This year we were invited to three very different weddings. One involving a walk in the Lake District and a riotous Ceilidh in the evening, one involving camping and outdoor entertainment and one traditional wedding at a hotel venue.
What to eat at someone’s wedding when you have multiple allergies is always a worry. I have three very different takes on how to manage this situation which had varying degrees of success.
It depends on the type of venue, how well you know the bride and groom and how likely they might be to understand complicated allergen protocol and also the opportunity for sneaking in your own food without arousing suspicion or raised eyebrows from the venue or other guests.
The method of survival depends very much on how busy I am, how much time I have spent preparing, letting the bride and groom even know about my allergy requirements etc. When life gets in the way I’m very bad at planning and you should never assume that anyone remembers your dietary needs – they have a hell-of-a-lot to do planning their own wedding and are not necessarily going to be thinking about you and your allergies.
In a perfect world this would be easy but in reality it’s complicated. The very last thing you want to do is put stress on someone who is already under pressure planning the biggest day of their life.
So here are my three wedding day survival techniques for those of you with allergies.
The bad, the good and the brilliant freefrom wedding day survival strategies
- Sometimes I go comando. No planning and minimal freefrom food rations. Definitely the most risky.
- Then sometimes I go prepared and take my own food. Not always feasible or practical or polite!
- And sometimes the venue are able to cater really well and I get healthy, hassle free freefrom and tasty food.
There is a time and a place for each strategy and a state of mind to get you through but I do wish I had been more organised and planned better for them all.
- Do nothing. Turn up and hope for the best
The first wedding crept up on us and happened when there was a lot of other stuff going on, both work and personal, that kind of filled up the brain space usually left for ‘allergy planning’. I managed the bare minimum and did take my own milk, nut free and wheat free muesli, some snacks etc. The Station Hotel in Penrith was pretty basic but they were more than happy catering for me so for breakfast I was able to enjoy a lovely fry up and on the first night, which happened to be steak night, my meal was allergen free and very tasty. So I stuffed my face the night before, had a massive breakfast and winged it at the wedding.
It was pretty much left to chance. I did have some snacks with me but for this one I went with the ‘just get drunk, you’re not going to starve, have fun and enjoy the wedding’ strategy.
The lunch was sandwiches, scones and cakes. Not freefrom but I did actually have a pack of wheat free Nairns oat cakes and enjoyed the fresh brewed coffee… and the wine.
The plan worked OK, I have not been so drunk for many years but the wedding was a hoot. Needless to say this plate of food was pilfered for the others, who could eat everything. I couldn’t eat any of it though I did stare lovingly at it wishing that I could take just one bite.
In the evening I had oat cakes, humous, crisps and fruit smuggled in my bag and watched on with jealous eyes as everyone else had their fill of the sandwiches, cakes, pies etc. Oh and lots of champagne and too much white wine… This kind of snack food however did very little soak up the alcohol consumed…
That plate of food looks so appetising I could eat my arm off right now. What I should have done was pop over the supermarket over the road from the hotel and bought LOADS of food to take. Epic fail!
- Plan well but take packed lunch since catering could be suspect
No pictures of the food at this one, but the wedding in a field with a bar in a tent and a huge barbeque had the alarm bells ringing. My cousin and his Mrs did their best to find out what was suitable but we were both agreed, some of the food wouldn’t be OK for me. I decided to err on the side of caution and bring my own food which they were quite happy for me to do.
The main meal was a huge ploughmans with the works. I could eat the cooked ham and took a huge tub of rice salad that I had cooked earlier. I also took my own cake – Thank you Mrs Crimble’s for your lovely Apple cake.
There was a barbeque in the evening but I didn’t brave it. I had come prepared but not quite prepared enough. I was getting a bit hungry by then having scoffed the huge bowl of rice salad that was meant to do for both. Lesson 1 – always take too much food… in case you are a greedy wotsit and eat it all up in the first sitting.
There was also a fry up on the barbeque in the morning and I was unwise to try that… Despite checking the sausages were wheat free and OK for me, and watching that they freefrom sausages were kept separate from the rest of the normal sausages I suffered a bit afterwards but it was all over in 4-5 hours. The breakfast should have been OK so I suspect possible cross contamination with the same barbeque being used for the evening burgers and sausages and the morning fry up. This is the LAST time I eat from a BBQ. I have finally learnt my lesson.
But after lots of wine and not quite such an epic hangover this was almost a success with better food preparation. I just smelt that bacon and lost my senses.
- An allergen free meal provided from the hotel wedding venue
This wedding, taking place at Tewin Bury Tythe Barn in Hertfordshire was by the far the most traditional of the three. I know the bride really well and she was able to speak to the venue and go through the menu with them; they provided me with a starter, main and pudding that were all totally freefrom so I could enjoy the wedding without worrying about what to eat.
The starter was a pretty impressive green salad dressed in olive oil which had lots of different salad in it but no dairy, tomato or wheat as requested. Very delicious if a little oniony but I really enjoyed it.
The main course for me was chicken with roasted vegetables. The other guests had lamb so there was no chance to mix up my meal. This came with no gravy, as requested as that would have contained wheat and celery but the chicken was very moist with some crispy skin on it and the vegetables were really tasty and crunchy. Great roasties!
And for afters I had a lovely, juicy berry salad and only slight pudding envy for what the others had.
All this was served with no fuss whatsoever, the staff knew who I was, where I was sitting and at no time was anything amiss. No mistakes and my food was delicious. I’m just so grateful to all the staff at Tewin Bury Hall for making me feel, well, so normal really.
The evening buffet was be slightly more risky so I agreed to go prepared for this – the allergy girl always goes prepared. I brought a packed lunch of picky bits, some crisps, carrot sticks, pepper and humous and oat cakes. I didn’t even remember to eat much of this I was having so much fun so it ended up being a pre bedtime snack in the end but I was glad to have it with me. The lunch at weddings is always so late after all the photographs. I think it was almost 5pm before we were served the main meal so I wasn’t hungry for hours after that.
Big thanks to everyone and breakfast, though I forgot my milk and safe cereals was also very tasty. A HUGE bowl of fresh fruit, lots of hot, black coffee and plate of bacon and fried eggs. Yum Yum. Top marks to Tewin Bury Hall. A fantastic wedding venue and very welcoming. 9/10. They could have got a 10/10 if they’d sourced some gluten free bread, freefrom spread and maybe not cooked the breakfast mushrooms in butter. Why oh why do all hotels always do this? I ask, every time in the vain hope I might be able to enjoy my most favourite of breakfast accompaniments but it is always the same answer. Yes the mushrooms are cooked in butter. I am grateful to be told so I don’t get ill but this is my one bug-bear about cooked breakfasts. If mushrooms are cooked in oil EVERYONE can enjoy them!
What has your experience been attending weddings with allergies?
Have you found that venues have been able to cater for you? Have you forgotten to speak to the bride about food and found none of it was suitable? Or do you feel too embarrassed do speak to the bride for fear of being a pain in the allergic back side?
I would say, think carefully about the person whose wedding it is, the kind of venue and type of food on offer. If you’re at all worried take your own and take LOTS of it. I have learnt that not taking enough food left me a little hungry on a few occasions. Not a huge problem but couple this with drinking too much and not really being able to handle the booze these days and you’re in for a heady mix of hangover the next day.
And to the three couples whose weddings we attending this year, I love you all. All three weddings were so amazing, so different and so perfect. I survived all three with very few mishaps and only fell foul where I ignored my four golden rules.
- ALWAYS speak to the bride before hand – for wedding one I didn’t even do that…
- NO BARBEQUES – my golden rule, broken again and all because of a hangover and the smell of bacon
- TAKE LOTS OF FOOD – take too much, take as much as you can carry. If you don’t have enough you’ll go hungry (and possibly get a wee bit drunk too)
- Beware of buffets – too much chance for cross contamination
It’s all a big learning curve for a scatterbrained, unorganised, accident prone allergy queen. If you are getting married and are worried how to cater for someone with multiple allergies, don’t be afraid to tell them you’re concerned, be honest and make sure they bring along plenty of safe food. But if you do ask the venue you could be pleasantly surprised with how well they can cope. The new allergen regulations should be helping with this too.
And if you see me at the boot of my car stuffing freefrom food into my mouth or carrying around a freezer-bag of tubs with food-for-a-day , don’t be too surprised :o) It’s the new ultra organised me taking control.