Celiac 101: Staying Gluten Free at Weddings

Since my celiac diagnosis, I’ve attended quite a few weddings. When I post about them on other social media platforms, I receive quite a few questions looking for tips and tricks, which is how this blog post came to be. So while this is not the only way to attend a wedding with celiac disease, it’s worked for me 100% of the time and without stress come the big day.

This weekend, I took on my biggest challenge yet, traveling to a wedding across the country. Flying from Boston to California wasn’t much of a problem as I was more than willing to trade in my snowy days for some 80 degree weather. However, bringing my food all the way there was another story.

Pismo Beach, California
Pismo Beach, California

For this wedding, more conditions were out of my control than normal. I was attending my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding and traveling with his family, so they picked our accommodation and I was following their itinerary. Despite all those things, his family is very understanding. As long as I was prepared and told them what I needed, it was easy to meet all my dietary needs throughout the trip.

Vineyard Wedding Near San Luis Obispo
Vineyard Wedding Near San Luis Obispo

Without further ado, here are my tips and tricks for seamlessly attending a wedding with celiac disease WITHOUT distracting from the celebration.

Tip #1: Bring your own food. 

Even if the wedding invitation says “Please let us know of any dietary requirements,” I prefer to bring my own meal. Most catering companies do not feel comfortable serving those who are concerned about cross contact. (Many will initially say they are willing to try because they want to do everything to please the bride and groom, but when you meet with them in person and realize the demands of avoiding cross contact, they are relieved that you have your own food.)

Lunchbox
I kept my food underneath the tablecloth so it was out of sight. It’s always a nice gesture to bring a pretty lunch box.

Tip #2: When traveling a distance and carrying your own food it’s best to stay somewhere with at least a refrigerator (and a kitchenette is even better). 

Even though I make my food at home, it’s nice to have a refrigerator to keep my food cold. For shorter trips I also use Koolatron coolers (which can also plug into your car) to keep my food cold. For this trip, we stayed at an AirBnB for the weekend.

Tip #3: If you’re going to bring your own food, ask how many courses there will be in advance. 

If you’re bringing your own food, you’ll want to blend in as much as possible. You never know who you’ll be seated with at a wedding, and unless I’m with my best friends, most people are self conscious about eating when you have an empty plate in front of you. Your courses don’t have to be the same, nor do they have to be fancy, but having something on your plate is appropriate. Fruit salad and cheese & crackers are two easy courses to pack.

Wedding Menu
The last wedding I attended had 4 courses and cake! There was a wine pairing for each course, and I paired them with the food I brought as well.

Tip #4: Keep the bride and groom up to date with your plans. 

Most caterers don’t mind you bringing your own food, but you want to make sure that you aren’t breaking any of the rules that the venue may have in place as well.

For this past wedding, I talked to the wedding organizer briefly when I arrived. They placed my cooler in the refrigerator to keep it cool during the ceremony. While we briefly discussed them plating each of my packed meals, we decided the risk of cross-contact with gluten was too high. Instead, they organized for a new empty plate to be brought out to my place setting with each course. My lunchbox was placed underneath my seat when it was time to eat, and I plated my meal for each course.  This worked perfectly, and was a nice touch as well.

For weddings in the past (where I wasn’t traveling with the bride’s family), I packed nice (formal looking) white disposable plates and replaced each course myself.

Tip #5: Pack food that you can efficiently place on your plate and store at appropriate temperatures. 

You want your meal to look as nice as possible, and you want to be able to plate it quickly as you never know when everyone else’s meal will be plated. (There is so much to do at a wedding beside eat. You don’t want to be distracted preparing your food.) Here are some examples of courses you may want to pack.

Course 1: Tomato Salad
Course 1: Tomato Salad

Individual dressing packages are my favorite when traveling. You only need to keep them at room temperature. It’s much simpler than carrying a full bottle of dressing, or carrying around a portion of dressing that has to be refrigerated.

Drawback: You often need to buy them in bulk, so make sure you pick a dressing you like!

Course 2: Cheese and GF Crackers, Fruit Salad
Course 2: Cheese and GF Crackers, Fruit Salad

This second course can easily be split into two. It’s also what I would typically serve as a first course (before the salad). However, for this wedding the wine pairings went better when I switched the order of my courses. It’s good to always be flexible when traveling with celiac disease.

Course 3: Ham, Carrots, and Wild Rice Salad
Course 3: Ham, Carrots, and Wild Rice Salad

Typically I bring beef tenderloin to weddings, but I wasn’t certain how well it would travel 7+ hours in an airplane, so for this trip I brought ham. Either way, I find a meat and side is typically enough to fill an entrée for a multi-course meal.

Link: Recipe for Wild Rice Salad

See's Candies
See’s Candies- One of my favorite celiac friendly companies

While See’s is a company that has not pursued gluten free labeling or certification, all candies made in their factories contain no gluten ingredients. This means that they don’t have any gluten ingredients in their facility, and it’s one of the reasons why I love their candies! (Note: Sometimes there are decorations that are made out of house, such as Easter decorations, so just be certain to check for those.)

The timing of a wedding so close to Valentine’s Day meant it was easy to find heart shaped chocolate truffles!

Course 4: Heart Truffles
Course 4: Heart Truffles

For desserts, I like to bring something compact. The truffles were perfect because I was traveling a distance, so they didn’t crumble. Additionally, since there were five, I could eat them while other individuals sampled multiple desserts. When I’m not traveling quite as far, I may pack cookies or brownies. (Krusteaz GF Brownie mix is currently my favorite.)

Pismo Beach, California
Time to Relax (Pismo Beach, California)

If you do all the prep work in advance, you can have fun and simply enjoy the wedding! I have to give a major shout out to my mom who helped prepare all my meals back in Boston. It was a lot for me to attend grad school, fight an upper respiratory infection, and fly across the country to make it in time for a Friday wedding. Many social situations would be more difficult if I didn’t have her unwavering support.

What do you do when you attend weddings?

Until next time, Happy Wanderlust Wednesday! 

26 thoughts on “Celiac 101: Staying Gluten Free at Weddings

  1. great ideas beyond just bringing your own food, but the best ways to do so! weddings are often events where the menu doesn’t always accommodate, so a backup plan is good!

  2. These times are fantastic! They are also 100% relevant to people with food allergies. I agree that bringing your own food is the best way to go. I also don’t like the bride and groom to have to worry about making sure I have something to eat when they have a whole bunch of other people to attend to. It’s their day and I don’t want anything to distract from that (like a reaction)

  3. Kaila, these tips are fabulous! You continue to blaze the trail for the rest of the celiacs in our family!
    Where do you find the dressing packets in Massachussetts?
    I love the shout out to your Mom!! She is pretty amazing!

  4. I’m seriously impressed by how thoroughly you planned this out! I agree, too, it’s awkward to eat when someone next to you has an empty plate.

  5. So many great ideas! I like being prepared so people aren’t asking why I’m not eating and so my host doesn’t feel badly about not having food for me. I have to look for those dressing packets!

    1. Thanks! They’re from Amazon. Yes, I always bring something to most gatherings. I made a rule awhile ago about not letting other people feed me. (There are a few exceptions of course, such as my aunt and uncle that also have a gluten free kitchen, and still save labels for me to read for my other allergens.) However, once I made this rule, people didn’t feel bad about not feeding me, and instead, just look to see what I bring.

  6. Gosh, I haven’t been to a wedding in a long time – but would have to follow same suggestions in terms of eating vegan. Great tips.

  7. These are really great tips! I find that gluten free travel is all about preparation. If you plan in advance, then odds are you’ll get to really enjoy the trip when you get there.

  8. I’m planning my wedding now and am being very considerate about making sure all dietary restrictions are taken care of. And I’ve been to many many wedding and have never had a problem with letting the couple know that I’ll take “whatever can be made gluten free” when RSVPing. The caterers are usually pretty good about it.

    1. I’m so glad you had that experience, and are making your wedding friendly for your guests! I’m sure your wedding will be phenomenal! I have been to weddings that tried to be considerate, but in the end I didn’t feel comfortable after talking to the caterers. Although, I’m certain it could be done right too. 🙂 It’s always the concerns of cross contact that get in the way for me. Weddings are a busy day with so many moving parts and celebration, so for me it’s easiest to take all the stress out of it and simply enjoy the day. 🙂

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