Wedding guests will remember many aspects of the ceremony and reception. For guests who have food allergies or require specialized diets, dinner can be memorable for all of the wrong reasons. But it doesn't have to be.
Even though weddings are all about the happy couple's wants and needs, special attention should be placed on ensuring guests' comfort. Individuals with allergies and dietary restrictions warrant extra caution. Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but eight types in particular, often referred to as the "Big 8," are responsible for the greatest numbers of adverse reactions. Milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy comprise the Big 8. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Food Allergy Research and Resource Program says the Big 8 accounts for about 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States.
Couples need to recognize the likelihood that at least one person at the wedding will have a specialized food need. Most people with dietary restrictions will be very understanding that eating out is a challenge, especially at a wedding. But couples can take steps to ensure that guests with food allergies don't go hungry.
• Ask about allergies on the response card. Some couples request that guests choose their food preferences on their RSVPs. Include a spot where guests can mention serious food allergies.
• Choose a caterer very carefully. Caterers are increasingly adapting to common food restrictions. Express specific food avoidances or what you want to be included and find a caterer who specializes in this type of cooking.
• Offer allergen-free appetizers. Martha Stewart Weddings suggests serving customized bite-sized hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour to allow for easier customization. This gives guests with allergies the ability to pick and choose their pre-entrée bites.
• Label foods and let guests with severe allergies dine first. Buffets should be clearly labeled so those with allergies can avoid certain foods. Also, those with severe food allergies should have first shot at the buffet to limit cross-contamination from serving utensils.
• Create separate meals. A caterer may be able to make separate meals for certain guests, particularly if they have advanced notice.
• Don't forget desserts and drinks. Allergens can be included in drinks and desserts as well. Offer gluten-free desserts and gluten-free beer as well.
Dietary restrictions are another factor that couples must consider when planning their weddings.