What do I serve at a wedding rehearsal dinner on a Lenten Friday?


I will be getting married this year on St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Saturday. Because the great majority of our guests will be coming from at least three hours away and will be staying in a hotel, it is necessary to have our rehearsal dinner the night before, which is unfortunately a Lenten Friday. We considered doing it on that Thursday, but felt it would be unfair and inconsiderate to ask those guests who need to be at the rehearsal and are coming from so far away to take two days off work and pay an extra night at the hotel.

My concern is that, since my fiancee is Jewish and many non-Catholics will be attending this event, we will be offering a few meat dishes on the customized menu in addition to fish and vegetarian options. Is it wrong to do this?

I’ve already spoken with the priest who will be performing our ceremony, but wanted a second opinion just to be sure. He said that because we are unable to do this on another night, it is a special occasion, and there will be non-Catholics present it is okay to include meat on the menu. He also said, again because it is a special occasion, that even the Catholics present would probably be allowed to eat meat as long as they made up for it on another night. Is this advice correct? I will probably eat fish anyway, but I don’t want to be providing an occasion of sin for my family. Thank you for your time.


Your priest is partly correct and partly incorrect.

There is nothing wrong with offering a meat option for your non-Catholic and non-Christian guests because they are not bound to observe the Lenten abstinence from meat. Your Catholic guests, though, *are *bound to observe the abstinence.

The exceptions to that rule are when the Lenten Friday falls on a solemnity (the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19 being the solemnity that falls during Lent) or unless a dispensation is given for the Catholics to eat meat. Ordinarily, such dispensations are given by the bishop and during Lent is sometimes granted by a bishop for St. Patrick’s Day. Since your wedding will fall on St. Patrick’s Day, at this point neither exception applies to your circumstances.

If you feel it necessary to offer a meat option for your guests, you’re free to do so. I recommend though that you inform your Catholic guests of their obligation to observe the Lenten Friday abstinence. You can do this by placing a note on the invitation to the rehearsal dinner or you can informally “spread the word.” Or, if you are uncomfortable with either of those options, you could limit the choices to fish and vegetarian on the grounds that fish is a meat that all of your guests will be able to eat that day.

Recommended reading:

Why meat but not fish?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.