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weddiquette: keeping kosher

Periodically Xochitl (pronounced so-cheel), our resident wediquette expert and owner of Always a Bridesmaid Wedding Consulting, answers an etiquette question submitted* by one of our readers. So, (without further ado):

Q: I know that this is pre-mature, since I won't be getting married for another 2 years, but my wedding has to be Kosher, and I cannot find any sites about who to go to and what needs to be done for a Kosher wedding. My mother and I are both clueless since she is Christian and I am reform (Jewish), and had never planned on having a Kosher wedding, but because of my groom, it has to be done.
I know that the meal will be Kosher, but what about the cake? So, do you have any advice?

A: The Kosher issue is tricky, but it's not as hard as you would imagine. Depending on where you are located and if you have a venue selected already or not, your process will differ slightly. This also assumes you are having a Saturday evening wedding.
Generally here is how it works: Either you are working with a space that is open to outside caterers or a venue with on-site catering. If you know in advance that you are going to need Kosher, you should start looking for venues that allow off-site caterers in. I think it works out more economically and often affords you more choice in WHO your Kosher caterer is.
If you have your reception facility booked already, you should start by asking your location for their recommendation/required kosher vendor. You should ask for the menu offered at your particular venue and move from there. Typically venues will have a preferred or required Kosher caterer and often they have a set menu that mirrors the menu offered at your venue.
If you are booking a space and then looking for an outside Kosher Caterer, then the world is your oyster, because you can design a menu around the season and your tastes, just as you would with any other kind of catering (with Kosher Provisions in mind).
Kosher food has a reputation for being bad, but it simply depends on HOW the caterer works and what you serve. Certain cuts of beef just simply aren't as good, because they are imitations of the "real" cut, and a good caterer will steer you clear of those and make recommendations that are really quite delicious. Additionally, nothing on the wedding can START until after sundown, so keep that in mind as you are planning. So often BAD kosher catering is prepared on a Friday afternoon and re-heated after sundown on Saturday. Thus the reputation for overcooked items. One of the things you should ask is WHEN they cook most of their food. Prep is fine the day prior, but cooking should happen that evening.
If you are in the New York area, I strongly suggest Foremost Caterers. Not only do they provide a Kosher meal, it is absolutely some of the BEST off premise food that I've ever tasted. It is imaginative, hip, pretty and the service is wonderful.
In terms of the cake, anything that you ask your caterer to serve (including wines and champagnes) must be Kosher. This means that the cake must be Pareve. A lot of people don't like Pareve baked goods, (I personally LOVE them). Discuss the option of serving another tasty dessert (a fruit tart, etc) as an alternative for those guests who aren't such big fans of Pareve.--Xochitl of Always a Bridesmaid

*If you've got a question for our expert, submit it by clicking "submit your question" in the right hand column, under "wediquette".


Anonymous on 7:56 PM

this advice seems to be coming from someone who doesn't keep kosher/isn't jewish herself. to have a kosher wedding, you need to hire a kosher caterer, and they will hire a mashgiakh (specially trained rabbinic person whose job it is to make sure that everything is kosher). the mashgiakh and caterer will kasher the kitchen and provide kosher plates and silverware.
also, most Jewish weddings are on sundays anyway, so the stereotype about food cooked on a friday and served on saturday night seems unhelpful.

Mackenzie on 8:40 PM

I think Xochitl did her best to say essentially the same thing, only she didn't go into as much technical detail. I have been to several Sunday Jewish weddings, and a few Saturday ones. I think that asking the caterer about when and where the food is prepared is good advice. If anyone has any further advice, feel free to share, but let's not criticize.

maya on 6:54 AM

i would say it really all depends on where you live and what caterer you choose. if you are in a big city that has a relatively large jewish community, then there are likely plenty of options for kosher caterers. and unless you're a huge fan of shrimp and pork, as Xochitl said, there are almost endless possibilities as to what to have on the menu--it's just an issue of what your caterer is willing to make, and how much you want to pay. Kosher food isn't all that different from non-kosher food. it just means that is a person trained in Jewish kashrut laws who is overlooking the whole catering process.

one extra point: just to clarify--if you decide to serve meat, then you won't be able to have anything that contains dairy at the meal. that includes desserts (that's what someone meant when they mentioned "pareve cake"). so keep that in mind. personally, my solution to that is to have a vegetarian reception. i know that's not very typical, but our wedding is going to be kind of alternative anyways, and i'm vegetarian myself, so it seems appropriate for us. the advantage is though, that we can have dairy desserts. yum :) anyway, just a thought...

good luck with the planning!

J on 7:21 PM

You can have fish (as long as it's a kosher fish) with a dairy meal. Many non-Jews don't know that fish is not exactly considered meat. It's a nice compromise if you want dairy (easier and cheaper, usually) but still want something "meaty"

I'm getting married this year but I'm just having the wedding at my synagogue with our in-house caterer so that eliminates a lot of the catering issues.

dbo on 12:22 PM

My sister had a kosher wedding last year-- dairy (with fish). And it was wonderful. Plus we could have real milk in our coffees and real ice cream with the cake get the drift. But just fyi: kosher is always more expensive.

Sophie on 12:51 PM

Kosher catering for a wedding can significantly increase costs. Here are some tips on how to keep kosher catering costs down: