Out of all the wedding planning tasks on your agenda, finalizing your menu is one of the more challenging decisions. For couples who want to serve a vegan or vegetarian menu, whether it’s because they follow a plant-based diet or are interested in more sustainable cuisine options, selecting your dishes becomes a bit more difficult. Whether you’re serving a full or partial vegan or vegetarian menu, you’ll want to honor your own culinary preferences and also appease your guests.
The good news is that mapping out your menu doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s entirely possible to create a vegan or vegetarian spread that not only showcases your personality, lifestyle, and relationship, but also accommodates everyone in attendance. By serving an abundance of whole foods, you’ll prove to your guests that they don’t need meat-centric meals to feel satisfied.
To help you get started, we tapped experts, from vegan and vegetarian caterers to plant-based dietitians, to get their best tips and tricks on planning a plant-based menu that’s anything but boring. Below, you’ll also find plant-focused menu ideas that are guaranteed to inspire you.
Meet the Expert
- Ashley Knies is the co-owner and events director of From the Garden, a full-service private chef and vegan catering company serving the San Francisco Bay Area since 2012.
- Tenille Evans is the director and head chef at Vegan Weddings and Events. She’s also the owner and operator of Secret Creek, a full-service vegan wedding venue. She’s been working in weddings as a chef and venue manager for 10 years and the hospitality industry for 20 years.
- Kirti Sheth is the chef of Arya Bhavan, a vegan, gluten-free, and raw Indian restaurant in Chicago, which was founded in 1998. She has been catering weddings for over a decade.
- Erica Estrada is the owner and lead producer and designer of Erica Estrada Design, a full-service event planning and design company based in California.
- Taylor Wolfram is the owner of Taylor Wolfram LLC and a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in vegan and vegetarian nutrition.
Why Choose a Vegan or Vegetarian Wedding Menu
There are countless benefits to serving a plant-based meal at your reception, even if you don't follow a vegan or vegetarian diet on the daily. Here are some of the top reasons why couples select a plant-focused menu.
It Aligns With Your Lifestyle
Your wedding day is one of the most monumental occasions that will happen in your lifetime, so every detail should reflect who you are as a couple. Since the food you serve during your nuptials gives guests a glimpse into your relationship, including your favorite cuisine will be a more authentic and enjoyable experience for everyone. If you regularly eat a plant-based diet, choosing a wedding menu that reflects your dietary preferences is a no-brainer. “For our couples that are vegan and vegetarian, the benefits are obvious: Staying true to themselves and eating their favorite foods on their wedding day,” Ashley Knies of From the Garden expresses. “No bride should ever have to eat a side salad and some plain pasta at her wedding because the meal isn’t vegan.”
It’s Environmentally Friendly
For the eco-conscious pair, a plant-based menu is your best bet. Vegan and vegetarian dishes require less energy and produce less waste than their meat-centered counterparts. “Many of our clients might not be entirely vegan all the time, but they really want their wedding to have a positive impact on the environment and the community around them,” Tenille Evans of Vegan Weddings and Events notes. Additionally, a plant-focused menu is cruelty-free, which is perfect for animal lovers.
Not only is a vegan or vegetarian menu better for the planet, but it’s also better for your mind and body. Plant-based meals that are rich in fruits and vegetables offer ample health benefits, from boosting your mood to preventing certain diseases. However, Kirti Sheth of Arya Bhavan warns that just because something is vegan or vegetarian doesn’t automatically mean it’s good for you. “What you really want to look for is a whole foods plant-based diet,” he mentions. “That means fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains cooked using natural flavors.”
How to Find the Right Vegan or Vegetarian Chef or Caterer
Before you establish what dishes you'll be serving, the first step is hiring a plant-based caterer or chef who will execute your vision. To enlist the perfect culinary team for your event, keep these three tips in mind.
Do Your Research
Before booking a chef or caterer, Knies recommends scouring the internet. Check out the company’s social media pages to assess whether their dishes look palatable and presentable. Get your hands on any sample menus to see if any of the items are worthy enough for your special day. Last, read reviews to determine whether a majority of clients had a positive or negative experience with the company.
According to Evans, you need to double check that the chef or caterer understands what a vegan or vegetarian menu actually entails, especially if you’re using a conventional caterer. “For example, it’s a big red flag if you ask them for a vegan menu, and they send you a gluten-free one,” the chef says.
It’s also important to make sure the vendor knows how to whip up unique and substantial plant-based options. “When my husband and I were having our own vegan wedding, we knew that anyone who mentioned hummus and carrot sticks as an appetizer and pasta with marinara sauce as a main just didn’t know how to create delicious vegan food,” Knies shares.
Sample the Food
If the chef or caterer offers a tasting, try their food before making any final decisions. That way, you’ll verify that the vendors can actually prepare flavorful food that appeals to a wide range of eaters. If you love the food they prepare, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll deliver on your wedding day.
Tips for Planning Your Vegan or Vegetarian Wedding Menu
Nailing down your plant-based menu can be overwhelming, especially with so many delicious options to choose from. To make the process seamless and to create a vegan or vegetarian menu that will wow even your meat-eating guests, follow these 13 expert tips.
Set the Expectation
To best prepare your guests, let them know ahead of time that you’ll be offering a plant-based menu. “If you’re serving buffet or family style, you can add a small blurb on the details card or on your wedding website,” event planner Erica Estrada of Erica Estrada Design says. For sit-down dinners, she notes that you don’t have to give friends and family the heads up until they’re choosing their main course.
Determine Your Meal Style
Before selecting the food for your wedding, consider how you want to serve your guests. Whether it’s a plated meal, a family-style dinner, or a self-serve setup, choosing your meal style will help you figure out what dishes are most suitable for your event. For instance, the traditional sit-down dinner entails three courses, whereas a buffet requires stations of food served in large quantities.
Select Food With Personal Significance
To make sure your wedding menu represents your relationship, include your all-time favorite meals or ones that recall a fond memory. “If you went apple picking on your first date, see if there is something that can highlight local apples,” Evans suggests. “Maybe you holidayed in France together, and you want to invoke those memories.”
Let the time of year you tie the knot inspire your cuisine. Incorporating seasonal produce into your menu will make your meal taste riper and fresher. “Because vegan food is loaded with plants, you’ll want to feature the freshest, sweetest produce that is bursting in flavor,” Knies notes. Saying “I do” in the summer? Consider a watermelon-infused cocktail or a blackberry crumble for dessert. Making it official in the winter? Serve roasted potatoes as a side dish and tofu with an orange glaze for your main course.
Stick With Familiar Options
Chances are, not many of your guests have experimented with veganism or vegetarianism before. Instead of introducing them to new and exotic foods, serve them plant-based versions of popular dishes. “Familiar foods, such as pasta, salad, soup, hummus and other plant-based dips, roasted vegetables, potatoes, bean salads, and quinoa salads are more likely to be crowd pleasers than lots of vegan meats and cheeses, which non-vegans may not be familiar with or willing to try,” Taylor Wolfram of Taylor Wolfram LLC remarks.
Although vegans and vegetarians get their fair share of protein from plants, it’s important to create well-balanced meals to ensure your guests reach satisfaction. Since protein takes longer to digest, everyone will stay fuller longer. “Protein can come from dishes that mix beans, chickpeas, or peas combined with rice, lentils, or quinoa,” Sheth explains. “There is a rich variety of beans and lentils, so you can have many different dishes for different tastes.”
Eat the Rainbow
Since fruits and vegetables are the main focus of vegan and vegetarian meals, it’s the perfect opportunity to play around with color. Instead of focusing on one type of produce, add a wide variety. Not to mention, a vibrant dish will double as décor. “A buffet with many colorful dishes will bring a fun, happy note to your wedding day,” Sheth illustrates. “When displayed all together, our dishes are a feast of yellows, greens, reds, oranges, browns, and even pink and white when desserts are included.”
Doctor Up Your Dishes
The secret to getting omnivores to enjoy vegan and vegetarian food? Fill your meal with flavor. “The real star is always going to be the herbs and spices, the well-seasoned vegetables, the tasty sauces, and the garnishes,” Evans illuminates. The more you dress up your dishes, the less your guests will miss meat. Offering a range of textures will also aid in satiation.
Focus on Presentation
Just like anything else at your wedding, presentation is key. “Ensure your catering team is plating food that is appetizing and aesthetically pleasing,” Estrada advises. For instance, have your caterer or chef prepare each dish with edible herbs and flowers, the same varieties found in your centerpieces.
Highlight the Benefits
By focusing on all of the benefits that your plant-based wedding meal offers, your guests won’t view it as a sacrifice. “Have nice labels that list the ingredients, so they can see that a vegan menu doesn’t mean limitations,” Sheth suggests. Evans recommends noting how consuming the vegan or vegetarian dish will enhance the environment. “One of my clients included a little note on the back of their menus that listed the positive impact that their guests had with just one vegan meal,” she reflects.
Don’t Worry About Indulging
Instead of just serving dishes with fruits and vegetables, embrace options that aren’t as nutrient-dense. After all, your wedding day is a special occasion, so you have permission to ditch the rules and let loose. “Don’t be afraid of including a few fried items, or dishes that are more salty, sweet, or contain more oil than you’d eat on a daily basis,” Evans says. “Then, balance these out with bright, colorful, light seasonal salad and vegetable dishes.” Additionally, a menu with more substantial options will fuel your guests for a night on the dance floor. “You don’t just want to serve your guests vegetables and have them be hungry all night,” Wolfram states.
But Don’t Make It Too Filling
On the other hand, you don’t want to serve only heavy, high-calorie options out of fear that your guests won’t be satiated. “We love blowing guests’ minds with deep, umami flavors and satisfying, toothsome dishes, but it’s important to always have balance in a menu,” Knies explains. “If every item on a menu is rich, it can weigh the party down. Don’t be afraid to add something fresh and bright to balance out the other items.”
Ignore Unhelpful Opinions
If you choose to create a vegan or vegetarian menu, you might receive some backlash from friends and family. Just because they don’t understand your culinary decision doesn’t mean you need to cave or change their minds. Serving a menu that speaks to you and reflects your values is what will set your wedding apart, so be confident and stand your ground.
Vegan or Vegetarian Wedding Menu Ideas
If you're looking for more inspiration, below are plant-based menu ideas, from appetizers to desserts. Regardless of the season or the time of year you're going to say "I do," these vegan and vegetarian options will be huge crowd pleasers.
- Fresh pea crostini: Crisp sourdough crostini with a green pea and mint mash, garnished with sumac and almond cheese
- Grilled apricots: Coated in an ancho chile rhubarb compote, cashew chevre, and thyme
- Peanut tofu: Savory peanut chutney poured over cubes of grilled tofu
- Twice-baked potato bites: Prepared with cashew cheese and chives
- Blistered peppers: Topped with crushed sesame seeds and chive blossoms
- Herbed lemon tahini dip: Served with raw vegetables
- Portobello mushroom wellington: Paired with sautéed beets and red wine jus
- Lasagna: Mushroom ragu, roasted zucchini, and tofu ricotta
- Summer succotash: Shelling beans, fire roasted peppers, sweet corn, green beans, and smoked chiles
- Japanese curry: Pan fried yuba, summer vegetables, jasmine rice, and pickled beans
- Palak dal: A blend of yellow lentils and fresh organic spinach, seasoned with spices
- Malai kofta: Sweet potato and vegetable dumplings in a cashew gravy with cardamom
- Roasted carrots: Thyme roasted carrots with fennel, purple carrot puree, dehydrated olives, and walnut praline
- Fried Brussels sprouts salad: Tossed with radicchio, lentils, and pomegranate dressing
- Sweet potato and chickpea medley: Miso and ginger sweet potatoes with spiced chickpeas
- Asparagus bisque: Garnished with coconut cream and pepper leek focaccia
- Baked mac and cheese: Macaroni in a creamy cheese sauce made with coconut milk and nutritional yeast
- Greek salad: Heirloom tomatoes and fresh cucumbers served on a bed of arugula with vinaigrette
- Fig upside-down cake: Smothered in butterscotch sauce and served with vanilla bean cultured cream
- Blondie sundae: Peanut butter cup blondies with chocolate oat milk gelato, sprinkled with candied peanuts
- Peach cobbler: Served with vanilla cinnamon almond milk ice cream, toasted pecans, and fresh berries
- Cheesecake squares: Slices of New York-style cheesecake adorned with fresh strawberries
- Passion fruit and white chocolate ganache: Topped with coconut whipped cream