Accommodating vegetarian guests at a buffet BBQ wedding?

posted 5 months ago in Etiquette
Post # 16
2407 posts
Buzzing bee

I was at an event last year with BBQ catering and the vegan option was a marinated and grilled portobello mushroom.  It was so delicious that the carnivores pigged out on it, too! 

I would specifically ask the caterer if the Mac n cheese, the baked beans, and the green beans are vegetarian.  Those are the ones of the sides you mentioned that are most likely to be unsuitable for vegetarians.  The potato dish, if it’s potato salad, will probably not be vegan and might not be vegetarian.

You mentioned Mission BBQ.  If it’s this place, the baked beans are made with brisket and the green beans are made with bacon.  Looks like many of their BBQ sauce/some of the meats, baked beans, and coleslaw contain fish or shellfish, too.

Post # 17
3093 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: January 2021

If you’re super set on this specific BBQ place you might want to consider doing a quick poll of your guests now so you can get an idea of whether this is even something you need to worry about or not. 

If it turns out you’ve only gone one vegetarian and they like cheese and have no issue with stuff cooked with animal fat then you probably don’t need to make any accommodations and it’s one less thing to worry about. 

But if it turns out you’ve got a handful of vegetarians with varying degrees of what they eat, one or two vegans, a celiac and someone with a dairy allergy, well, you’re gonna need to either rethink the caterer, since it sounds like they work animal into literally every dish one way or another, or put a lot more effort into figuring out appropriate accomodations. 

But I always figure there is no sense stressing out about a problem you’re not even sure you have. 

Post # 18
363 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: January 2020 - Round Rock, TX

DoeEyes :  can they offer a pasta or anything? the caterer we are using is a “bbq” restaurant, and our buffet will have 2 meats (red wine braised short rib and herbed turkey breast), 2 vegetable sides, and 1 starch (smoked potato au gratin!!).  However, for our vegetarian guests, we are just specifying the amount to the caterer and they are going to hold a set amount behind the buffet for the vegetarians to request (plus a serving for me because it is SO GOOD).  Our vegetarian dish is a brussels sprouts cavatappi gouda pasta. So good.  I mean, our veggie friends woud have food with the starch and the veggie sides, but I want them to have an actual entree.  So it works out. But they aren’t making us pay for an entire extra thing of it, just however many servings we need.  Are you sure they can’t hold some behind the buffet and have a sign or something out for those who need it?

Post # 19
268 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: May 2019

I agree with adding a line to the RSVP card for allergies or restrictions. We’re serving a three course family style meal which is not vegan at all and meat is the last course. So this has allowed us to pre-arrange either a separate vegan meal for those who require it or bringing pescatarians salmon for the last course. 

Post # 21
9028 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

misslucy :  “It was so delicious that the carnivores pigged out on it, too! “

And this here is the exact problem with saying vegetarian/vegans can just make a meal out of the sides at a buffet. If you are not first in line then often the limited numbers of items you can actually eat on the buffet line are gone/nearly gone and noone wants to be that guest at the buffet hogging a dish whilst others go without (a meat eater equivalent would be that person at buffet that takes all the crab legs). And you certainly don’t want to have to stand there and explain why you have to take all the mac n cheese.

The other thing with buffets when you are vegetarian/vegan/have allergies is thst people are really bad at food hygiene. For example at buffets people always switch utensils. Now you might think no big deal but meat contamination (or allergen contamination) can have serious consequences and make the person very ill.

And my last rant as a vegan who was formerly vegetarian who has a hospitalisation level reaction to fish and seafood stop calling pescetarians vegetarians. The last time I was hospitalised was because someone used fish stock in a vegetarian dish (even after we asked the question to wait staff) because “ every vegetarian I know eats fish”. 

OP my suggestion would be to separate the vegetarian/allergen free items on the line or provide an indivual plated dinner for the people that respond with food restrictions. As mentioned there are quite a few bbq items that are vegetarian. Vegies burgers or patties, grilled vegetable skewers, marinated grilled tofu or even koftas made out of chickpeas or lentils.

Post # 22
661 posts
Busy bee

Ours wasn’t a BBQ buffet, but we did have a buffet. For vegetarians, they had a plated vegetarian meal. So we only had to pay for 6 vegetarian meals. Ask your caterer, I’m sure they’ve dealt with similar situations before. 

Post # 23
3118 posts
Sugar bee

I looked at Mission BBQ’s menu. The contamination issue is real. There is barely an item on their menu that does not include at least animal fat. I would have a separate vendor provide plated vegetarian meals.

Post # 24
2064 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: March 2017

I think there are enough vegetarians out there that it is good to have some options for them. I have some vegans in my family and they are used to eating before events or bringing their own food with them. They are pretty used to realizing that there are a lot of people who aren’t prepared to accommodate them and it doesn’t bother them. That’s just my family. Obviously, I can’t answer for everyone. 

Post # 25
315 posts
Helper bee

[comment moderated for TOS violation]

Post # 26
1831 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2016

I don’t know any vegetarians who are okay eating green beans or baked beans with pork in them, and I highly doubt a BBQ place will be willing to make their standard sides differently. Regardless, I think it’s very important to have them labeled on the buffet line (whether or not they are made with pork). Vegetarians and vegans are not the only people who avoid pork. 

With 250 guests, I would be shocked if you don’t have an actual vegetarian or vegan in the bunch, so I would prepare for it (as well as asking on the RSVPs). I think the best course of action is to ask the caterer what they can make. They cook – they should have the knowledge to but together a pasta dish or a veggie stack or whatever. A caterer in 2019, no matter how “traditional” they are, can’t expect to get wedding business if they won’t provide options for a very fast-growing market. 

Post # 27
2697 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

Are American baked beans different to British ones? 1) despite being food of the gods, baked beans would never feature on a wedding menu and 2) they are vegan here, just beans in tomato sauce. 


But yes, it’s standard to ask for dietary needs on the RSVP and any caterer worth it’s salt can make a special plate for those needs. With 250 guests you are going to get a proper vegetarian. 


You also need need to clearly label things. I’d never think baked beans or green beans were veggie

Post # 28
1309 posts
Bumble bee

Twizbe :  Yes, American baked beans sound different than British ones, at least the ones I’ve eaten.   The sauce usually has ketchup, brown sugar, worstcheshire sauce and molases.  It’s usually pretty thick (and brown in color from the brown sugar and molases), plus it also usually has bacon in it.

DoeEyes :  Since you’re having that many guests and need to pick a vendor before hand, I think it may be best to go with someone other than Mission BBQ unless you talk to them first and find out how they handle vegetarians.  You may be worried about nothing if they deal with this a lot – and being 2019, I think this is an issue that comes up all the time.

I also agree with JJaye in that sometimes meat eaters will want the vegetarian entree.  I am not a vegetarian myself but sometimes I will order vegetarian because I am a rather picky meat eater.  I only like certain types of chicken, for example, because I can’t stand the texture of dry chicken.

We had our reception at a restaurant and we served family style, which isn’t an option you hear about much on these boards but that’s how the restaurant did it.  One of our entrees was a wonderful mushroom ravioli that this restaurant is known for and our guests ate more of that than anything else.  So if you do decide to go with a vegetarian entree instead of just separate plated meals, make sure there is enough in case meat eaters want it too.

I just googled “vegetarian entrees for weddings” and some suggestions were stuffed poblano peppers with quinoa, setien patties (which would also work for vegans), vegetable/tofu kabobs and grilled portabella mushrooms.

Post # 29
9028 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

Twizbe :  Actually not all baked beans in the UK are vegan. The no added sugar heinz variety certainly are not. It is just one of those things you have to check and never just assume. Like diet pepsi isn’t considered vegan but pepsi max is. You would assume they would have almost identical ingedients. 

American baked beans usually have speck or another variant of pork in them and often lard is used in the frying process of the onions. They taste slightly different to british style baked beans.

Post # 30
393 posts
Helper bee

Salmon is not vegetarian. You should pick a caterer who is capable of providing vegetarian and vegan meals, just in case you need them. With a guest list of 250 people, odds are you’re going to have a few vegetarians who can’t eat meat or fish. And you need to have an actual meal to offer them, not just a bunch of side dishes.

Instead of 3 meats to choose from, why don’t you offer 2 meats and a vegetarian option? (And no, fish is not a vegetarian option.)

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