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Here comes the bride ... and her dietary restrictions

Here comes the bride ... and her dietary restrictions
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POSTED: Sunday, May 13, 2012 - 11:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, May 13, 2012 - 11:04pm

When it came time for Sivan Pardo, 31, to plan her wedding to her 28-year-old fiancé Scott Renwick, she knew she wanted a "big fat vegan wedding."

"As Scott and I are both vegans for ethical reasons, it was very clear to us that we wanted our wedding, and everything around it, to reflect our ethics and values," said Pardo, the founder and director of "The Vegan Woman" website.

Pardo has been vegan for one year and a vegetarian since she was 12. There will be no animal-derived products served at her reception on June 1.

She is hardly the first bride to use her wedding menu to express her beliefs. In 2010, former first daughter Chelsea Clinton famously served a vegan menu and gluten-free cake during her nuptials to Marc Mezvinsky to reflect her own dietary choices.

Clinton did, however, also offer the option of organic grass-fed beef to omnivorous attendees. She is among the brides and grooms meeting their guests halfway down the aisle on menu choices in the interest of making their big day more harmonious.

It's a fine waltz between "it's my wedding and I'll serve seitan if I want to," and appeasing the average guest's palate.

The compromise is one that Jennifer Fugo was willing to stomach. She was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity in 2008, and two years later, opted against a gluten-free wedding.

"At first I wanted the entire wedding to be gluten-free, however I came to realize that the cost was just too much to bear," said Philadelphia-based Fugo. She runs the "Gluten Free School," an online educational resource for the gluten-free lifestyle.

While her guests noshed on traditional wedding fare, Fugo enjoyed a personalized gluten-free meal. And when it came time to cut the cake, there was a gluten-free, vegan cupcake waiting for her.

For those with gluten intolerance like Fugo, the flour in a regular wedding cake would have wreaked havoc on her digestive system. Sick and bloated is no way to spend your wedding day.

"Most caterers should be able to accommodate health-related dietary restrictions individually and create a special meal for the bride or groom without serving it to all of the guests," said Chicago-based wedding planner Camille McLamb. "But ultimately, whether the restrictions are health-related or due to religious or ethical reasons, it's the bride and groom's day, and they should choose a menu that they are most comfortable with."

For Pado and her fiancé, the menu with which they felt most at home was entirely vegan.

"We could not imagine having our wedding tainted with the suffering of animals for the sake of keeping some of our guests pleased," she said. "Especially as we know how wonderful, rich and exciting the world of vegan cuisine is, and that all people really need to do is just give it an honest try."

Among the items the couple will be serving: eggplant rolls with sun-dried tomatoes and vegan cream cheese, mushroom risotto, coconut milk-based penne pasta with peanuts and chives and honey-melon soup with mango sorbet.

Pado says she and Scott are constantly invited to non-vegan events, and though the non-vegan food and drink "saddens" them, they attend as a sign of appreciation for the invitation - and hope for the same mutual respect on their big day.

"We hope that by inviting our family and friends to an event that is cruelty-free, they will respect us and our chosen lifestyle on our very special day," she said.

McLamb says the menu can communicate something about the couple to the guests.

"I've had couples that served curry to reflect their Indian heritage and hushpuppies to showcase their Southern roots," she said. "Dietary restrictions based on religion, ethics, or beliefs are no different; they highlight something that's important to the couple and personalize the wedding."

When Siobhan Kent married her husband Aaron, they wanted to personalize their wedding with one of their favorite foods - Southern barbecue.

The mother of the bride, however, advised the couple that since their officiating rabbi kept kosher, the reception should reflect the same, even if Siobhan's half-Catholic, half-Jewish family only kept kosher on major Jewish holidays.

"I wasn't a bridezilla by any stretch, but I wasn't too mature about being denied bacon on what was supposed to be the best day of my life," said Kent.

In the end, her mother's opinion meant more than her persuasion toward pork, especially since her parents paid for the wedding.

No harm done. The Kents ended up getting more than their fill of barbecue on their big day, it just happened to be in the form of chicken.

"The kicker on the whole day was that the rabbi ended up not being able to attend, so this delicious kosher buffet was served to an audience where absolutely no one kept kosher," she said.

Ultimately, the people invited to a wedding should know the bride and groom well enough to understand their choices. McLamb says a wedding should be treated like a dinner party; if you go to a vegetarian's house for dinner, would you expect a T-bone? If guests know the hosts abide by certain dietary rules, they shouldn't expect to be served outside those.

And if your second cousin twice-removed does end up complaining because there isn't any schnitzel, McLamb suggests the bride and groom can simply reply, "'I'm sorry you feel that way, but this is important to us.' In the end, most people understand that the bride and groom's preferences reign supreme on wedding day."

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