Every time I’m in charge of the food for a family event, the following scenario occurs.
1. I pick some kind of uniting theme, think about how much food we’ll realistically need for the amount of people we’re expecting, take the budget into account, consider what kinds of foods and food groups I love to see at parties, and plan the menu accordingly.
2. I make a grocery list.
3. My mom looks over said grocery list.
4. The questions begin.
5. I answer the questions (somewhat) patiently, and we go to the store. To my mind, there are no more questions. But somehow, when we’re standing in the bakery section of the grocery store, the questions begin again.
“Are you going to make those bacon-wrapped dates again this year?”
“Well did you think about having those spinach and cheese puffs?”
“Are you going to make that popcorn mixture with the white chocolate that you made last year? That was so yummy.”
No, no, and no. Because while those bacon-wrapped dates are amazing, they aren’t on the menu. We are going to have plenty of food, and I kinda had a thing going with what I’m planning to serve. I don’t want to just add to it for the hell of it. So we go back and forth; I insist that we don’t need that extra food and she insists that we do. And eventually, she gives me her go-to defense for all the stuff she’s throwing in my cart: “People want options.” “But we don’t need shrimp cocktail. I have all these other appetizers,” I say, removing the shrimp from my cart.
The day of the event, she’ll run out to pick up an ingredient we need and come home with three more appetizers that weren’t on the menu. When I get annoyed, she does it again. “Well, people like to have spinach dip,” she says. “WHAT PEOPLE?” I finally demand, elbow deep in the buttercream I’m making for the new recipe I’ve decided to try and sweating bullets. “These aren’t strangers showing up to our house in an hour. Stop saying ‘people’ when we literally have five people coming over and we can just name all of them.”
“People want options” has become kind of a running joke in our house when we’re planning events; I can call her out on saying it and she’ll acknowledge that she does, in fact, do this, but… she still does it! And I still think it’s ridiculous.
So earlier this year, when Eric and I were talking wedding budget and wedding food, I was not happy to hear a similar pattern emerge from him.
“I just think if people come all that way, they are going to expect a really nice dinner.”
“Well, I know you love breakfast food, but I just don’t know if our guests are going to want to drink mimosas and eat eggs and waffles the whole time.”
“I just think that our guests would really appreciate having the steak option.”
“Because PEOPLE WANT OPTIONS?” I said. Eric is well aware of how annoying I find it when my mom says this. And yet here he was, using “guests” as a substitute to “people” in that common refrain.
With all due respect to those who will attend our wedding, I have to say this: those attending our wedding are not people. They are not even guests. They are our friends and family.
“Who will really appreciate the steak option?” I demand. “Jordan? Cara? I want names! Who in your life really travels to a wedding, has a decent meal, and then is disappointed that it wasn’t a better meal? Who, exactly, is flying in for our wedding for the food? I WANT NAMES.”
Using names is important when planning—and worrying—about your wedding. When we talk about “guests” or “people,” we reinforce the idea that your wedding is a show, therefore you must delight and impress your audience at every turn. When we turn them into nameless, faceless strangers who all have the personalities of the worst commenters on wedding articles, it becomes easy to believe they are holding us to an impossibly high standard and judging every choice we make (or don’t make). But when we use the terms “friends” and “family” or just call them by their names, it’s so much easier to remember that they love us and care about us and will, most likely, be delighted to get some free food after bearing witness to a really important event in our lives. Talking about “our guests” creates a sense of “us vs. them” that makes me sad.
I’m fairly certain everyone in attendance on my side has seen me crying and/or naked at some point in my life. Most of them will have seen me doing both at the same time, and I’m fairly certain Eric’s side could say the same thing about him. (Side note: if you want an intimate wedding like we do, this is a great test for narrowing down your guest list!) So just because it’s our wedding day, they will suddenly forget the day we were born or that time with the tequila and start demanding steak?
People want options. Guests want a really nice steak dinner. Friends and family? Don’t remember the food.
Photo: Gabriel Harber