8. Being Vegan and Getting Married
And we’re back! For one post, at least. I’m now writing for Vegansaurus and working, so things be crazy here, but I’m sick today, and I’ve been feeling guilt about people linking to and looking at this blog without me writing in it. So, without further ado, let’s talk vegans and weddings!
Full disclosure: I’m not big on weddings. That said:
A discussion of vegan weddings really means a couple of different things: 1) Being vegan and getting married and having a vegan wedding, and 2) Being vegan and being invited to a wedding. I’ll start with the first, and we’ll see if I’ve had enough coffee to make it to the second.
First things first, if you’re a vegan getting married, you have to decide if you’re going to have a vegan wedding. This should be kind of a gimme, but if your future spouse isn’t vegan and feels strongly about having non-vegan food or drinks or other things, then you have some decisions to make.
My take on the whole thing is that if you’re vegan and committed to being vegan, you should have a vegan wedding. I hear a lot of vegans talk about how much pressure they feel to “accommodate” the non-vegans at the wedding by serving non-vegan food. Families can be tough, and the merging of two families together can be even tougher, but I’m a firm believer that the wedding is a great time to establish the way you want to relate to your new extended family and social circle as a married couple, so it’s time to do some (gentle and loving) whip cracking. After all, to my knowledge, no one has ever died from attending a vegan wedding, and it’s your day, so do what makes you happy! Hell, if I can run away to another country and get married to someone I only knew for a couple days and not tell anyone in my family until later and they can still love me (and him)*, then not having chicken on the menu needn’t be that big a deal.
So, now that you’ve decided to have a vegan wedding, now you just have to deal with informing your family and friends, finding good vegan food and a vegan cake, and, well, doing all those other things that normal people who aren’t me do when they get married. I can’t advise you on the other stuff, but I can give some tips on how to deal with telling and managing family and friends.
1. Hold fast. Once you’ve made your decision, stick to your guns. Your family or friends may try to tell you that you’re being selfish, or that your Aunt Gertrude needs to eat meat at every meal because she suffers from chronic meat deficiency syndrome, or that it’s unfair that you push your puritanical, no-fun morals onto everyone, and when they say those things, you need to take a breath, and calmly tell them that you’re not being selfish; you’re just planning the wedding you want to have, that Aunt Gertrude certainly will not die if she does not eat meat at every single meal and neither will anyone else, and that you’re not pushing your morals on anyone; you’re just, again, trying to have a wedding that will make you happy, and isn’t that what matters, mom/dad/brother/aunt/cousin/friend? That is to say, it’s your wedding. You’re allowed to choose to have it vegan if you want.
2. Don’t freak out if people give you shit about it. Chances are, there will be at least one person who you invite to your vegan wedding who will be kind of an asshole and give you some shit about the fact that you, as a vegan, are – god forbid – having a vegan wedding. If/when this happens, try to maintain some perspective. Remember, this is your wedding, not the asshole’s, and in the end, even if the asshole hates being there and thoroughly resents you having a wedding that fits with your ideals rather than theirs, it’s still only a matter of a couple hours out of their life, and those couple of hours are certainly more significant and important to you than they are to the asshole. If/when someone confronts you about your decision to have a vegan wedding, don’t get upset. Smile graciously, tell them that you hear what they’re saying, but that you’ve made up your mind to do things in a way that makes you happy. Let them know that if it really pains them to attend a vegan wedding, you won’t be offended if they choose not to come. After all, if someone is really going to be that much of a jerk about your wedding, you don’t want them there anyway!
3. Talk with your financiers. Weddings are fucking CRAZY expensive, which means that many couples have some financial help with their wedding, often from parents or family members. This is where the vegan issue can get a bit tricky. It’s one thing if you’re funding your own wedding and doing things the way you want, but it’s another if your meat-loving dad tells you he’s not going to pay for the guests to eat hippie vegan food! If this is your situation, the first thing you should do is talk to your backer about what their goal is for the wedding and why they are giving you the money. You don’t have to be confrontational or rude; just say “dad/mom/grandma/whatever, I’m curious about why you’re giving me the money for my wedding.” Hopefully, the answer will be something like, “I want you to have a beautiful wedding that you’ll remember the rest of your life,” or “I just want to make you happy.” If you get any variation on either of those, you’re golden, since if your happiness is really what they want, it shouldn’t be hard to explain why veganism is important to you and why it would make you unhappy to have a non-vegan wedding. Just make sure to emphasize that you’re not trying to proselytize; you’re just trying to do what will make you (and your partner) happy.
If the answer is more along the lines of “our family/culture/community expects a big fancy traditional wedding” or “It’s important that you have a certain type of wedding,” then you might be in for a harder sell. A lot of people feel like once you go vegan, all tradition goes out the window, and everything necessarily becomes weird and hippie-ish. If your backer is objecting to a vegan wedding, it could be that they’re simply picturing 150 guests picking at a wheat berry and spirulina salad and that that image is freaking them out. If this is the case, the best thing you can do is show them that “vegan” doesn’t mean “hippie” or “healthy” or “non-traditional.” Ask them to come along with you as you sample meals from the caterer, or sit down with some vegan cookbooks and talk about what kinds of recipes look appealing and might work for the wedding. Also, as much as I have SERIOUS reservations about any publication that runs a “wedding issue,” VegNews magazine does have a yearly vegan wedding feature. Your financier might feel better about paying for your vegan wedding if you can show them that it can still definitely be a fancy, traditional, fun affair, rather than a joyless slog officiated by Ingrid Newkirk.
4. Don’t take shit. Once you’ve figured out the details and sent out the invitations, if you’re like many people I know, you may start getting phone calls, emails, letters, and RSVPs from people who are gravely concerned about the veganness of your wedding. They may want to know if they can bring beef jerky, or if there’s any way the caterer could add beef to their food. They may just tell you that it’s unfair for you to push your agenda on them. Whatever they say, come back with a smile and a pleasant but firm reiteration of the fact that your wedding is going to be vegan. If people are that concerned that they will die from one meal without meat and animal products, they can 1) eat beforehand, and/or 2) not come. Let people know that your wedding day is important to you and that you want to remember it fondly as a joyous day, and that part of that is keeping it vegan. Assure your guests that the food will be delicious and not made up of 90% wheat germ and 10% raw tofu (oh, and make sure the food isn’t made up of 90% wheat germ and 10% raw tofu), and tell them that you hope they can come and celebrate this important occasion with you. If you keep the focus on how happy your vegan wedding will make you, then hopefully the detractors will soon begin to feel like selfish jerks and leave off.
Whew! Glad to be back!
*Absolutely true story. We’re coming up on our third anniversary!