Weddings with Food Allergies

Over the last eight years or so, I’ve attended countless weddings. What has truly surprised me during this time is the number of them where I have been able to eat successfully. Sometimes it’s depended on which friends were getting married, other times it has depended on how the event was organized. I have not starved at a single wedding though! Either way, I have been able to eat something. Of course I pack snacks just in case, but to pack an entire meal when I am often traveling is something I have thankfully not had to do.

My friends know about my food allergies and are thoughtful enough to usually ask how they can accommodate. When friends have not asked ahead, I have packed snacks then asked at the event. Usually, caterers have been helpful and willing to figure out something that will be safe for my allergies.

There are two main strategies I have used to assist this process and make it easier on the host and the caterer:

  1. I keep an electronic version of my chef card easily accessible to e-mail
  2. I carry my chef card with me at the wedding

The only part of the wedding where I consistently do not consider eating is during the cocktail hour when hors d’oeuvre are served. That would take planning that I don’t think is fair or necessary of anyone hosting a wedding. In desperate times, I could always pull out a snack from my bag. I’ve only done this once as a bridesmaid. We had a few glasses of champagne while we were getting ready and I couldn’t eat anything the caterers had sent to us, so I ate my packed snacks. I didn’t want the champagne going straight to my head. After all, I didn’t want to accidentally trip down the aisle or slur words during my reading at the ceremony!

Let’s also take a look at a few different scenarios I’ve encountered:

Scenario #1: If your wedding hosts asked ahead…

This is the best case scenario. If your wedding hosts asked you to send them your food allergy list ahead then you are pretty much guaranteed something to eat. Sometimes caterers will even ask if they can contact you ahead of time to check on ingredients. The cater in this case has more than likely already decided what safe dish you are having. This still means you will more than likely have to ask who the head caterer is and introduce yourself to them. Give them a quick reminder, “I am the one with the seafood allergy, etc.” and point out where you are sitting. If you have super type A friends (some of whom are also Virgos, like me), than more than likely the caterer knows exactly who you are and where you are seated. This took care of about half of my weddings. Thank you Type A friends for being so insanely organized that I did not have to do a thing! You guys are THE BEST!

I find that it is still important to ask questions and double check, but you are likely to be in good hands. It never hurts to politely assert yourself.

Scenario #2: On the wedding reply card it asked to write if you had any food allergies (and you did)

Your friends may not have told you but more than likely the caterer does know about your allergies. They will probably need a reminder and don’t know who you are or where you sit. There is even the possibility that they don’t have anything prepared for you yet, but they will likely still make you something safe.

Scenario #3: You are going to the wedding and no one has asked or informed anyone about your allergies

This can easily happen if you are going with a friend to a wedding or attending a friend’s wedding that you don’t often see out socially who may not be as familiar with your food allergies. Occasionally it can even happen with good friends who have a billion other things to worry and stress over on the wedding day and did not think about your food allergies. It’s okay. This doesn’t mean you can’t necessarily eat. During the hors d’oeuvre, try to discreetly find whoever is in charge of running the catering or the wedding coordinator as a last resort. Mention your severe allergies and that you are just wondering if there is anything plain and easy that they can make you to eat. Tell them where you are sitting, show them your chef card, and graciously tell them not to worry if it can’t happen but that you would greatly appreciate it if there is anything they can prepare for you safely.

It is important to remember that you are a guest. No one has to cater to your needs. It is not your big day. Don’t get me wrong- if they can prepare something safe for you, awesome! Just keep in mind that the day is about your friends, not about your food allergies.

What is the toughest part at weddings with food allergies?

#1: Drinking

The tricky part about weddings is that you are often standing around drinking (assuming you are old enough), then up dancing and then drinking again and either way drinks are more than likely a part of the wedding reception. Make sure that you have breakfast and lunch that day. DO NOT go to a wedding on an empty stomach. Even if you don’t drink, you don’t want to sit at a table with strangers listening to your stomach growl.

#2: Always a Topic of Conversation

It is important to make peace with the likelihood that your food allergies will at some point in the evening become a topic of discussion. Guests at your table who don’t know you and see that you are not eatingย  OR the caterer coming to find you at the table to bring you a special meal, are typically curiosities to most people.

Anyway, just know it will happen. It happens everywhere and weddings are no exception to this. Acceptance and making peace with it will really help when you hear yourself giving the same soliloquy for the thousandth time.

Moral of the story: Carry a chef card and pack snacks. Yes, to weddings. I have used my chef card at almost every single wedding I’ve attended. Also, snacks as usual are always better to have just in case.

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