What Belongs on the Plate at a Sustainable Jewish Wedding?
Eleven months into planning our April wedding, and my fiancé and I feel like we should write a book — the ultimate guide to the sustainable Jewish wedding. We dove into the world of wedding planning together, and decided to plan a wedding that would truly reflect us — with our desire to live sustainably and to also fulfill our families’ desire to have a large simcha.
Once we started on our venue search, the next question was obvious — what will we eat? For us, having a vegetarian wedding was of utmost importance. You might remember that Chelsea Clinton served meat at her wedding, although she’s a vegetarian. We fell on the other side of that debate. Why should we serve meat when we wouldn’t eat it ourselves? And along those lines, did we need to have a kosher caterer, or could we have a vegetarian-only wedding and satisfy the needs of most of our guests? But then we fretted — what about our orthodox guests? What about the fact that it’s a wedding — shouldn’t it be kosher?
Throughout this process there has been the tension between providing for what we feel our community expects, and serving food that mirrors our daily food values. As a natural foods chef, Adamah alumnus, lover of local food and preacher of eating healthy cuisine, the process of planning the food for our wedding has challenged all of my food values. For a split second, I even considered catering the wedding myself, but then I realized that was crazy.
There’s also the cost to keep in mind. Even with a vegetarian wedding, the cost of a kosher caterer was simply astronomical, not to mention complicated by the fact that we refuse to serve foods made with partially hydrogenated oil or high fructose corn syrup.
From a logistical perspective, we’re even trying to figure out if we can save the food scraps from the event to compost them on my family’s farm after the wedding. If my brother can get the hoop house up and running by March, hopefully he will grow micro-greens or herbs for use at the wedding, which will really bring things close to home.
While my fiancé and I keep what we consider a vegetarian kosher home, not every single item has a heksher. I don’t check every leaf of every green for bugs, but I do love my greens. Our lifestyle poses a problem for our more religious friends who won’t necessarily eat in our home. So our daily struggle is then reflected in our greater decision-making process regarding our wedding.
Ultimately, we settled on a vegan, non-kosher caterer who agreed to work with us, and we are still working out what to serve. (We’ll order a couple of hekshered meals for observant friends). The menu will most likely include a soup and salad (complete with hemp seeds) and a seasonal risotto. We’re forgoing a wedding cake (and donating the money we would have spend to Tzedakah) and instead having ice cream (both vegan and non).
We’re still debating the kosher vs. non-kosher wine debate. Even if you drink non-kosher wine, do you feel that a wedding should only serve kosher wine? What if you could serve organic (but un-kosher) wine — would that change your opinion? Is supporting an organic or biodynamic vineyard more important than supporting a kosher certification? (Please share your thoughts in the comments section).
With every decision, we’ve debated and in the end, we’re planning the wedding that my fiancé and I feel reflects us as a couple, through and through. And we know our guests won’t go home hungry.
Elisheva Margulies is the founder of Eat With Eli, a natural foods culinary service based in St. Louis.