Q. I’ve been invited to multiple friends’ weddings this summer. Currently, I am receiving requests for reception dinner preferences with the choice of meat, fish, or a vegetarian option consisting of pasta.
Unfortunately, I am a gluten-free vegetarian. Most of my friends are aware of my aversion to meat. However, not all of them know that I am gluten-free due to health reasons.
Knowing that the couples are already under a lot of stress, I would like to avoid inconveniencing them with my dietary restrictions.
I do not want to offend anyone by attending the dinner but declining the meal. Bringing my own food to a reception seems a bit tacky as well. I thought of writing a request for just “a plate of vegetables” on the meal card, but I do not know if this is rude or too much of a burden.
I will be traveling from out of town to attend these weddings, so skipping the reception is not an option. How do I share in the nuptial celebrations without troubling anyone?
A. I ran your letter past Mollie Katzen, author of “The New Moosewood Cookbook” (2000, Ten Speed Press), whose work helped popularize vegetarian cuisine in the United States.
Katzen says that you could probably enjoy a perfectly good gluten-free vegetarian dinner composed entirely of the side dishes offered to other guests. She responded, “You should let the hosts know that you have a simple request for dinner and ask them if they would prefer that you go through them or communicate it directly to the caterer. If you stress that it’s a simple, one-sentence request (‘I’d like my dinner to be an assortment of lacto-ovo vegetarian, wheat-free side dishes.’) I think the hosts won’t mind passing that along. Plus, the caterer will appreciate knowing. It will make her/his job much more straightforward.”
I want to add that once this request is made, you should let it stand. Do not follow up or make another inquiry. If at the event your meal does not arrive, do not worry the couple about it and simply do your best to deal with what you’re served.
Q. My brother and his wife have a year-old baby and are expecting their second child soon. My brother is a surgeon who is doing very well financially.
His wife’s sister decided to throw a last-minute baby shower. On the invitation she said, “They are not registered, but they do need some big items, like a double stroller, car seat, etc. If you would like to contribute, it would be fantastic!”
I thought this was tacky, and I called it to my brother’s attention. When I asked him about this, he said he didn’t see anything wrong with it and got defensive.
I thought the whole idea of the baby shower was for a bunch of ladies to get together and ooh and aah over baby clothes and baby toys. Am I off base here?
A. Strictly speaking, showers for second children aren’t normally big events, but many families do want to celebrate the birth of a second child, and the need for some of these big-ticket items is genuine, regardless of whether the family can afford them.
The wording you quote on this last-minute invitation strikes me as being nonspecific and low-pressure. Mainly, however, unless this shower is held in your honor, it’s unnecessary (and rude) of you to weigh in on someone else’s choice.