Most weddings are likely to have at least one guest who has food allergies or intolerances considering 20% of people suffer from them.
Often this may mean that one person has a meal which avoids certain things which are allergens for them. However for some allergy sufferers that’s not enough, for some no one in the room can be eating certain foods, peanuts for example.
You may not suffer from allergies, but it is important that you ask if guests have any food intolerances or allergies when sending out the invites, with options for them to inform you what they are. Plan ahead for those guests and consider if as a result your whole menu has to change. Ask those guests if they are allergic if they consume it only – or are they allergic if anyone around them consumes it?
For example if you have a passion for peanut butter and want peanut butter sandwiches or cakes with peanut butter – if you have someone in the room who has an allergy to peanuts, you won’t be able to have that food at all. Then you might have to consider which is your priority – is it that guest or that food?
What if it is the bride or groom has the allergies?
When this is the case then the allergy planning starts at the beginning and the whole wedding will be built around it, regardless of what the needs of the guests are.
Venues and Menus:
You need to choose your venue carefully, informing them from the beginning what your allergies are and asking if they can cater for you. A venue saying something like ‘I’m sure we can make that work’ is not enough.
It might be useful to create a list of questions to ask the venue staff, to ascertain if they truly understand the issues involved e.g.
What are the processes for avoiding the risk of cross-contamination in the kitchen?
What communication processes are in place between the manager, chefs and service staff?
You are wanting them to talk about:
- Checking ingredients on deliveries to ensure they haven’t changed since the previous order.
- Ensure they don’t remove labels from products.
- They change gloves, wash hands and use separate utensils when switching between dishes.
- They will be happy to change standard garnishes, or use allergen-based oils in place of their normal ones, when cooking.
- Talk about how all of their staff will be aware of the dangers of serving someone the wrong food.
When thinking about food, it is much easier to go for a sit-down meal rather than a buffet option. Straightaway, this removes many problems, because you can control the food on your plate.
Or, if one or more of your guests has allergies, and you definitely want a buffet – ensure the venue can serve the food in a way that provides those guests with a separate space for their food to be served from. And all the dishes are labelled, so they know exactly what they are eating.
Ensure certain foods are completely off the menu and make sure the venue fully understands the importance of even a miniscule amount being included, even down to canapés. And make sure there is no cross contamination in the kitchen when the wedding food is prepared.
Also, don’t forget to consider the snacks for later in the evening, which usually are buffet style. Consider how to deal with this in the way you would for a buffet meal. If you are stuck for snacks you know where to come!
From a medical standpoint, if you are not getting married locally, know where the emergency department is.
Appoint someone sensible, and who isn’t likely to get overly drunk, so, if people have had a little too much to drink and the worse happen they know how to administer your Epi pen and phone for an ambulance.
Inform all guests if there is anyone in the room with food allergies which are related to anaphylaxis and make it clear how serious that can be.
Tell them that as a result they cannot bring any of their own food or snacks to the venue (apart for medical reasons) and if they need to this is vetted beforehand. Often when you invite guests and their children, they will bring snacks and food for those children to keep them happy if there’s a lot of waiting around.
Even better send relevant guests links to snacks which are safe such as Creative Nature!
Planning for overseas allergy free wedding
Planning a destination wedding can be difficult, because generally, they are packages, set up by hotels and you have to fit into their plan.
To have more control over your planning will probably cost more, but will be worth it, to maintain your safety if you have allergies. The issues of a wedding are made even greater when there are language barriers, different laws and different customs to consider.
It is vital to travel to the venue before the wedding to have the same conversations that you would with a venue in the UK. Or if you’ve visited previously on a holiday and that is why you are going back, that’s fine as you can picture the venue in your mind and ask very direct questions. If you have been before and they’ve coped with your own allergies then you will have an idea of how they can manage a different – and safe – experience for you.
The conversations about kitchens, ingredients and ensuring that any language barriers don’t add confusion, and more importantly, misunderstanding about the importance of having the correct food served on your wedding day.
If possible, set up a tasting once you have found a venue that can answer your questions in the way gives you confidence and shows understanding of what you are asking for.
Before visiting the venues, find translations for the foods you can’t eat, in the language of the country where the wedding is to take place.
Allergy UK has a set of translation cards to help you explain your allergies, available in a number of different languages.
As in the UK, know where the nearest emergency department is, and know how to call medical help if required – it won’t be 999. The Teal app can help with this.
Don’t forget your documentary proof for your Epi-Pens, and make sure you have a good stock that will remain up to date for the length of time you are away. This is easier said than done because of shortages however you must plan for this.
Does your travel insurance cover your allergies?
Many of the other issues will be exactly the same as organising a wedding in the UK however do check out the specific circumstances of this ‘holiday’ which is a wedding venue.
Also ensure that your guests have their own insurance and ensure that it’s their responsibility to protect themselves in this way – including if they have allergies or other medical conditions.