Picky eating doesn’t stop after childhood. For many, foods that were disliked or never tried remain a point of contention at the dinner table. While your wedding’s catering company and venue coordinators are pros, there are limitations to their miracle-yielding powers. Many wedding venues are not professional banquet halls, hotels or restaurants ready to meet last-minute requests of picky eaters. Here are my tips for dealing with picky eaters ahead of time: Make sure that you get the menu you’ve dreamed about, and that your caterer is set up for success.
Handling Picky Eaters
A picky eater is not a person with a dietary restriction. A picky eater is someone who by choice opts to avoid specific foods, and restricts their diet only to foods that he/she are familiar with.
Best way to handle picky eaters? Ignore them. It may sound harsh, but picky eaters should be prepared to enjoy the food provided by the host, or at least fill up on the dinner rolls.
Handling Dietary Restrictions
There are individuals who, for health or religious reasons, are unable to consume certain foods, including: non-kosher, gluten, dairy, egg, soy, wheat, etc. At a larger wedding, it can be hard to make sure you’ve accommodated these in the meal — more so when guests are permitted to bring dates.
Best way to handle people with dietary restrictions? Offer a vegetarian or vegan option that meets all requirements. Caterers are used these types of requests. It is normal to have one meal option that is both delicious and able to meet dietary restrictions and will save you money on last-minute customized dishes. At our own wedding, we’re offering a braised Portobello mushroom cap on a bed of herbed quinoa with salsa verde that is kosher, gluten-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, soya-free and vegan!
How to Save Money on Your Menu
Most caterers have a flat fee per head depending on how many main course options you have. In our case, the price for two options is $32/head, and a third option would bring it up to $42/head. A difference of $10 per person brings our catering bill up an additional $1,200 — money that could be spent elsewhere. Instead, most catering companies will give you the option to purchase 15 vegetarian meals for a set cost (for example, a flat rate of $150 for 15 vegetarian meals). For a wedding of up to 200 people, this will usually cover any dietary restrictions your guests may have, saving you upwards of $1,000!
How to Advertise Menu Options (Don’t Do It!)
Save yourself a lot of trouble: do not advertise your full menu on your RSVP reply cards. You are essentially inviting guests to plan what elements of the dish they’ll be asking to have removed or traded — and many of them will wait for the night of your wedding to make this request. Use simple terminology like “beef” and “chicken.” (A foodie couple could use slightly more specific descriptors, like “short rib” or “Cornish hen.”) If you have opted for the flat-rate vegetarian meal bundle discussed above, do mention it on the card. Individuals with real dietary needs should — and will — connect with you before the wedding, to ensure a seamless and stress-free meal service, for all of you.
As a professional recipe developer and owner of an online cooking website, I handle picky eaters and individuals with dietary restrictions all the time. Don’t get stressed if a few people ask you about menu details and whether you can accommodate dietary needs. Your catering team is comprised of pros; they handle these types of requests every day. Keep open communication with them and get everything in writing (or via e-mail), to ensure clear and effective communication.
Amanda Garbutt is a bride-to-be living in Toronto. Amanda is an entrepreneur who runs The Hot Plate, an online cooking resource and recipe development company. Her upbeat attitude and attention to detail keep her busy whether she’s in the kitchen or planning her urban Toronto wedding. Follow her @TheHotPlate.