This year has proved to us that love is not fleeting, but eternal. Countless couples slated to get married in 2020 put their plans on hold, and we are still experiencing that tidal wave of weddings after two years of pent-up love and delayed ceremonies. Clearly, love is worth the wait. We’re all ready to dine, dance, and catch a bouquet or wrangle a garter—but we want to keep it vegan. Many couples have dear aunt Sally who will scoff at the “rabbit food” menu or a cousin William who will feel personally offended that his choice to eat a buffet-style steak is taken from him. That is why we called in the expert. Suzy Silvestre of Chive Kitchen in Detroit, MI has catered vegan weddings and special occasions for years. She knows exactly what will please every kind of wedding attendee—from a Bridezilla to aunt Sally and cousin William. From appetizers to cake, here is what to serve for a magical vegan wedding.
“You are not cooking vegan; you are cooking food that happens to be vegan.”
— Suzy Silvestre
Appeasing every guest
You’ve made the decision to host a completely vegan wedding—congratulations! Silvestre says you don’t have to advertise it, particularly if you are inviting a mixed company of eaters. The food should speak for itself. After enjoying a multi-course meal of Balsamic Roasted Portabello Steaks with Sour Cream and Onion Mashed Potatoes, Red Wine Demi-Glace and Caramelized Onions, Caesar salad, cheesy baked mostaccioli, and roasted seasonal vegetables, few guests will realize that not a touch of meat or dairy graced their plates. Instead, they’ll be content and curious about what was in that marvelous mashed potato dish. Bonus: unlike heavy animal-based entrées, your guests will feel light enough after a plant-based meal to hop out on the dance floor instead of sitting awkwardly at their assigned tables.
Caterers like Silvestre focus on flavor and curb appeal—not on missing ingredients like butter or roasted chicken. “When we see our plated dinners come back after service licked clean, we know we hit the mark. I don’t put an emphasis on it being vegan. The emphasis is good food, creative food, and good-looking food,” she said.
When asked about popular items served at weddings, Silvestre suggested couples make their decision based less on what’s routine and more on their unique party. Think of dishes and beverages that are sentimental to you as a couple or to your respective families. Do you want to nod to your mom’s famous holiday cheeseball? Is Taco Tuesday marked on your calendars? Does your partner really, really want vegan lobster rolls at your Maine wedding? Work with that and let it guide your menu. A quality caterer should be able to pick up on your vision, likes, and dislikes to create a spread that speaks to you as a couple.
Silvestre offered just a few examples of custom wedding menus she’s crafted. “I have made a vegan dinner that was Wisconsin-inspired, a New Orleans-inspired, dinner, as well as individual dishes and cocktails that are special and sentimental to the family. I don’t want my clients to design the menu, I want to offer them something special that they did not know they could get,” she elaborated.
While personalized menus will always resonate with the happy couple, there are some edible elements that will have all the guests talking (and the bridesmaids taking note for whenever their special day comes). The portabello steak with sour cream and onion mashed potatoes mentioned above is always a hit according to Silvestre. It beckons a sense of a traditional wedding main while adding plant-based elements of je ne sais quois tasting notes. Expanding on the mashed potato concept, Silvestre admitted that guests can’t seem to get enough spuds no matter what time of year. She suggested a mashed potato bar where guests can help themselves to a variety of savory toppings from vegan cheese to fresh chives and more. Carbs in general tend to please—pasta is also “universally loved,” said Silvestre.
“When we see our plated dinners come back after service licked clean, we know we hit the mark. I don’t put an emphasis on it being vegan. The emphasis is good food, creative food, and good-looking food.”
— Suzy Silvestre
Appetizers, buffets, and plated dinners
Appetizers are a must to keep guests happy and occupied while the wedding party takes its time to get the perfect pictures. Personally, Silvestre loves appetizer stations. While she admits more variety means more money, multiple options enhance the guest experience and allow the food-loving couple to have fun selecting the different light bites.
When deciding on a buffet versus a plated dinner, Silvestre outlined the pros and cons of each. “I think guests can equally appreciate a buffet or plated dinner. A buffet is more affordable, and it allows guests the opportunity to choose their items and fill their plates. But there is something about a plated dinner that really makes one feel special and taken care of. We do have a lot of requests for family-style dinners which encompass both the buffet and plated. I find family-style fun and a bit more affordable than plated.”
Time for dessert
We asked Silvestre about popular cake flavors, and while she provided a few options, she reinforced the concept of customization … and forgoing the traditional tiered cake altogether. Dessert stations are trending, and like a buffet, they allow for more variety and guest interaction. To combine tradition with trend, Silvestre recommends ordering a small cake to display, cut, and freeze for the one-year anniversary coupled with a dessert station showcasing a medley of sweet treats (among which, of course, can include cake in the form of cupcakes or slices).
Still hung up on cake flavors, we coaxed a few options out of Silvestre. Strawberry basil, lemon-blueberry, mocha, and carrot cake are popular, along with her signature creation: Pink Squirrel. She assured us it is completely vegan. The delight is a rendition of a Pink Squirrel cocktail (creme de noyaux, heavy cream, and white creme de cacao), inspired by a bride’s grandmother. While this may only be available at Chive Kitchen, it demonstrates that you don’t have to go with the standard white-on-white with raspberry filling—get creative and see what your cake artist can do.
It comes down to the little things
Silvestre emphasized that it’s the attention to detail and unique touches that elevate a wedding celebration. Obligatory wedding favors are in fact falling out of favor, but food-related takeaways are always appreciated. This caterer extraordinaire suggested giving away mini liquor bottles, chocolate truffles, or bottle openers. “One can never have too many bottle or wine openers,” she reasoned. “And to keep it edible, a truffle or piece of chocolate is something that everyone can be happy with.” Personally, we wouldn’t mind taking home a piece of cake as a favor. Cake-sized to-go containers or Tupperware is sure to be a hit if you plan to have leftover sweets.
Tiny embellishments and intentional touches to every drink served and appetizer enjoyed also help to enhance guest experience. “A guest leaving the ceremony being handed a tiny pink cocktail adorned with a rosemary sprig or fresh flower will start the vibes. The guest might not know that a bit of garnish gave them such joy—they just know that they had a great time,” said Silvestre.
Sample menu from the Soul
After catering hundreds of wedding and events, we had to know what Silvestre would serve at her own shindig. She didn’t hold back. The focal point would be a soul food station complete with vegan fried chicken sandwiches, coleslaw, hot sauce, mashed potatoes and gravy, smoky collard greens, mac and cheese, and Caesar salad. But she’s not done. A self-professed partier, Silvestre envisions multiple food stations to keep the guests involved. In addition to the Soul food station, her event would offer a taco station, a carnival station of mini corn dogs and funnel cake, a cold appetizer station lined with salads and canapés, a cocktail station with a wall of margaritas, and a dessert station featuring “a multitude of desserts in different colors and sizes.”
What we make of this: forget florals and blow the budget on food. It’s far more fun.