Food Allergy Etiquette: Weddings


As most of the US knows, Chelsea Clinton (or is it now Chelsea Mezvinksy?) served gluten-free wedding cake and bread at her wedding.  She also served meat.  She is also a vegetarian.  This last bit created quite a buzz among veggies and vegans and was written up in the New York Times wondering whether it was “ok” to only serve vegetarian/vegan only food at weddings.  I don’t want to go into that debate, although it is a lively one, but I do think that it is indeed “ok” although many people will tell you otherwise.  If you want to read more about that, check out the NYT article and the post about it in Jezebel.

What I want to talk about is food allergies and weddings.  When you are planning a wedding, unless it’s a tiny reception in restaurant, the food is going to be mass produced and without many options (most likely, chicken or other type of meat).  You can have a buffet to open up the options, but even then, how can you really accommodate 100 different tastes and dietary restrictions?  Well, I’d like to think you can. 

Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I have yet to enjoy dessert at a wedding.  I have not eaten appetizers (mostly breaded or fried) and not filled up on bread.  I’m ok with this.  It isn’t my day and I won’t make a fuss about not having my cake and eating it too.  But, I am planning a wedding, and I want to make sure that folks with food allergies or dietary restrictions can be accommodated at least enough to make sure they don’t end up eating what they can’t.  I was inspired by Gluten-Free Girl (who else?), Shauna.  A while back, she posted “How to Throw a Gluten-Free Wedding.”  A more appropriate title would have said, “How to Throw a Food Allergy-Friendly Wedding.”  At Shauna’s wedding, she had guests bring the food and made food allergy cards saying, “This dish contains…” and listed a 10 or so different foods that one might not be able to eat.  When I read this, I smiled.  I knew from the start I wanted my allergic guests to not feel that pang of anxiety in their stomachs when food was served or they approached the buffet, and Shauna showed me it could be done.  Further research and some tricks from planning conferences at work brought me to this idea- that I would include a line in the RSVP for food allergies.  Guests would tell me what they can’t eat, I’d tell the chefs, and then include the allergy on their name cards for dinner.  If it’s a buffet, I’ll have the chefs create cards that list what allergens each dish contains.

That’s what I’m doing for my guests.  Now, what I’m doing for me.  I haven’t decided in my heart of hearts whether or not to serve any gluten.  I will have a gluten-free cake and other desserts.  That is very important to me since I usually don’t get to enjoy dessert.  For the sake of cross-contamination, serving gluten is probably not a good idea.  But will my guests grumble if the bread is gluten-free?  Or worse, if there is none at all? 

So, to continue the debate- what do you think?  Would you serve gluten (or whatever you can’t eat) at your own wedding?