Baltimore, Md. --On a brilliant Sunday morning in May, about
80 people gathered in a 70-year-old mansion for a wedding.
When the bride, Tamara Richter, appeared in her white dress,
the guests whispered to each other, "How pretty she is!"
The fact that the bride's dress contained neither silk nor
pearls went unnoticed, but it was an important point for Richter;
who is vegan.
"Many dresses are made of silk and have pearl decorations.
Neither are vegan and I wanted my wedding dress vegan. My
shoes are not leather, either," Richter, 28, said.
Vegans, or pure vegetarians, eat no foods derived from animals.
In addition to meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and honey,
they also shun leather, silk, wool and other animal products.
People become vegan for various reasons, including health,
ecological and religious concerns, compassion for animals
and belief in nonviolence.
According to a survey conducted in 2000 by the Vegetarian
Resource Group, a nonprofit educational group in Maryland,
0.9 percent of adults, or 1.7 million people, in the United
States, are vegan, while 2.5 percent, or 4.8 million, were
vegetarian (do not eat meat, fish, or poultry).
Richter became a vegetarian when she was 15 because she thought
it was "cool." She cut out meat first, then poultry,
fish, before becoming vegan five years ago. "It was hard
not to eat eggs and cheese, even though I knew eating them
hurt animals. But thanks to my experience working with vegetarian
advocates, I don't have cravings for cheese omelets anymore.
They provided me with plenty of information on how to find
vegan substitutes," she recalled.
Richter herself helped her vegetarian boyfriend to become
vegan. Having the same eating habits helped the relationship
to grow, and the couple soon started living together. They
began to enjoy a variety of vegan meals --from "vegan
pancakes" for breakfast to "vegan shepherd's pie"
for dinner-- thanks to his talents in the kitchen.
When they decided to marry, it was a given that the wedding
would be vegan. Richter and her bridegroom, Jeff Barnes, 30,
took two years to prepare their once-in-a-lifetime event so
that it would be as perfect as possible.
Despite the fact that most of the guests were not vegan or
even vegetarian, their parents warmly accepted the idea of
a "vegan wedding."
"My mother is vegetarian, but she's not vegan. Neither
my father nor Jeff's parents are vegetarians. Still, they
were very understanding," Richter said. It was not easy,
though, to find a caterer who could fulfill their request
to serve vegan wedding dishes.
"I called all the caters in the Baltimore/Washington
area. Most people I spoke with had no idea what 'vegan' meant,"
After a tiring search, the couple finally found someone
who understood what they wanted right away. The caterer, Cuisine
Catering, didn't specialize in vegetarian and vegan food,
but had experience making those kinds of dishes.
"We were very lucky," Richter said. "The chef
is not vegan or vegetarian, but was very creative and make
an excellent menu for us. Tasting menu samples (before the
wedding), we believe that our guests will be as content with
his vegan wedding dishes as we were."
Richter was right. After the wedding ceremony, appetizers
were served to the guests standing in line to greet the newlyweds
and their parents. The finger foods, which included Spinach
Phyllo Cocktail Triangles (crispy spinach pastry puffs) and
Potato Puffs with Spicy Mustard (seasoned mashed potatoes
in a light pastry with cranberry mustard dipping sauce), were
impressive enough and no one seemed to mind they were vegan.
The reception hall was set up ready to welcome guests with
more enjoyable vegan dishes: Mediterranean roasted vegetables
(sweet potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, red and green peppers,
and carrots in a light basil olive oil dressing) served with
humms, tapenade (a thick paste made from capers, ripe olives,
olive oil and lemon juice), and pita bread; Wild Mushroom
Action Station (sauteed wild mushrooms and grilled marinated
Portobello mushrooms); and a Williamsburg-style platter of
fresh fruits featuring pineapples filled with ripe strawberries,
melons and other seasonal fruits). The drink menu was non-alcoholic
at the couple's request. Organic coffee was one of the drinks
In addition to eating the unique wedding dishes, people
also took pictures of them, often asking, "What is this?"
Many had eaten vegetarian food before, but vegan dishes were
still unfamiliar. Some of the guests exchanged vegetarian
dining stories, saying, for example, "I ate at vegetarian
restaurants many times and I like it." One enthusiastic
woman asked Richter's vegan friend about the health benefits
of such a diet.
One vegetarian guest confessed that she hadn't become vegan
because she liked cheese. But she loved the vegan appetizers.
"This dip tastes like real cheese," the chef, Avi
Cohen, explained. "Instead of using cheese, I put artichoke
and vegan soy cheese into the dip. Artichoke tastes like Parmesan."
He said that it was not really difficult to create the vegan
wedding menu. "I knew the substitutes I can use for vegans,
such as tofu, seitan (wheat gluten), or tempeh (a kind of
fermented soy product). I just tried to preserve the natural
flavors of the vegetables, and to satisfy my customers."
The highlight of his creations was the main course: a beautifully
presented Vegan Napoleon of baked eggplant layered with basil
leaves, seitan, spinach, tomatoes and sliced wild mushrooms
and served with a fire-roasted red pepper sauce. The side
accompaniments are twice-baked rosemary sweet potatoes and
lemon-scented asparagus. The fresh, but rich flavor was seductive
even to guests who were not vegetarians or vegan. "They
were 'different'," one admitted honestly, but said, "Still
I found this one was good."
Vegan Wedding Cake
The camera flashed as Richter and Barnes sliced into the
wedding cake. The lemon cake with raspberry layers was also
vegan, using no dairy products or eggs. It was made by Vedika
Webb of Lotus Cake Studio, who works exclusively with vegetarian
and vegan brides. "Finding a vegan bakery was relatively
easy," Richter said. "The vegetarian group I worked
for had a list and we just selected the one we liked the best."
Along with the cake, Webb prepared cute vegan petit fours,
and in 15 minutes, the dessert plates were almost empty.
"I'm delighted the guests enjoyed our vegan dishes,"
Richter said, relieved at the compliments she received. "I
think they felt more frustrated with a nonalcohol wedding."
To blessings and cheers, the newlyweds left for Hawaii for
their honeymoon. They planned to stay there for two weeks,
lodging in romantic --and vegan-friendly--accommodation, to
round out their wedding in style.
By Hiroko Kato
Copyright 2002 Hiroko Kato. All rights reserved.