Sandy Malone, star of TLC's Wedding Island, is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a destination-wedding planning company off the coast of Puerto Rico. Here, the pro-planner dishes on how she advises couples on accommodating their guests' food preferences in their wedding menus.
It's not uncommon for brides and grooms to struggle while selecting their wedding menu in this progressive world where people have so many food preferences and allergies to contend with — in fact, trying to cater to the specific needs and wants of every guest has become nearly impossible.
In most cases, the more options you offer to your guests, the more expensive your food bill will be, and, oftentimes, the less likely you'll be serving what you — the bride and groom — actually wanted to eat at your own wedding.
For the most part, I advise my clients to choose what they want to serve — with a few exceptions — and let the guests figure out what they can and want to eat from what you're offering. Here's an example of a typical conversation with a wedding couple about this:
Couple: We're struggling with the menu because we've got a lot of dietary restrictions to deal with.
Me: Tell me what we're dealing with here.
Couple: We've got several vegetarians and a couple of vegans. The groom's mother is lactose intolerant, and the maid of honor's husband is gluten intolerant. The ring bearer has such a severe nut allergy that we cannot have anything with nuts in it within 50 feet of him. Oh, and the groom is very allergic to shellfish, but he likes other seafood.
Me: Well, obviously, no nuts if somebody will be sick by just getting near them.
Couple: But we wanted a traditional Puerto Rican almond rum wedding cake.
Me: Okay, what other dessert are you going to have so that the little guy can have something sweet?
Couple: Can't we make one tier of the cake a different flavor?
Me: Not to feed to a kid who is crazy-allergic to nuts. He can't have something that could have been cross-contaminated. Plus, if he's a little guy, you run a serious risk having half eaten plates of cake set down everywhere by guests. If his parents aren't watching closely enough, he could get into something dangerous. Seriously, if the allergy is as bad as you say, you need to skip nuts entirely.
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At this point, I usually offer some parameters we'll need to stick to in order to satisfy the list of things they've given me.
Vegetarians: Choose a vegan entree and at least one vegan appetizer. Vegetarians will eat vegan food, but vegans won't eat vegetarian food containing dairy and eggs.
Dairy: If the lactose intolerance was anybody but one of your parents, I'd say ignore it because people know what they can, and cannot, eat. But if you want to make sure there's a dinner option that will appeal to your VIP that has no dairy, design one of the dinner options that way.
Gluten: You can worry a little less about the gluten-free eaters, as they're well aware of what they shouldn't eat. But we will make sure there are some gluten-free appetizers so that they don't feel left out during the cocktail hour, as well as some gluten-free entree items so they can enjoy dinner.
Shellfish: Whether you should include shellfish in the menu (even if the groom doesn't intend to eat it) depends entirely on the severity of his allergy. If he's supersensitive, getting hugged and kissed by guests who have gobbled shrimp could be really dangerous. And the bride herself can't eat any shellfish and kiss her new husband without the risk of making him sick.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.