Dealing with Caterers – Vegan Weddings – Vegan MoFo 2013

Continuing in my Vegan Wedding theme for Vegan MoFo 2013 – here’s a bit about my experience with caterers, and a few tips. P.S. It’s also less than a month before JC and I get married. Eeeee.

update: click here to read about our wedding day, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the lovely.

Vegan MoFo 2013

Early in the wedding planning process I started to look at caterers and venues and options for the wedding. To be honest, it was one of the main criteria in the decision making process. You may notices that JC and I love food. Finding a really fantastic restaurant is more than just a night out, it’s a hobby, and we love to share with each other and others, so I’m sure it’s not surprising that it ranked highly.

In Toronto some venues have in-house caterers that you’re obligated to use, others will let you use your own caterer with certain stipulations or additional fees, and with others you are completely on your own. Some include service, some don’t. It depends on your budget, and how much you want to spend and how many separate service providers you want to work with.

I researched a few around the city and sent emails to a few places that seemed promising, nearly everyone got back to me with wedding package information, and claimed they knew how to cater a vegan wedding (though some glossed over that part), but more inquiries about options and menus usually showed they didn’t really know much about it at all.

Grasslands - The Skewer

Some places seemed incredulous that I would want an entirely vegan wedding, and didn’t seem to understand the importance having really amazing food had to us, so they were promptly scratched off the list – including places that seemed pretty exciting otherwise. All I’m saying… is I’m tempted to go all “Pretty Woman” and say “big mistake.” But it happens. Be prepared.

Gazpacho Shooters from Martha Stewart

When we finally did decide on a venue + caterer combo, we were still talking about food for months, more than anything else. Your mileage may vary on this, but we did not finalize with our venue until they gave us a few examples of dishes they would be able to make for us, and we went back again.

Dealing with Caterers – Just a Few Tips/Questions

It’s the same as dealing with a regular caterer but with a few vegan caveats.

  1. Figure out how many people you want attending your wedding and decide on a budget.
  2. Contact potential caterers – do you have a venue? Find out what requirements the venue has for caterers, such as insurance or partnerships.
  3. Explain your dietary requirements in your initial contact. The understanding of the word “vegan” varies. Some people think it’s limited only to food, limited only to no eggs, milk, meat, etc, or some other thing.
  4. Find out if they have any experience with vegan weddings, ask if you can see a sample menu, ask if you can try a dish or two to figure out if you want to work with them (and find out if there is a fee for this).
  5. Find out how much they charge per person for food? Is service included? Is there a cake cutting fee? Corkage?
  6. Will they provide a dessert table? Do they make vegan wedding cakes? Grooms cakes?
  7. What input you will have to the menu? Is there a customization fee?
  8. How many weddings do they do per day?
  9. How much of a deposit is required?
  10. What do they do with the leftovers?
  11. Do they use organic or local vegetables? (veganic… dare I dream….)

There are lots of wedding catering checklists and questions lists online. Find one and tailor it to your interests/venue/budget!

Vegan Catering Options in Toronto.

I listed some of these on my Engagement Party post, but they are worth repeating. I have not tried all of these, but they’re worth contacting.

  • Vegan Delights – http://www.vegandelights.ca/ – I’ve had their food at other parties and it’s been really nice and crowd pleasing to non-vegans and vegans alike.
  • Harty Catering – http://www.heartycatering.com/
  • Urban Acorn Catering  – http://www.urbanacorn.ca/
  • Chica Mamma Catering – http://www.chicamomma.com/
  • Pear & Pepper
  • Brixton Grill – https://www.facebook.com/BrixtonGrill – so they’re not official caterers (at the moment anyway), but if you like vegan BBQ it’s worth reaching out.
  • For more that you can get TVA Card discounts with take a look at the TVA’s Vegetarian-Friendly Catering Page.
  • Canoe – Upon contacting them, they are able to do a vegan menu. They made us a special vegan menu once upon a Valentines Day, so I can tell you they make yummy food, but they also seemed a little awkward at the notion of putting on an entirely vegan event.
  • Berkeley Events & Catering. – This place is both a venue and a caterer. They have experience in vegan weddings and events. This is where we decided to get married. I’ll have more to say after the event is finished!
  • Kortright Centre – They have vegan options on their menu & they are also willing to work with others to create a menu. At one point Doug McNish was consulting with them to make a vegan menu for a wedding, so that might be an option you’d want to pursue if getting married in Toronto. (also – the venue is so beautiful and was one of the places we would have pursued if it was available on the day we wanted.)
  • Daniel et Daniel – a twitter pal recommended these for their ability to make delicious vegan options. (examples of some of their meatless offerings)

Vegan Catering Options elsewhere:

  • Check out some of the caterers listed on Rose Pedals for Vegan Catering.
  • Connect with your local vegan and vegetarian group if one exists in your area.
  • Depending on your preferences and the area you live in, East/South Indian Caterers might be your scene and often have vegan/veganizable options.
  • Kosher caterers are another option to connect with because they have an understanding of dietary restrictions. Just know that parve doesn’t mean vegan.

Remember that you are paying them for a service, and they can either do it or they can’t, and if they can’t, then it’s worth moving on to a new one. There is absolutely nothing wrong or unreasonable about asking for a vegan wedding menu, and I’ve noticed people talk about it almost sheepishly. But stop! You are awesome. Remember that.

It is a special day, and you should enjoy it.

Do you have any positive vegan catering options from your community you’re willing to share? Any advice on dealing with caterers? Any Advice on making caterers jobs easier?
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About MeShell

I live in Toronto with my partner JC, our brand new son, our three cats, and usually a few foster cats. I like technology, vegan food, travelling, and lots of other things. For more information about MeShell, JC, Emmie, Kes, or Marmie, visit our About page.

8 Comments

  1. We got married earlier this year and it was fairly casual. We had our service and reception in different places and although we had our reception food planed months in advance (I used to work at the cafe so I just gave them a list of food and they made it) we realised we hadn’t told the cave where our ceremony was held that we wanted vegetarian food. They arranged it after a few hasty emails we had amazing food.

    We also arranged to pick up a bunch of chips for people who couldn’t go home between the ceremony and reception. Which was pretty cool if a little inelegant.

  2. Hi MeShell,

    My fiancé and I are planning a full vegan wedding and in my research I came across your blog. We have actually looked into Berkley Church as we too love the venue and were told that they have recently done full vegan weddings. I would love to hear about your experience with them and the food. It is really important to us to have great (vegan) food for everyone.

    • Hi Ando,

      I have to say I was actually relatively disappointed with the way the Berkeley Event folks handled our wedding, but your experience may vary. I am working on a recap post of the full wedding experience right now, but I do want to pass on a couple of things about the venue to you.

      Primarily – the food was not amazing. This may have been because they were unfamiliar with the dishes we were asking them to make, but quality changed between tastings and the actual wedding day. They do have a member of the catering staff experienced with making vegan pastries so the dessert tarts they made for our dessert buffet were DELICIOUS. Everything else varied, somethings were okay, and some things weren’t very good at all.
      – They had promised to provide ingredient information repeatedly – and then never did. And still haven’t.
      – The planner we had kept making weird & unnecessary comments about veganism, vegan food, etc. That part is neither here nor there, but I could have done without it.

      One potential venue that you might want to connect with is the Kortright Centre, I believe they are around the same price range as Berkeley (or you can bring in your own catering company), but also have worked with Doug McNish (a very excellent vegan chef).

  3. Nice article. Especially that dealing with caterers questions are very useful. For our wedding we had a very good catering service, franco freshy, Toronto, Ontario who were very understanding and provided great food and service. We had vegan food for a few people including me along with non vegan food. The good experience with caterers may not be like that for every one. I know about bad experience for a few of my close friends. If you know to deal with them from the very beginning everything can be easily managed.

  4. Hi MeShell,
    Thanks for the amazing tips for prospective brides and grooms (and the shout out!) Caterers with holistic understandings of, and experience, with vegan foods and lifestyles really relish the opportunity to share complete and delicious vegan meals with folks. Thanks for bigging up fellow foodie Doug McNish!

  5. My daughter is having a brunch wedding at the Berkeley Fieldhouse, but we are looking for a vegetarian restaurant that can accommodate a group of about 20for a dinner for out of towners the night before. Do you know of any.

    • My mother-in-law booked one of the back spaces at Buddha’s Vegetarian the night before our wedding and it worked out fairly well. We had about 15-20 people. They handled it quite well, and it’s in a relatively central area.

      Other options that come to mind right now:
      – Call Doug McNish – he’s a vegan chef, and depending on the night maybe you could just take over his restaurant for a night 🙂 dougmcnish.com.
      – Grasslands can seat a pretty large number of people in the back too.

      Congratulations to your daughter!

  6. Dear Meshell,
    First, although I’m hugely delayed in delivering these, congratulations on your wedding! How fun!
    Second and finally, I got to this blogpost because I just got engaged (yay!) and although we will likely get married in Montreal, we’ll probably have an engagement party in Toronto, so I went Googling for info and, lo and behold, you saved our lives. So, thank you. I’ve bookmarked this post and some of the places you mentioned, but I wanted to make sure I thanked you for sharing your experiences and for listing important questions to ask and things to consider. That’s truly generous and thoughtful to all of your readers. So, really, thank you.
    Wishing you a lovely evening, and thanking you so very kindly,
    Kris

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