwise had no input. So, with that in mind, when I re-married, I personally planned my wedding with my twin sister Jessica (without my mother or anyone else) in two hours. I selected the items I knew I would require, and didn’t spend one moment agonizing over whether the napkins were the perfect shade of peach to the matchbooks. The wedding reception was enjoyable, and I remained married (as I am today) for (now 30 years) and counting. People all ate, drank enjoyed music, and the community of each other as they celebrated the union of my husband and me.
Tony and I Agree:
Nancy and Joe, I have to agree with Tony on this one. You are free to wear vegan clothing and ask your parents if they would please include a vegan option for you and your friends who have dietary restriction (as they might in consideration for others with dietary restrictions). However, the rest of the menu is up to the host and hostess. Since it is not you who is paying, suck it up for the few hours that people will be eating around you as you do in everyday life. Just let the party be what it is…a party in your honor. Host your own totally vegan event for your friends at another time. Barring that, go to City Hall and just get married, or try a destination wedding where you call all of the shots.