HomeAttending weddings with food allergy

Attending weddings with food allergy

August 11, 2019

I’ve been SO blessed that so far, I have had the privilege of being invited and attending many weddings for both family and friends. Since this summer has almost involved more weddings than I can track, I thought I’d post a few ideas for those #weddingplanning and a few stories from my own experiences.

Ideas for wedding planning:

  • Ask guests, through the invitation, to provide any food restrictions and allergies when they RSVP.
  • Allow guests to contact the caterer/chef to talk about their food allergies by providing them with the caterer’s contact information.
  • If guests are bringing their own food, introduce them to the kitchen staff so they can discreetly heat it up.
  • If guests are seated at particular tables, discreetly mark allergic guests’ names so servers know exactly who to serve a special meal to.
  • Arrange to post the planned menu online beforehand, if possible, with full ingredient lists. Include appetizers, entrees, dessert, the cake, drinks, and any late-night snacks.
  • If there is a buffet, keep some food set aside for those with allergies, or find a way to send allergic guests first, to avoid the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Think about a non-edible wedding favour, or at least make sure any food-based wedding favours are not placed onto the clean dishes.
  • Provide unscented hand wipes for use after the meal to minimize food spills on fancy clothes and food on allergic guests.
Headshot of Janice
Janice H.

Weddings with a long list of allergens

When I started developing more allergens, eating out became a bit more complex. I’d carry a business card with my 13 allergens listed, and hand it in to anyone willing to attempt cooking for me. When I was invited to a wedding, I got in touch with the organizers and listed off all my allergens. By being open, I hoped to emphasize the situation and make sure the chefs understood that I wasn’t simply a guest who didn’t like a particular food.

This resulted in an experience where the venue staff did a FANTASTIC job. Not only did they manage my allergens perfectly, but they even thought to alert the bartenders… who thought up safe drinks that I could have!

Weddings with a really long list of allergens

So now that I have what I call truly unique allergens including black pepper and sulphites, eating anything can get complicated. Eating out at a restaurant is an adventure, but at a wedding it can be hit and miss. I’ve been both pleasantly surprised to find some caterers rise gloriously to the challenge of cooking for me, while at other weddings I found it hard to be comfortable with the food options.

So, here’s what I do these days:

1) Email. I always include links to my safe food list when I’m doing my RSVP, and I am very clear about a few things. Firstly, I let everyone know that I am more than willing to bring my own food, if they aren’t able to accommodate me. The wedding is about the bride and groom, not my allergens. Then, I’m very clear about the severity of my allergens, and what precautions I expect will be taken in a kitchen that will undoubtedly be shared with them. I share a kitchen at home with my allergens, so I know it’s possible to cook my meals safely with proper awareness and care.

2) Call. In my email, I always try to arrange for a chat with the chef well in advance of the wedding, just to make sure they really are allergy aware and to help them brainstorm substitutions for my meal. I also make sure they’re ready for me to be asking all kinds of questions about the little things on the actual wedding day. I expect that the servers will have a set of extra-clean dishes for me. I also expect that they will be able to confidently tell me that the food they are bringing me is the food specially prepared for me. I’m up front about it, because I’ve had chefs get upset when I ask confirmation questions before, and honestly those confirmations have saved me several reactions in the past, so I can’t afford not to ask them!

3) Prepare. Always, always, bring backup food. I let the caterers know that I’ll have food, too, just in case something goes wrong. I’ve actually started bringing extra snacks, too, so that I can share with my celiac family members who aren’t as used to calling ahead to check on the food! Even if I’m bringing the full meal, I also ask about the menu for appetizers, late-night snacks, dessert, cake, and drinks. I don’t always choose to eat everything I bring, but having a plan helps me avoid being disappointed when a delectable midnight snack appears on the dance floor.

When all is said and done, my goal when attending a wedding is simple: Be present for the bride and groom and try to avoid an allergic reaction. Weddings aren’t the night to try new exotic foods, or the place to eat something that “occasionally” makes you feel ill. Do what you must to make sure you’re safe, and that you’re able to dance the night away!

– Janice H.

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