There's more than one reason to prepare a vegan wedding feast. Sure, no one likes to think of cute animals in trouble. But presenting your guests with a vegan menu also ensures that your vegetarian, kosher, and even your lactose-intolerant friends will enjoy a full spectrum of delicious offerings. Vegan dishes also have the bonus of often being less expensive than meat dishes, and they even last longer without spoiling, so you don't run the risk of losing an entire platter that wasn't refrigerated promptly. You really can't lose.
There's only one rule when it comes to preparing vegan delicacies for a mixed vegan and meat-eating audience: Don't try to mimic meat. You won't get it right, because your omnivorous guests will constantly be comparing it to the real thing. Take skeptics of your menu away from familiar ground and instead provide them with an array of mouth-watering options that run the gamut from savory to sweet. By presenting a long table of options, you'll ensure that there's something for everyone to enjoy.
The Main Course
If you suspect that your meat-loving family members will look down their noses at a vegan menu, help them feel included by serving traditional vegetarian dishes from their cultural background. Don't just serve raw kelp bars and expect your Southern relatives to chow down immediately. Italian families, for example, will feel comfortable with an array of pasta dishes. Irish families can't go wrong with potatoes. Even traditionally meat-centric cuisines like Russian have standout vegetable dishes like borscht (beet soup) and cabbage dumplings. If you go the extra mile to make sure your guests feel honored and included, they will be more accepting of your serving decision.
With the small exception of animal products, you have an entire universe of delicious, colorful, and flavorful food at your fingertips. Create a menu that spans all of your favorite ingredients for a variety of tastes that are sure to please your wedding guests.
The best hors d'oeuvres are foods that are easy to eat with fingers. Look for "mini" versions of popular meal foods, like red, white, and purple mini potatoes. These can be served just like normal-sized baked potatoes, with drizzled olive oil, shredded broccoli, and chives. Don't forget fancy salts, such as smoked paprika salt, coarse sea salt, and even bourbon and maple salt for a gourmet touch.
Dipping options are always popular. Pair crusty bread "fingers" with spicy artichoke dip, tahini sauce, mango chutney, or gourmet olive oil. Oils can be flavored with garlic, roasted peppers, lemon zest, herbs, or a variety of other ingredients to add complexity and flavor. No guests will complain about missing meat once they've discovered their favorite exotic dip.
Want to go raw? Mother Nature has made your job easy. Embrace the rainbow of colors and flavors that grow naturally when you serve skewers of fresh, ripe fruits or endive "spoons" with heirloom tomato bruschetta.
Craving fried food? Crispy, golden vegetable samosas will add a little spice to your menu, while a tempura batter will add a lighter crunch to foods like zucchini, onion, and even avocado.
Soup "shots" are the perfect way to deliver a mouthful of flavor in a small package. Fill shot glasses with your favorite soup–anything from a light lemongrass broth to a hearty curried lentil will do the trick.
You can't go wrong with an old favorite: salad. Instead of relying on a few shreds of iceberg and a single cherry tomato, however, this is your chance to show your guests what a salad can really be. Incorporate grains like couscous and wild rice. Add sliced grapes or strawberries with a sweet balsamic dressing. Toasted almonds or cashews add a delicious crunch. Blanched vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, and carrots give your salad the full body of cooked vegetables, but retain the color and flavor of the raw foods. Serve the salad "naked" and provide a wide variety of dressings so everyone can personalize their plate.
The Main Course
Vegan menus depend on hearty items like garlic mashed potatoes, roasted red pepper and squash ravioli, lemon-grilled eggplant, and grain-stuffed bell peppers to leave dinner guests feeling satisfied. Explore options like summer vegetable ragout, black bean and guacamole fajitas, coconut curry, pistachio- and macadamia-crusted tofu, and exotic mushroom skewers.
Sautéed greens make great side dishes. Look for purple kale, rainbow chard, and collard greens as a colorful mix. Another favorite side is root vegetables roasted with fresh garden herbs like rosemary and thyme. If you're serving a grain as a side, spice it up by mixing in currants, slivered almonds, or goji berries.
Don't Forget the Rest
If you're putting forth all the effort to create a vegan menu, make sure the rest of your celebration is also in line with your values. You can wear formal clothing made of sustainable materials like hemp and bamboo (which are actually quite soft and attractive), and skip the leather shoes and belts. Choose conflict-free wedding rings and don't forget the vegan wedding cake. You may also want to have your ceremony or reception outdoors in a beautiful natural setting to remind your guests why you value nature, animals, and the planet.
Make Your Choices Count
If you're disappointed that you can't hire your favorite caterer because they're not vegan-friendly, don’t just give up and go elsewhere. Speak with the owners of the businesses and write letters letting them know why you can't patronize them. If enough would-be customers go elsewhere as a stance against animal cruelty, the shops might decide it's time to get themselves in better shape. Never forget that, as brides and grooms, you represent a very lucrative international industry. The shopping decisions you make now can help create the world you want to see.