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Feeding the Multitude: 5 Tips for Brides Dealing with Guests' Special Diets

Planning a wedding menu means trying to please and accommodate a lot of people's palates while not breaking your own budget. This can be even harder when you take into consideration the dietary restrictions and different personalities of some of your guests. How can you successfully plan a dinner for everyone? Here are five simple wedding-catering tips for any bride.

Consider Your Close Friends. You likely already know about most dietary restrictions among friends and family. This will help you plan ways to accommodate the most important people in your life. Talk with your caterer early on about very specific restrictions (such as a nut allergy in the bridal party) or large-scale dietary trends (like kosher families) among these loved ones. On the other hand, you can't foresee every dietary need, so don't try to. This will only cause stress and added costs. Those with true restrictions are generally aware that they cannot expect catering miracles at a large group gathering. 

Choose a Vegetarian Bundle. One way to stave off many dietary-restriction problems is to offer a simple vegetarian or vegan option (which can often be made nut free, gluten free, or kosher). However, offering too many meal options to all your guests will cause the caterer's price to go up substantially. You can save money by instead arranging to purchase a bundle of 10–20 vegetarian meals instead of offering a second or third plate to all guests. This bundle can often be arranged with the caterer for a flat fee. 

Don't Be Too Specific on the Invitations. Some brides have decided to be fully transparent with their wedding menus by placing them with the wedding invitations or on a wedding website. The problem with this plan is that it invites trouble from picky eaters, many of whom will plan their substitutions and special requests at the very last minute without taking you into regard. Instead, you could simply note that a vegetarian (or vegan) meal will be available and include a line for guests to note their needs on the RSVP card. 

Try a Buffet Instead. If you think that your guests will have many different dietary needs or if you have several picky eaters on your invitation list, it may be a good idea to simply opt for a buffet-style meal instead of a plated dinner. Be sure to offer a variety of options to suit common dietary restrictions, separate allergens from foods they could "contaminate" by accident, and label the foods clearly. Your caterer likely has experience in accommodating guests and can help decide on the menu and labeling. 

Don't Overreach to Accommodate. Finally, once your big day arrives, don't spend the entire reception trying to cater to your guests' palates. Let your caterer or planner handle special food requests—they're professionals who are used to this, after all. Picky eaters should not be allowed to ruin your day, so simply do what you can and try not to dwell on what you can't do.

By knowing how to handle your guests' dietary needs during the planning and execution of your wedding reception, you can help ensure the smoothest, most enjoyable and least stressful day for yourself and your guests.