When it comes to living as a vegetarian, few things are a stressful as large social situations. The reason is that the more people you have together and the more food needs to be served, the more likely you’ll have to either ask for a vegetarian alternative or else go hungry. It can be tricky but there are a few things you can do to make it at least a little easier on yourself. Here’s how to handle the subject of requesting vegetarian meals.

Let’s assume that a friend has just invited you to their wedding and asks you to RSVP with the name of your +1 and your choice of meals. You’re given three options, all of which have meat in them. There is a right way to handle this and a wrong way to handle this. The wrong way, and the least effective method, is to inform the bride-to-be all about how you’re opposed to meat for a number of very well-reasoned ideas and how she should change all the entrees to be animal friendly in every way. This is likely to either get you laughed at or uninvited entirely, but not because the bride necessarily hates you. Rather, planning a wedding is a huge amount of stress, and not only does she not want a lecture about the food (one of so very many things she’s already stressed about), she especially doesn’t want to worry about what you’ll be eating if it’s outside what she already has planned.

So instead of putting yourself in a position that seems somehow “above” the bride (yes she will absolutely take it this way), find a way to compromise and work within her limits to ensure you can both be happy. Ask if there is the caterers have a vegetarian option that isn’t openly mentioned on the invitations, and failing that, ask if a special meal can be made for you out of the same ingredients that the rest of the meals are made from, but meatless. A very simple compromise like this can make it very easy for both of you as it’s not usually that hard to give the caterers a note to prepare one meal slightly differently, and if nothing can be done for the meal, knowing that you’ll need to take care of yourself will be beneficial so that you can either bring something small to eat while everyone else has their catered meal, or making sure to eat a large meal before the wedding to get you through it.

If you’re at a restaurant and you encounter a problem of not being able to find any vegetarian-friendly items on the menu, ask a server if they know of any popular variations or if substitutions are allowed. Usually you’ll find that arrangements can be made as a restaurant always wants your business, and if they simply have nothing to suit you it may be time to look elsewhere from then on. Just be very careful not to sound entitled by this though. There’s a very stark difference between a restaurant wanting to get your business and a restaurant owing you something. They don’t, not until you’ve ordered or paid. You need to make requests, not demands. Yes the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but the broken wheel gets replaced and the annoying customer gets booted from the establishment. The customer is not always right, despite what you may believe.

The attitude in any situation is the most important part to be aware of. Whether you’re asking a waiter or a friend or a family member at a Sunday brunch to help you to find a vegetarian or vegan option, you have to be aware that your diet is the one that’s “the other” in most every case. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just that it is the divergence from the norm, meaning you’ll need special treatment to some extent. Much of the time it doesn’t take much to help you out, but there will still be times when it’s going to be a big deal and your attitude will play the biggest part in whether you get taken care of or you have to fend for yourself. The way you present yourself will end up ultimately deciding whether you get what you need or if you’re excused without a second thought.

How do you usually handle a tricky social situation like this? Do you have any advice you’d like to impart to others so that they can deal with requests as well? Leave a comment and let us know! Please, I’m asking nicely!