Dear Mark: Primal Wedding Menu

A couple weeks ago, I received an interesting request from a reader:

Hi Mark – first, I know you’ve got a gob of emails beckoning you….I just hope that you can get back to me at some point 🙂 I love reading your blog, so much so that I’ve decided I would like to pursue a career as a nutrition consultant – in natural health of course. I’m so glad there is such an option! Perhaps some of my friends and family would pay a bit more attention if I study & earn a certificate instead of my continual praises of your site and how it’s changed my life. To you and your Bees, my gratitude!

Now, the reason I am messaging you:

I’m soon to be planning my wedding! Excitement in itself, of course. While trying to plan a menu chock full of primal food (and not have the guests even realize they are eating healthy ‘gasp!’), it’s a bit daunting. So far, I love the Chicken Poppers as an offering. I want to do mostly appetizers, less waste of food. Anyway, I have searched your posts to see if there were any suggestions for such an event, and I couldn’t find any. So if I have overlooked one, my apologizes! If you could point me in a direction of a blog that might have such a post, I would be delighted! Or if you have time to offer some other ideas, great! If not, then once I scour the ‘net for hours and days and weeks in search of such items, I’d be happy to share with you here so that other couples will have to do less work.

Any help you can give, I would be oh so happy! Thanks again, Mark!


I already responded to Jennifer (good luck with the wedding!), but I figured expanding my response into a full-fledged post on Primal wedding fare might help others with impending nuptials.

Before I discuss the food, let’s dig into other considerations. Every aspect of the wedding matters, not just whether you replace the mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower or turnips.

First of all, get the proper Primal dress code established. Shoes? Not allowed. And that goes for bride, groom, and guest alike. No one is exempt, not even grandpa with his Velcro orthopedics. Sorry. This will be new ground for most people, though, so be sure to give advanced warning of the shoe ban on the wedding invitations. A combination of comic sans, bolding, and underlining should get the point across. Vibrams are acceptable, of course.

Don’t walk down the aisle at a steady pace. Instead, make it fractal! Run, stop, sprint for a bit, slow to a crawl. Alternatively, you can make it a full-blown sprint to the altar. Whatever you do, do not jog at a steady pace with an elevated heart rate.

Also: no chairs, pews, benches, or other sitting contraptions. Some ceremonies last upwards of two hours, and that’s plenty of time for the negative metabolic effects and muscle lengthening caused by excessive sitting to manifest. Just have them all stand.

When you toss the bouquet, make sure to propel the flowers with a snap of your hips, as if you were performing a kettlebell swing. Most wedding planners will tell you differently, but the bouquet toss is not about your arms at all – it’s all in the hips

Of course, I’m being playful here, but upon rereading this I’d say these and other novel Primal wedding ideas (shaman, anyone?) would make for a riot of a ceremony. But enough with Primal daydreaming. Let’s move on to the food.

The classic wedding main courses are actually pretty Primal, tending to revolve around large chunks of animal flesh. You’ve got your prime rib, your salmon, your rack of lamb, your steak, or your roasted chicken, and I highly doubt any of my readers would object to any of those dishes. Sides generally include a garden salad or perhaps a soup, along with veggies and a starch. Bread is served, but that can easily be ditched altogether and I doubt they’d even notice. All in all, the standard wedding menu works pretty well so long as you stick to hunks of meat and vegetables, skip the bread, and moderate the starch.

If you’re going with outside catering (as most people do), you’ll just have to be vigilant about the preparation methods they use. Since you’re paying good money for their service – and it’s your day – insist that butter and olive oil, rather than “cooking oil,” be used to cook. Tell them wheat is to be avoided, and if they balk, pull the celiac card (it works every single time). The better catering companies will fulfill every request you make of them – they’ll do the cauliflower gratin, the pureed butternut squash, the olive oil mayo – but you will have to pay for it. If you go with the in-house fixed menu that comes with the venue you may be able to get some extra vegetables instead of those French fries along with your butter/olive oil request fulfilled, but don’t expect any massive substitutions.

But that’s not what Jennifer wanted. No, she wanted to wow her guests. She wants to “trick” them into eating “that fad diet” for a day – and she doesn’t want them to know it. Your standard plate of meat and vegetables isn’t going to convince anyone of the efficacy of eating Primal, but a reception filled with Primal appetizers will reach even the most jaded and skeptical taste buds.

New takes on classic finger foods are my personal favorite.

Primal Chicken Poppers – Don’t forget to make the ranch.

Coconut Shrimp with Chive Mayo

Peppers of all kinds

Sunflower Sesame Crackers

Cheese! For those that can tolerate dairy it has a place in the Primal eating plan. On top of that everyone loves it. But how can we get guests to eat a wedge of brie without a wheat-based cracker to go with it? Here are a few ideas.

Fruit, especially grapes, apples, pears, and figs, is excellent with cheese (and prosciutto).

You know how when you sauté a cheeseburger in your cast iron pan and the cheese oozes off the burger and onto the pan and gets all crispy? If you were to engineer that process, perfect it, and expand it on an industrial scale, you’d get Joyful Abode’s Baked Cheese Crisps.

Meatza, or some other pizza replacement.

Salads are perfect, actually. Make a big batch and serve in small bowls with forks, or make it truly finger-friendly by providing fresh lettuce or cabbage as edible middlemen.

Your choice of ten dressings.

Curried Chicken Salad

Bacon, Chicken, and Avocado Salad

Make a seaweed salad.

Summer makes for beautiful weddings and sweaty pits. Beat the heat as you bask in it with:

Halibut, Snapper and Shrimp Ceviche

Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho

Paleo Shrimp Cocktail (with sauce)

Short ribs are short in stature, but not in flavor or tenderness. These delectable morsels of cow flesh make excellent appetizers. Some of them have even got handles! I’ve really been digging in lately. Here are a few ideas:

Primal Braised

Korean-Style (go for the blackberry version, and serve with lettuce wraps, AKA beef-n-leaf)

Beef Candy

Appetizers, tapas, finger foods, small plates – whatever phrase you use to describe it, food variety is insanely popular. When people eat small plates, and lots of them, conversation is stimulated. People are mobile and more social, rather than locked into a seating arrangement and awkward silence. The food gives them something to talk about. “Did you try the…?” You’ll never hear that one when everyone has the same roasted chicken, carrots, and rice. Plus, as Jennifer points out, an appetizer-based wedding reception means less waste. For the most part, you’re just popping these dishes into your mouth, or taking at most two bites to finish the job. If you don’t like it? Tough, because it’s already in your stomach.

People like finger food. They like eating with their hands. Perhaps they crave that visceral connection with their food, or maybe they just want to get messy in a socially-acceptable manner. Either way, a room with a steadily replenishing supply of Primal finger food will be the perfect spot to launch a successful, lasting marriage between two Primal people.

I didn’t intend for this to be the definitive guide to wedding food or anything, so if you need more ideas, do some snooping. Both Joyful Abode and Girl Gone Primal produce some incredible recipes; visit both and get inspired. Free the Animal’s “Food Porn” section is a go-to source for full-fledged Primal meals, if you decide to go the more traditional route. There are dozens of other resources out there, of course, on the slim chance that the aforementioned don’t satisfy your needs.

If you don’t have it already, I also recommend both the Primal Blueprint Cookbook, which is chock full of great recipe ideas, and the newly minted PB Recipe index, which contains pretty much every recipe we’ve ever posted. Between all that, you should be covered and your reception should be a smashing success.

Hit me up with your Primal wedding menu ideas and links in the comment board. Thanks, everyone, and Grok on!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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