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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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!