Wedding-Day Jitters: Not Just for the Bride
What's a vegan to eat at a typical Jersey wedding hall?
Jitters. Everyone gets them on their wedding day. No matter how much you love your fiance or how ready you are to walk down the aisle, there's that slight nervousness on your wedding day. It's totally understandable—if you're the bride or groom.
The groom's cousin? She's supposed to just show up and have a ball. Yet Friday morning, I woke up slightly dreading the wedding I was going to that night.
My cousin Matt was set to wed Melissa at the Meadow Wood Manor in Randolph at 6:30 Friday night. I'd never been to the Meadow Wood, but based on my experiences at other venues in the area, I didn't expect the cocktail-hour buffet to offer much in the way of vegan fare. Second that for the actual dinner—the vegetarian option is generally something covered in cheese or butter. Even if it's pasta, there's no way of knowing if there's egg in the pasta noodles.
I usually handle the situation by grabbing a healthy dinner on the drive between the ceremony and the cocktail hour, but this time everything was taking place at the same spot—there'd be no drive between places.
In the rush to get ready—I had a 2 p.m. hair appointment in Hoboken, needed a mani/pedi and still had to check into the hotel before the 6:30 ceremony, there was no time to make a big meal.
I don't even know if I ate a real lunch, as my house was a bit crazy with all of my cousins in town for the big day. I downed some brown rice and steamed squash as I ran out the door, but it didn't really qualify as a meal.
My other fear was answering a bajillion questions about what I could eat. My immediate family doesn't pester me anymore, but Friday I'd be seeing all of my second- and third-cousins, who still can't get used to the idea that there are things to eat other than chicken and steak, or that food can taste good even when not smothered in butter. I hate defending my diet, but in a family of carnivores, I really have no choice.
The ceremony went off without a hitch, and I only had to answer about 75 questions about what I'd be able to eat before we headed into the cocktail hour. Once inside, the questions multiplied ten-fold.
"That crab dip is one of the best I've ever tasted. Too bad you can't have it."
"The oysters. Oh, you poor thing. Just forget being vegan for tonight. You have to try the oysters!"
"Did you try the pasta bar? The alfredo is divine!"
Just as I was starting to lose my mind, my sisters swooped in to save me. My younger sister had scoped out the two cocktail rooms before I even started looking.
"No one's touched the seaweed salad. There's an entire bowl just waiting for you," she reported back.
At that, I made a bee-line for the seafood buffet. She was right: a giant bowl of wakame salad just sat there, shining, waiting for me to dig in. It was delicious.
As I headed back to my family's table, everyone sort of stared. No one knew what it was. Then something strange happened: my mom's cousins from Carlstad asked for a bite. Then my Aunt Chris wanted to try some. Next thing you know, I'm passing the plate around the table. It got mixed reviews, but I was happy they'd even tried it. I kept hammering home that it's not just some crazy vegan food. In fact, the first time I tried seaweed salad was at a Thai restaurant in Millburn, long before I went vegan.
My only other option among the six buffet tables was the bruschetta bar. There was a traditional bruschetta and a yellow-pepper bruschetta served over lightly-toasted bread. There was no butter on the toast.
I thought I'd be able to indulge in the mashed-potato bar, but both the regular and sweet potatoes were prepared with butter. I'm so glad I double checked with the server before digging in. That's one thing I've learned—the service is always happy to ask the chef about dietary concerns. And they tend to be very apologetic when they have to say there's butter in everything. Maybe the more we ask, the more options we'll start to get.
Once in the reception hall, I asked that my salad be served without dressing and requested the vegetarian entree. I double checked with our waitress that the vegetarian dish was vegan, and she again went back to ask.
"It's a pasta primavera, served vegan," she insisted. When the plate came out with a side of Parmesan cheese, I grew suspicious, wondering if the chef knows the difference between vegan and vegetarian. As I took my first bite, I couldn't quite figure out if the pasta was tossed in butter. It was tossed in something, that's for sure. It's been so long since I've had butter that I don't even think I recognize the flavor anymore.
I ate a few bites, but was really already quite full on the mini meal I ate in the car, the wakame salad, bruschetta and my fair share of Sam Adams. I just headed back to the dance floor and enjoyed the fact that I wasn't complaining about being full, like everyone else in my family.
I lucked out at the Meadow Wood, thanks mostly to the seafood buffet. If it wasn't for the wakame salad and bruschetta, I would've been starving by the end of the night. When I head to the next family wedding—my cousin Jack will marry his fiance, Annie, in Bernardsville in October—I'll be more prepared.
If you don't want to deal with wedding day jitters until your own wedding day, or have already dealt with your fair share, just make sure you go prepared.
Bring a bag of raw almonds or other nuts to snack on just in case there's nothing for you. Call the hall ahead of time to ask if there will be any options. Be a little more prepared than I was by eating a real meal before leaving your house. Just don't let something as small as dinner—and a nagging family—ruin what should be an incredibly fun night.