Photo: David Kepner Photography
Planning a wedding reception menu isn't always as simple as "chicken or fish?" With many people observing dietary restrictions, there's a lot to consider from what kind of sauce to use to what's in your cake. Food restrictions are also not something to take lightly, as most stem from health, cultural, or religious reasons. But the good news is: Any caterer worth its weight should be able to accommodate with no problem. Below, a quick guide to four common dietary needs and how provide (delicious) menu options for everyone.
Kosher meals will usually need to be catered by a separate company than the one you are using for the rest of your guests. Kosher observers not only have restrictions on the type of food and wine they can consume, but also how it's prepared, what the utensils come into contact with, how the plates are handled, and more. There are varying levels of how strictly people observe Kosher dietary laws, so speak to your guests in advance to ask what they require. Then work with your venue to determine the best caterer to fit their needs. Keep in mind that because Kosher menus are special ordered, they need to be placed well in advance of the event date.
A gluten intolerance is a serious deal — you don't want to send a guest home sick after your reception! Luckily, many caterers can easily make gluten-free options for your cocktail hour and reception, but it's up to you to make sure that there's enough variety so your gluten-free guests are not stuck only being able to eat one thing all night. A gluten-free diet usually excludes most grain-based products including wheat, barley, and rye. This means no beer, bread, cakes, candies, cookies, pastas, some soups and sauces.
Vegans do not eat any meat, fish, poultry, or anything derived from animals such as eggs, dairy, or honey. In order to accommodate a vegan request for your reception, you will need to speak with your caterer ahead of time to prepare an entrée that is free of any animal or diary products. An easy trick to ensure that your caterer doesn't accidently forget about vegan restrictions is to mention that your guest is allergic to eggs and diary. Also, don't forget to have some options for them when it comes to dessert (fresh fruit) and the coffee bar (soy, rice, or almond milk).
Nut allergies are another serious matter, and one that needs to be addressed with your caterer ahead of time. In serious cases — for example, if your guest can't even have something that has touched peanuts during the preparation — you will need to have the dish prepared and plated separately. The good news is, usually it's something as simple as taking nuts out of a recipe or substituting in a different sauce. Nut allergies are common, and your caterer should be able to accommodate easily, but it's never a bad idea to have your guest double or even triple check with the kitchen before placing her order.