Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

For Religious Meetings

Kosher, halal, vegetarian, vegan, no alcohol, no coffee, no tea: Every religion seems to have its own doctrine about diet. Some follow loose guidelines under a general “your body is a temple” philosophy, and others have detailed dietary laws based on wide-ranging scriptures and centuries of study. Even within the same religion, there can be several different practices of dietary law.

All that makes planning food and beverage for religious meetings and events a challenge. The key to successfully navigating the ins and outs of meal planning for religious groups is to understand the faith, learn the culture and be flexible.



Many religious meeting planners tend to start with their budget, said Gina Mintzer, director of sales for the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau. That’s because religious meeting attendees are usually paying out of pocket rather than traveling on the company’s dime.

“It really begins with budget and looking for what we can reduce on budget,” she said. One possible way to save is by piggybacking off another in-house group and having the same meal.

Although many religious meetings are budget conscious, not all operate on tight budgets. Some Indian and Jewish weddings can be expensive, elaborate multiday affairs with hundreds if not thousands of guests. That takes the wedding from the typical Saturday-night event and raises it to the level of a conference or meeting, said Lauren Vernick, director of group sales for the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. For example, a recent Jewish wedding at the resort had the ceremony Thursday night, Shabbat dinner Friday night and hospitality on Saturday.


Prohibitions and Preferences

Some faiths practice strict dietary laws, and others simply have preferences within the culture. In Judaism, most people follow kosher diets, although to varying degrees. Islamic dietary law, known as halal, dictates which foods are acceptable. Veganism and vegetarianism is common within the Hindu religion, although some paths of Hinduism and Buddhism eat certain meats under certain conditions.

Some Christians are complete teetotalers; others, such as Catholics and Episcopalians, are fine with drinking alcohol. The Mormon “Word of Wisdom” doctrine expressly prohibits alcohol, tobacco and “hot drinks,” which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints interprets to mean coffee and tea, said Michale Smith, director of food and beverage for the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah.

Many religious groups don’t serve alcohol at their events. Sometimes they nix alcohol to save money, but many times, it’s to respect the overall culture. Although many groups don’t include alcohol in official dinners, drinking still goes on — usually in the hotel bar or privacy of the guest rooms, Mintzer said.

“[No alcohol] isn’t so much a religious restriction for some groups; it’s being respectful of everyone’s own principles, or it’s a budget item,” she said.

Islamic groups often request halal meals, meaning food that is “lawful” based on commandments within the Qur’an. Mintzer also once worked a Muslim event that requested the group be separated by gender.

“They have been strict about the men and women being separate, so having the two separate dining rooms and banquets is important,” she said.