These days, there are more and more special dietary requests when RSVP cards come rolling in. They include everything from an allergy to shellfish, an aunt with diabetes, in-laws who are lactose-intolerant, gluten-free or dairy-free guests, and those who are vegan, vegetarian or keep Kosher.
Jill Herron, event sales manager for Vancouver-based The Butler Did It Catering, says, “There isn’t a single wedding in Canada today that isn’t going to include at least three vegetarian guests, three people that require gluten-free meals and a few that can’t have dairy.” You can, however, plan a basic menu and adjust it for those with dietary needs. Sometimes, removing the meat and serving special veggies will solve many issues.
In Ottawa, Kate Veinot , vice-president of Auntie Loo’s Treats, a 100% vegan bakery, says she has many requests for wedding cakes that are dairy-free, gluten-free or come with other special requests. “The demand continues to rise every year.” Statistics confirm today’s prevalence of food issues. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reports that one in every 13 Canadians today has a significant food allergy. And the Canadian Celiac Association estimates that one in 133 Canadians are affected by celiac disease. Here’s some advice we got from Jill Herron about juggling the varying needs of your guests.
- Have early and frequent communication with your caterer.
- Choose an experienced caterer with a good reputation.
- Include a section on your response card that allows your guests to specify dietary restrictions.
- Ask about the severity of the condition: someone who just doesn’t like tomatoes versus someone with a shellfish or a nut allergy.
- When all the information is in hand, discuss options with your caterer and settle on a plan.
- Know the available options. For severe allergies such as a shellfish or nut allergy, the caterer can sometimes create a menu with neither of those.
- Create special plates for guests with restrictions. And even if you’re having a buffet, you can still serve separate plated dinners for those guests.
- Label buffet items so these guests can help themselves to whatever is suitable.
- Ask your caterer to make menu cards identifying dishes that comply with specific restrictions. For example, if it’s gluten-free or vegetarian, label it ‘Tomato Bocconcini Salad, Gluten-Free.”
- Caterers must give their serving staff full details about guest allergies plus ingredient lists for all the food served so they’re well-prepared to answer guests’ questions.
Coping With Severe Allergies
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends:
- Clear communications and partnering between hosts, event planners, caterers (including all catering staff) and guests.
- Repeating allergy concerns at every stage of planning and in all communications.
- Guests should mention their allergies to staff when they arrive at the reception venue.
Special-order items can help. Kate Veinot says. “Order speciality items such as gluten-free baking from experienced vendors who have the experience to meet your needs.”
Originally published in Today’s Bride magazine, Fall/Winter 2015.