How do I tell a hostess that I’m a vegetarian?

Dear Gwyn,

I’m often perplexed about if/how to raise the issue of my vegetarianism when invited to someone new’s house for dinner. When hosts do not inquire about my dietary restrictions before planning their menu, should I politely inform them? And if so, how? Or should I just hope there are plenty of sides to fill me up?

Fear not, your dietary restrictions do not need to restrict your social life, nor do they need to burden others.  Whether your restrictions are choice (vegetarianism) or health (allergies) you can politely inform the host or hostess ahead of time.

Vegetarians are a growing percentage of the population. While it is now considered an expectation that a host or hostess provides vegetarian options, no guest should assume this will be the case.  To be sure that everyone is happy at the event, it is the responsibility of the guest to speak up.  If you choose not to speak up, you will face an uncomfortable situation when the host or hostess feels at fault for not thinking to provide your vegan, kosher, or nut free meal, or you will go hungry and leave the event grumpy.

Call or email the hostess. A simple “we are so happy to attend, can we bring anything” can easily morph into, “We are so happy to attend. I’m a vegetarian, do you mind if I bring an extra side dish or entree?”  This will give the hostess the opportunity to provide something without you coming across as demanding.

Before you call your friends and start making dietary requests, take a moment to think about your dietary needs and the type of event you are attending.  Not every event requires a special request even if you are gluten free.

Speak up when:

  • Attending small events, especially seated dinners.
  • You have severe allergies. Always.

Munch on an extra granola bar before the event to tide you over when:

  • You are going to a wedding.
  • Attending large events such as conferences.
  • Mingling at large parties.