If there is one thing that wedding planning has taught me so far, it is that there is no way to please everybody.
My fiancé and are both vegetarian, and have been for over a decade. We are so accustomed to our way of eating that we rarely think about it. We both assumed – without ever speaking about it – that we wouldn’t serve meat to our guests. We are basically the opposite of that one character from My Big Fat Greek Wedding who looks at the groom and says: “What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? Oh, that’s OK. I make lamb!”
Some of our family members were shocked when we told them of our plans to have a vegetarian wedding. They pointed out that some guests might feel disappointed in the food. Not everybody enjoys eating as we eat. Even more, they worried that guests would feel uncomfortable with us pushing our moral values on them. We choose not to eat meat, but can’t we respect that not everybody will make the same choice?
We quickly realized that we were unwilling to budge on this issue. We spent many sleepless nights questioning why.
And it comes down to mainly one issue: signaling our values. We are approaching our wedding with the belief that it should reflect the values we keep in our home. We share the belief that eating meat is wrong, and we would feel uncomfortable serving meat to so many guests.
But choosing to have a vegetarian wedding – as our family pointed out – is a pretty tricky thing. Signaling a moral value so explicitly, and in such a public venue, can come across as preachy. It can be seen as us conveying moral superiority, which we certainly didn’t want to do. And it turns out that this isn’t something that only our families were worried about. A 2010 New York Times article reported on couples grappling with the same issue. The author wrote, “No matter how tasty or sophisticated the menu, some guests will probably construe the exclusion of meat as a political act – or a personal affront.” A moral value does, after all, require some degree of moral objectivism. Our choice to abstain from meat entails the belief that vegetarianism is a better choice. Prior to thinking through this issue, I didn’t truly appreciate the extent to which we walk a fine line between promoting our moral values and simultaneously not alienating those around us.
So I thought about this a lot. And I dabbled in some readings about moral objectivism. But I mostly engaged in a lot of thought experimentation, much of which involved religion. My fiancé and I both feel very connected to our Jewish heritage, and many aspects of our wedding will reflect this. A rabbi will officiate the ceremony, we will both sign a ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract), and we will stand under a chuppah. How would people react if we served a kosher meal? Would our families worry about this being a personal affront to our non-kosher guests?
I have a strong feeling that nobody would bat an eye. Nobody would think twice about the lack of bacon wrapped shrimp. It is generally assumed that weddings will incorporate some religious traditions. Running through this scenario in my mind gave me the sense that signaling religious values at a wedding is entirely acceptable, but that signaling moral values – specifically ones that are not rooted in religion – is much more taboo, and much more likely to elicit opinions from others.
I wish I could report that our thought experimentation lead us to a brilliant solution that pleased our families but allowed us to stay true to our values. We chose to go ahead with the vegetarian menu, but I can’t say that everyone is pleased. I do hope, however, that all this reflecting made clearer to our families why we were so unwilling to budge. At the end of the day, weddings are complicated and personal and there are no perfect solutions. And if this is the most wedding “drama” we face, I really can’t complain.