QUAERITUR: Getting married on a Friday. Must I abstain from meat? Fr. Z includes a brief rant.

From a reader:

im getting married on friday may 31st the day after Corpus Christi.

can i eat meat at the reception or do i need a dispensation?

All Fridays, except for liturgical Solemnities, are days of penance even if one is doing something celebratory on that day. Congratulations, by the way, on your upcoming nuptials!

You can ask for a dispensation from your parish priest in individual cases.

You also have the privilege, in the United States, of substituting some other penance in lieu of abstaining from meat.

Now for my brief rant:

Would it not make a strong statement in favor of reviving Catholic culture were you as a couple, marrying on a Friday, to offer only meatless options at your reception?

It is certainly possible to do that without diminishing the celebration.

I’ll bet the readers here could think of zillions of great meal options that don’t include meat but are nonetheless both beautiful to look at and better to eat!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Disc-Thrower says:

    Tempura! …and sushi! :)

  2. The Masked Chicken says:

    Good grief!

    More wedding cake!

    The Chicken

  3. Titus says:

    Google “food for Feast of St. Joseph.” Yum.

  4. LarryW2LJ says:

    Salmon was one of the options at our reception.

    It was superb.

  5. Carol H. says:

    Meatless lasagna is wonderful!

    Cheese Pizza for the kids!

  6. Matthias1 says:

    I second Salmon. I was also just at a wedding that gave three sit down dinner options: one was a nice vegetable risotto, another was crab stuffed sole- also very nice. Italian food also tends to be a popular option too. Seafood Jamablaya or Gumbo could be possibilities.

    If you’re doing buffet, then a potato dish, a roasted vegetable dish, and salmon could make a nice option. I remember being at a wedding that offered those three options plus beef and ham, and almost everyone ate the salmon anyway just because it was so popular.

  7. Elodie says:

    However penitential Friday must be, it’s not so bad as to offer soy adulterated to (supposedly) taste like chicken or beef. Blech.


  8. CatherineTherese says:

    What a radical proposition, Fr. Z… and AWESOME. Peanut gallery weighing in: Congratulations to your reader, Catholic marriages are part of how we live out the faith. Celebrate it out loud and give glory to God – what a way to get people’s attention, and in a joyful context!

  9. Priam1184 says:

    Not eating meat on a Friday in May in this day and age has been reduced to a personal choice, hasn’t it? Why would one need a dispensation? That said I agree with Father: there are a million and one meatless options from mushroom lasagna to smoked salmon pizza with caviar, so most likely your guests wouldn’t even notice and perhaps would even be grateful not to receive another helping of Chicken Kiev…

  10. You can do a lot with fish and veg, from somehting exotic like sushi to prawn cocktails and the traditional salmon. I am sure any caterer worth his salt could give you a vast list of dishes with no flesh meat in them. No need to resort to meat substitutes to have a wonderful wedding breakfast. It would be a great statement of faith and could help lead people into or back to the faith.

  11. VexillaRegis says:

    Hmm, wearing those new uncomfortable shoes for your wedding should be a perfect substitute for the meatless penance, don’t you think? (Having delicious salmon isn’t a penance!!!)

  12. ppb says:

    Keep in mind that the bride and groom may not have much flexibility about the food served at the reception. Things like catering are often paid for and arranged by other relatives (who may or may not be attuned to Catholic sensibilities), and it may not be possible to make changes to the menu at this point anyway.

    This question would also come up for anyone attending the reception who is Catholic. Personally, in situations like this I try to keep to Friday abstinence if I can (by sticking around the vegetable plate, etc.), but if it just wouldn’t be possible to refuse a meat dish without causing insult I would substitute another penance instead (since I live in the US).

  13. APX says:

    Hmm, wearing those new uncomfortable shoes for your wedding should be a perfect substitute for the meatless penance, don’t you think? (Having delicious salmon isn’t a penance!!!)

    I would think Crazy Uncle Bob doing the Chicken Dance in front of one’s guests would be penance enough.

  14. Mary Jane says:

    “Would it not make a strong statement in favor of reviving Catholic culture were you as a couple, marrying on a Friday, to offer only meatless options at your reception?”


    I recently sang at a Solemn EF wedding and the homily the priest gave was fantastic but it wasn’t one I expected to hear at a wedding. I heard later on that the groom asked specifically for a homily on Hell. Apparently a lot of his family (fallen-away or non-Catholic) were there and he wanted them to get a real doozy of a homily. Boy oh boy they got one! Talk about a statement!

  15. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Fr Z, you’re holding back and only giving them a crumb. Wouldn’t the truly appropriate response be to simply not get married on a Friday, the day of our Lord’s death? Wasn’t this the longstanding practice until very recently anyway?

  16. ecclesiae says:

    When our son was married it was on a Saturday. We hosted the post rehersal dinner on the evening before and arranged for all selections to be meatless.

  17. Cafea Fruor says:

    I totally get not having meat, BUT, if not having meat is supposed to be penitential, what’s so penitential about substituting salmon and other seafood in its place, unless one doesn’t like seafood? Isn’t that missing the point?

  18. deliberatejoy says:

    A vegetarian reception would be an act of charity, actually. You’d not only be fulfilling your obligation, but helping your Catholic guests fulfil theirs. :)

  19. Father K says:

    This highlights the problem with those who want mandatory meatless days. By all means we must not have meat but hey, we can have lobster thermidor for the main course preceded by canapes of caviar. Not much penance there!

  20. billy says:

    The problem with having all meatless dishes, is what about non Catholics? Let them enjoy your wedding. Go with the meat! :)

  21. acardnal says:

    I think the pastor would give you a dispensation under the circumstances. Just ask him.

    On the hand, why not say a rosary together in lieu of abstaining. After all, May 31 is the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin on the new liturgical calendar and the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Traditional 1962 calendar.

  22. Volanges says:

    Cheesesteak Expert, how long ago were Friday weddings forbidden? I was married on Friday evening, 37 years ago and it was a regular occurrence in our parish.

  23. Andrew says:

    Or, this person might just reconsider, and stay single. That way he can join Fr. Z next week at the shooting gallery.

  24. Matt R says:

    One must not go further from the law of the Church in this case in order to comply with its requirements of penance. Abstaining from meats of the flesh is what the law asks for. That is it.

  25. mrsschiavolin says:

    I agree eating seafood is hardly penance – but somehow I wake up wanting bacon on my breakfast tacos every Friday. Giving that up stings, if ever so slightly!

    For reception – raw oysters, chilled shrimp, crab legs. Cheese & fruit platter, wedding cake, and open bar. Can’t go wrong.

  26. I would never marry on a Friday unless I or my beloved were in danger of death. The week has six other days, all of which are quite suitable for weddings. But the next best thing is a meatless reception. My problem is that I would want all the food to be penitential, not simply meatless– my former pastor always used to say, “Pizza is not penance!” Maybe raw carrots and salad with no dressing, maybe vegetable soup, definitely no dessert… no, easier just to wait until morning to marry and celebrate later.

  27. benedetta says:

    Italian options: pasta primavera, fettucinne alfredo, shrimp scampi.

    I agree with Matt R on this one. Have a Catholic wedding and be Catholic. Abstain from meat is all that is required. Salmon, lobster, shrimp, or vegetarian pasta, it’s up to you and your budget. Not everyone is a fish lover and not everyone has the budget to have filet mignon or lobster thermador. It can be simple, less expensive and yet still good and even elegant.

    My Italian ancestors feasted on peasant food on Christmas Eve, without meat, and their menu included the humble smelt, eel and baccala. Not first choice in your Zagat rated Manhattan restaurants but they managed to prepare it well and enjoyed it as a feast, on a day of abstinence, nonetheless.

  28. VexillaRegis says:

    In this predominantly Lutheran country, it has been popular to get married on Holy Saturday for decades! A Lutheran vicar friend of mine told me that he was asked to perform a wedding, festive at that, on Holy Friday some years ago. Unbelievable. The reason given, was that the guests could recover from the weddingfeast on HS, go home on Easter Day and still have a day off on Monday.

  29. BLB Oregon says:

    It is fairly common on the left coast for considerate bridal couples to offer a menu that will keep the vegetarians from starving no matter what religion the bride and groom are or what day of the week they are marrying. Jewish weddings are also very often meatless, because it isn’t kosher to combine meat and dairy in the same menu. Even if a Jewish bride and groom don’t keep kosher, some of the relatives often do.

    IOW, there are very few caterers in large cities who do not have wonderful choices that do not contain meat for receptions of every size. Salmon and shellfish (which can be expensive) are hardly the only choices that a contemporary caterer will be able to offer. (Taste them first, though. The amounts of cheese used can really be over the top!)

  30. tzard says:

    Maybe I’m in a creative mood tonight, but it seems this is the perfect opportunity to handle it from both ends.

    Have something fancy, like scallops or abolone or even caviar. Big thick tuna steaks cooked to order (or not). Were it my family, we’d use the famous family recipe of fillet of petrale Sole. I really like trout. Seafood pizza is good too.

    Then, invite the local old folks home to come and celebrate your wedding. They’d probably love it. Maybe the Church custodian or drop by on food pantry day and invite everyone who comes. Charitable acts as a form of penance. Didn’t our lord say something about inviting guests to the wedding feast? (No gifts please!)

  31. bookworm says:

    “I would never marry on a Friday unless I or my beloved were in danger of death. The week has six other days, all of which are quite suitable for weddings.”

    That’s fine but I wouldn’t fault this couple too much for their choice of date. It is very possible, particularly at this time of year, that the church they wanted to be married in was already booked for Saturday, June 1, and every subsequent Saturday within the time frame they needed; and very few, if any, priests perform Sunday weddings due to their parish responsibilities on that day. Getting married in the middle of the workweek is possible, I suppose, but rather inconsiderate to guests who may not be able to get off work to attend. In addition, booking your reception on a day other than Saturday (which is overwhelmingly in demand) can save a considerable amount of money.

  32. pmullane says:

    Congratulations, Good Luck, and God Bless the happy couple!

    As a recently married person (although I was lucky enough to be able to book my wedding on a Saturday) I would say this:

    If your wedding will be populated by lots and lots of Catholics, I would say it is a good and wonderful witness to offer only meatless dishes, and to explain why (‘We as Catholics observe a fast from Meat products on a Friday, as a special penance in rememberace of the death of Our Lord’).

    If the guests are mainly non Catholics or non practicing Catholics, AND if it would cause ‘a problem’, then offer one meatless dish and a meat dish. Some people can be rude and unthoughful, and would take exception to you having a meatless meal because you are Catholic. And they would say so, and itmight ruin your day, or ruin the day for someone who you care about. Wedding days are stressful enough, you dont need to worry more than you have to. You might want to offer a nice witness by putting something like ‘As it is Friday, a day when we catholics traditionally refrain from eating meat as a sign of love and penance to Our Lord, a delicious meat free option is provided’. You can then pick the meatless option, everyone is happy, and you may prick the conciences of a few guests, in a gentle way.

    If your having one option only, have fish. Why not? People would likely appreciate it more than Chicken anyway.

    Most importantly, keep the day meatless (remember when you get the fish/veggies put down before you that Christ dies for your sins, Christ gave you the gift of your husband/wife, gave you your marrigae and your life together, and gave you this wonderful day with all the wonderful people that are with you). You will be annoyed with yourself if you dont, and it will be a blot on your day. But be prudent. You know your guests better than anyone here, if someone will be ‘a problem’ because of it then indulge them, just for today.

    Have a great time, prayers for you!

  33. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Volanges, it was common practice for hundreds of years up until the modern era that NOTHING celebratory happened on a Friday, that it was a day for abstinence, reticence, penance and reflection. Consume the bare minimum required to get through the day, no sex, no parties, a communal act throughout Christendom. No chariot races in the Christian Roman Empire were allowed to be held on Friday, for example. Now, it’s a total joke that it’s been reduced to the legalism of “meatless”, as evidenced by everyone here noting all the great non-meat dishes one can have without the slightest inconvenience or remembrance of Holy Friday.
    Try it out. See what happens to you when you really fast on a Friday. You’re whole being will look forward to Saturday and Sunday services with a very powerful joy.

  34. pmullane says:

    Father K:

    “This highlights the problem with those who want mandatory meatless days. By all means we must not have meat but hey, we can have lobster thermidor for the main course preceded by canapes of caviar. Not much penance there!”

    No. The Church asks that we abstain from Meat. No more. We fast sufficiently when we abstain from meat. On a Friday. If you want to eat thin gruel and dirty water, Glory to God. But the Church says that we should not eat meat. Its not a competition. Abstaining from meat on a Friday *is a wonderful way of remembering that this is the day where he died for our sins*. Not abstaining from meat and not eating anything in its place, or eating something else that we dont like, or any additional penence. There is no problem if we have Lobster and Caviar. because they are not meat.

    Thank you for your vocation and your service of God.

  35. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    pmullane, abstinence from meat is not fasting. It’s just abstinence from meat.

  36. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Cheesesteak Expert,

    in the theologian technical terminology, “fasting” has the meaning of “not eating but once (and two collations” (and I’m told that it used not to mean even the one meal, in so far as it exceeds the bare physical necessity, and certainly not the collations).

    Nevertheless in everyday’s language “fasting” has a different meaning which certainly and legitimately includes abstinence. We call it “fasting from chocolate” when we do that in Lent (which in my mother tongue is called “Fasting Time”, although what you understand as fasting is observed on two days only).

    As correct usage of technical terminology was not the point here, I think the dear @pmullane was perfectly right to say “fast”.

  37. Suburbanbanshee says:

    “Faest” included days of just plain abstinence, even in Old English. This is not new.

    And by the way, “Bread and water isn’t abstinence! Bread is delicious, and cold water is delicious, so obviously you are not _really_ abstaining!” Bah. Unless you’re an ascetic under spiritual direction, that way lies madness and scruples. And I don’t exaggerate. People do go crazy this way.

    Salmon, lobster, etc. have been both praised to the skies as gourmet delights, and disdained as crappy fish of no use. They’re seafood. See food and eat it, or don’t complain about others who do.

  38. Cheesesteak Expert says:

    Why all the resistance to fasting and its tradition? Changing the culture can only come about by changing ourselves, through the time-honored path of prayer and fasting. Yeah, it’s hard and inconvenient, and one keeps it all pretty private. But why be so stingy about it?

  39. robtbrown says:

    billy says:
    The problem with having all meatless dishes, is what about non Catholics? Let them enjoy your wedding. Go with the meat! :)

    Are you saying that non Catholics don’t like salmon, crab stuffed sole, sushi, shrimp, or meatless risotto?

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