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The Kosher Conundrum: how to cater for a not quite Jewish wedding?

By Alex Roumbas on April 25th, 2008 3 comments

is-it-kosher-1583306161-L.jpgOf all the issues you might think surround the union of two people of differing faiths marrying, you wouldn’t think the catering would be the one to make them tear their hair out.

Nevermind how to bring up the kids – we have that bit sorted. What we didn’t know how to reconcile was a middling budget with the quotes being offered to us by some of the kosher caterers in town.

For one thing, and here I may be – pardon the pun – preaching to the converted, there is more than one kind of kosher. Just how kosher people are, the supervision of which authority they’ll accept etc., all has to be taken into account.

The budget for our wedding has to cover 120 people, approximately half of which are Jewish. Of those, about four are full-on kashrut keepers; most of the rest of them are happy to eat out in non-kosher settings provided the meals are fish-based or vegetarian (including eggs and dairy).

We did try to avoid a fish meal at first, not through preference (personally, I love it) but because one of the bridesmaids is violently allergic to it and can be affected by being in an environment where there is a lot of fish (thankfully uncommon…!). So we got quotes from kosher caterers, and that’s when the migraine set in…

Let’s compare. At one Central London venue, average catering was £40pp, with drinks charges that added up to about £13pp. Doable under our budget, just; we wanted a fairly luxurious meal so knew that would be the area we were looking in.

So imagine our shock when the cheapest kosher caterer we could find was £75pp. Admittedly that included unlimited alcohol, but given 95% of our guests are Jewish or Greek, alcohol isn’t really an issue. Sorry to evoke stereotypes, but we’re just not big drinkers, at least in our families.

Besides which, that caterer, Neil Samuels, wasn’t free on the date we needed. Next cheapest were Chives, at £80pp excluding kashrut fees which could be up to £5 extra per person. Plus there was an extra charge for going over 100 people. Having said that, their email response was swift, accurate and helpful and their website attractive, so we were leaning towards them.

The Best Man-to-be and his wife had Michael Rose, but their wedding cost about £34,000 a couple of years ago; this is substantially above our budget, but we contacted the caterers anyway. £110pp, food and alcohol included but no extras. *Gulp*

Uber-classy-but-undoubtedly-expensive caterers Carol Sobell and Tony Page didn’t reply to our email contacts at all, anyway, which saved us the inevitable incredulous response.

Finally, it transpired that the venue we’ve chosen organises kosher catering for itself. The standard entertainment packages ranged from £80 – £115, although the top tier included room hire plus a free extra room thrown in, flowers for the table, the services of an MC, much of the alcohol, a four course meal and sundry extras that you generally get charged for like place cards. The wedding planner squirreled away on the kosher task for three days only to find that she couldn’t knock the prices down below a whopping £200pp excluding kosher wine…

A long chat with the bridesmaid later, and we’re having fish and using Hermolis for the Rabbi and those who are quite strict about the food laws. They’ll match your menu as closely as possible for a reasonable price and send it sealed up in disposable packaging. It’s good food, too; I’ve tasted it before at award ceremonies.

I was determined not to have a segregated wedding, but I was also determined not to give in to the bizarre pricing rituals surrounding weddings that seem to tack an extra 25% on just for the hell of it.

Worst of all, there is almost no trace online of any services for inter-faith marriages. I swear if I survive this process unscathed I’m setting up my own… Is free?

Alexandra Roumbas is a writer and editor living in London. She is, despite grumpy ranting, thrilled to be getting married, and relieved the bloody catering is sorted at last.

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  • Neodymium

    So you talked your bridesmaid out of a violent reaction to an allergen? You certainly are persuasive 😀

  • Ha! Fear not, I’m not that much of a bridezilla. She just assured me she’d take preventative medication and would be okay. I hope she’s telling the truth…

  • Bobbie

    What venue did you end up with? I’m in a similar position (with lots of observant Kosher guests) but when looking at a guest list of around 150 people it’s looking like it’ll be very expensive! Finding a reasonable venue with Kosher catering included would be a real gift!

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