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I am a vegan who just got engaged to
a vegan. We are planning our wedding now and my first
inclination was to have a vegan wedding. My future mother-in-law
said that for a lot of people, a vegan meal might not
be enjoyable and do I really want to impose my beliefs
on other people who may not share those beliefs. My
response was that I am not trying to force my beliefs
on other people, but that I am vegan because I don't
want to contribute to the killing of animals now that
I know that I can live healthfully without doing so.
If I give an option on the invitation for fish or vegetarian,
I feel that I am authorizing the killing of fish. I
also realize that this wedding is for the families as
well my fiancee and myself and that they and many others
would be happier with an alternative to the vegetarian
Congratulations on your engagement!
It is wise that you and your fiancee have immediately
begun to think about the food issue because not only
do food choices generally require a lot of advance planning,
for vegans it can be the most contentious aspect of
the wedding. It was also considerate and smart to discuss
the matter openly with your partner's family, as difficult
as that must have been.
Weddings are usually viewed as much
more than the union of two people or even two families.
For many parents and couples weddings are a major social
event and an opportunity to publicly "pull out all the
stops" to celebrate with their friends and relatives.
Nevertheless, it is not necessary for you and your fiancee
to compromise your values at your wedding; however,
everyone may need to concede in some other ways.
The first step to resolving the matter
is to remain as open and honest as you have been. Keep
the channels of communication clear so that a continued
dialogue can be maintained. Try to keep your emotions
at bay whenever discussing the issue, even when the
conversation is just between you and your partner, in
order not to fan the flames of anger. Know that a solution
is within reach and that the situation is not hopeless.
One of the reasons nonvegan parents
often balk at the idea of a vegan wedding is the fear
of embarrassment or humiliation. They may believe that
vegan food is bland, unappetizing, or unsatisfying.
They may be concerned about looking like tightwads in
front of friends and family, since animal-based foods
are still cultural symbols of affluence. They may feel
they'll have to apologize to their guests for not serving
meat. They may also be troubled that people will talk
behind their backs after the wedding.
It is crucial that you explore some
of these issues, tactfully but forthrightly, with your
future mother-in-law, so that you can better understand
her position. Agree to not interrupt her, and then let
her talk until all of her concerns have been fully aired.
Ask her if there is anything else and, if so, let her
continue. After you have allowed her to thoroughly express
her point of view, ask for the opportunity to present
your explanations for wanting your wedding to be vegan,
also without interruption. The purpose of doing this
is not to embrace each other's perspective. However,
taking a nonjudgmental approach and engaging in a frank,
unemotional discussion, will allow each of you to appreciate
where the other is coming from. This way it will be
easier to devise a reasonable solution everyone can
As you know, to vegans and vegetarians,
fish is no more acceptable than chicken or beef. For
some odd reason, though, the media has proliferated
the misconception that fish is a vegetarian food, and
unfortunately it has become a prevalent but false public
belief. Your fiancee's mother may not understand this
and she may think that you are just being stubborn.
It may be necessary for you to illuminate briefly, calmly,
and rationally, precisely what veganism entails.
For the vast majority of people in industrialized
countries, eating meat is a personal choice, not an
ethical one, and certainly not a physical necessity.
Therefore, abstaining from eating animal products for
a few hours will not present a moral conflict or cause
physical suffering for any of your guests. On the other
hand, there is no ethical controversy posed by vegan
foods. In other words, while you and some of your guests
may be morally outraged at the inclusion of animal products
at your reception, no one would be offended by vegan
fare and everyone can partake.
It is true that this is your wedding,
and you should, at least in theory, be able to have
it your way. And you probably could, at the expense
of your future mother-in-law's happiness, which, in
the long run, will cause you and your fiancee even more
grief. If she is paying for the wedding and reception,
your fiancee's mother may feel that she has the right
to make the final decision about what food is served.
In this case, you and your fiancee could offer to pay
for the reception or at least for the food at the reception.
Instead of having a large wedding (if you were planning
a large wedding), you could scale things down and invite
only your closest friends and relatives, who would more
readily be aware of your vegan lifestyle and know to
expect a vegan reception. Afterwards, if either family
wanted to, they could plan a party on another day for
their friends who were not invited to the wedding, and
you could do the same. Another idea is to have a vegan
hors d'oeuvres reception with no meal following. Many
popular and elegant hors d'oeuvres are naturally vegan
(such as stuffed mushrooms), and there are many other
imaginative possibilities. No apologies for the food
would be necessary since it would not appear that anything
would be lacking.
If your future mother-in-law is mostly
concerned that vegan food won't look appealing or taste
good, and those are the only issues holding her back
from consenting to a vegan meal, you could consult with
local caterers (bring recipes, if necessary), to see
what they might be able to whip up. Many creative chefs
relish the chance to do something out of the ordinary,
and some areas even have caterers who specialize solely
in vegan cuisine. They may be able to provide a tasting
of a few alternatives, which would let everyone evaluate
their presentation skills as well as taste the food.
Providing menu suggestions and food samplings may allay
any fears about vegan food not being delicious or satisfying.
This in itself could be enough to transform a skeptic's
point of view.
These, of course, are not your only
options. Together, you, your fiancee, and her mother
may be able to brainstorm even more possibilities that
would allow everyone to feel comfortable. When you work
together, taking into account the interests and feelings
of the others involved, you will be doing more than
just resolving your current dilemma. You will be establishing
a caring approach and compassionate standard for future
communications that will make your relationship more
respectful, loving, and genuine -- bringing to life
the true spirit of veganism.
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