In 2023 I’m celebrating my 7-year wedding anniversary! I wanted to make sure I had a post detailing how I had a safe wedding even with a life-threatening, cross-contact, and airborne peanut allergy. Please feel free to reach out via my contact form if you have any questions about throwing or attending food allergy weddings or events.
In this article, I discuss:
- The ins and outs of having a wedding with a life-threatening food allergy
- Determining & setting your accommodation needs
- Non-food vendors, what I took into consideration in terms of wedding venue rentals
- Food catering, drinks, & desserts
- Celebrating your wedding day the way that works best for you
- Rehearsal dinners
- Attending events as a guest with a food allergy
- Ideas & tips for your own inclusive food allergy-friendly wedding
Wedding Accommodations I Required As The Bride & Groom
First off, I want to discuss the ins and outs of having a wedding with a life-threatening food allergy, because the concept initially was so overwhelming to me, that I initially really wanted to just elope instead or do a city hall wedding. However, my husband and I decided no matter what that we wanted some type of reception, which then morphed into a full-on wedding once I realized that it would still require caterers and dealing with vendors.
Once I came around to the idea of a wedding, I did embrace it and knew there would be a way for me to feel comfortable at my wedding, but I had to define those boundaries I had in place due to my cross-contact and airborne peanut allergy. Here were the food allergy accommodations I decided upon to make sure I felt safe at my own wedding:
- I wanted to be able to control who catered/provided food
- I wanted to be able to control who would be bartending
- I wanted to have both an outdoor and indoor space
- I wanted access to the space early in the day so I could wipe surfaces down myself, scope it out in terms of contaminants, and I set it up with tablecloths I purchased new and certain items like providing disposable cups near their water fountain and wiping down handles and the area I’d be getting ready in
- I brought my own snacks and food for getting ready so that I had full control over what I was using to eat and eating in all aspects
- I discussed with the florist beforehand about not handling peanut ingredients before putting my floral order together (my sister-in-law was the one who arranged the flowers I ordered because I worked at a florist at the time and she’s talented with floral arrangements!)
Non-food Vendors & What I Took Into Consideration In Terms Of Wedding Venue Rentals
When it came to finding a venue, I had certain top priorities, and the biggest one was finding a place in our budget that didn’t require that we use specific food caterers and table rentals/chair rental companies. We lucked out and a place that my now husband, Paul, grew up going to in his childhood neighborhood is a stunning property in Louisville, KY where we live, and didn’t require any specifics around food catering, rental companies, and they provided us access to the space early in the day and all the tables and chairs included in the rental fee. This allowed me all the freedom I needed to be able to book a space, and then determine what I’d feel comfortable doing for food. The venue is partially a museum, and then partially a rental space where it is used for auctions, weddings, conferences, and a variety of different events. Meaning, there’s a good chance there are peanut ingredients in it sometimes! However, I felt okay with this and had to remind myself that I do go to other people’s homes where peanuts may be in use sometimes, public spaces like bars and park benches, and all those types of places where I also don’t have control over cross-contact.
Everything fell into place perfectly, because my mom’s co-worker was a private chef and specialized in special diets. I was able to meet one-on-one with her about my peanut allergy and how I really do not trust eating in spaces like people’s homes where peanut ingredients are used, or any kitchen space with peanut ingredients in use. She listened and asked me for all the brand names of ingredients I trusted, and she only purchased those, and we decided on doing a taco bar for the wedding so that it was easy ingredients to control, using tortilla brands I am used to eating, salsa I use regularly, the brands of sour cream I trust, and so on. If you can find one, I really liked collaborating with a professional caterer like this, even though she wasn’t dedicated to allergy-friendly cooking, there are caters that do specialize in allergy-friendly cuisine. We deep-cleaned the space she was prepping at the venue, and it was mostly a matter of making sure the dishes and drink carafes she was using weren’t cross-contaminated.
Taco Station Variety & Allergy Cards
Setting up a serve-yourself food station where guests could create their own dishes according to their dietary needs was important to me. For example, at our taco station, we had corn and flour tortillas, with various protein options, along with a variety of toppings, including gluten-free and dairy-free options. Each food table at our wedding had an “allergy card” with details of what each item was.
Paul and I, plus some friends and family, wiped down surfaces like tables, chairs, and door knobs, the morning of the wedding. We didn’t have a rule to not see each other the day of, we just wanted to do a wedding outfit reveal, so once I was in my dress he didn’t see me. We set up the tables, tablecloths, floral arrangements on tables, decor, and chairs, and made sure the space looked clean and not contaminated by anything peanut-related. I was able to set up everything in the space exactly how I wanted it so that I’d feel safe during our wedding and reception without having to think about my allergy, beyond making sure I knew where my epi-pens were and that others did, too. I loved this part of the morning, it was so exciting setting it all up!
For my hair and makeup, my mom went to cosmetology school and is amazing with makeup, so she did mine with all products I was comfortable with using and already owned for the most part besides a few new products like lipstick and eyeliner. My normal hair stylist, I went to for my updo, because I trusted her salon and products, and she knows me and my food allergy severity. In addition to my peanut allergy, I have chemical allergies, so I have to watch for ingredients like lanolin and linalool, and beeswax in non-food products, which are often in beauty supplies like makeup and shampoos, and conditioners.
For drinks, we hired a friend who was a bartender on the side and her company came with the licenses we needed for them to be able to utilize the space. We purchased a bunch of cartons of wine from Trader Joe’s that I’d had before, and Paul picked up a bunch of variety packs and assortments of canned and bottles of beer that we kept in coolers behind the “bar” area. We also had canned soda waters in a cooler. We were supposed to have tea in large carafes, but due to a little faux pas, it didn’t happen, but that’s OK! I also was super excited to have an order of 80 mint mojito popsicles from a company I loved called King of Pops, and I unexpectedly got the news a few weeks before our wedding day that they were running a peanut butter popsicle flavor for the first time, and so I had to cancel my order, which made me sad! It was kind of goofy how a few things did go wrong, and in hindsight, there were things we learned that we could’ve done better, but it was an amazing day and I can laugh about the funny small stuff and cherish the most magical day that it was! It was a smiley whirlwind for me.
- The venue rental space (which included tables and chairs)
- A rental dance floor
- Sounds system rental – Our friend helped us with sound and music, so we rented speakers and anything else he needed and he did the DJing
Florals were handled by my amazing sister-in-law and aunt-in-law, I ordered the flowers and vases, and they did the arrangements
My cousin and mom did all of our wedding photography, plus we had disposable cameras out at each table during the reception
- Hair & makeup
My hair was done by my hairdresser & my mom did my make-up! I let my bridesmaids choose their dresses and do their makeup and hair in ways that made them feel comfortable.
- Wedding night hotel suite
My aunt Gail and cousins booked us our wedding night as our wedding gift, and it was an adorable local bed and breakfast spot that had really nice suites, and no peanut ingredients in use. We were able to stay the night there and unwind and celebrate before going back home the next day.
Food Allergy Friendly Catering: Meals, Drinks, Desserts, & An Allergy-Friendly Wedding Cake
- My mother-in-law did most of our desserts, she made us 3 varieties of our favorite cookies: Paul’s favorite was a cayenne chocolate cookie, mine was a lavender vanilla, and we both loved her special Earl Gray tea cookie with a lemon glaze! She used to do catering and did not use any peanuts in her home for at least a year before our wedding, so I trusted eating at her place, and we always looked over ingredients together before I ate anything she made. Plus, one of my bridesmaids ordered me a small allergy-friendly top-9 free cake from our local bakery Annie Mays Sweet Cafe to have in addition to the cookies, so that we would be able to do the ceremonial cutting of the cake safely!
- In addition to our taco bar which provided options, our desserts did, too! I wanted to make sure everyone was able to pick and choose what they’d feel most comfortable with depending on their dietary needs. Before my wedding, I did of course confirm with guests any dietary restrictions or additional accommodations, too.
- Private chef catering (discussed & pictured above)
- Private bartenders that came with the necessary alcohol license/permits (discussed above)
Celebrating Your Wedding Day The Way That Works Best For You
My biggest piece of advice is to listen to your internal voice and to do exactly what you want, and what works for your food allergy/food allergies. Your wedding celebration is all about YOU, and if you have a food allergy or food dietary restrictions, those are included and aren’t a burden to have accommodated to your standards. No matter what someone’s situation is, there’s a way to make a wedding work for their needs, and I truly believe that. It may not look like a wedding you’ve seen before, and that’s awesome- be a trendsetter and be original! It’s personalized. When it comes to living with a food allergy that requires accommodations, I often realize I’m the one being accommodating to others who aren’t making accommodations for me. Most of the time, I’m accommodating the lack of accommodations, so I wanted my wedding day to flow and feel I had some level of control over cross-contact potential in terms of peanuts since it is a public building and rental space all of 364 days of the year with possible peanut ingredients around. Ultimately, I did feel comfortable, had no reactions, and it went well!
As you can tell, we had a bit of a non-traditional, DIY wedding, but this wasn’t due to my peanut allergy. We had a specific budget we wanted to stick to because neither of us felt inclined to spend a large amount on one day, and so that dictated things and we made it how we wanted it to be. Instead of wedding gifts, we set up a honeyfund registry that paid for our honeymoon, which I highly recommend!
We had our rehearsal dinner at a local Italian restaurant, Volare, that we’ve dined at and eaten at for years. When it came time for me to pick a venue, I was already regularly in contact with the kitchen over email around allergens and knew they weren’t using peanut ingredients and were knowledgeable about allergies and understanding food allergy label reading, so I felt like they were the ideal space for our wedding rehearsal dinner. The restaurant isn’t 100% peanut-free and is not allergy certified, so there’s always still risk involved, but I felt comfortable with the circumstances since no peanut ingredients were actively being used. I sadly can’t go here right now, because they now do sometimes use peanuts in desserts when they do catering. So, I’d have to look elsewhere if we were wedding planning right now instead of 7 years ago (we got married in May of 2016!).
Attending Events & Other People’s Weddings As A Guest With A Food Allergy
I have one related article on my blog for attending events such as fairs, picnics, and festivals that may be of interest. When it comes to attending events, someone else’s wedding or not, you have to put yourself and your safety first. I’ve skipped events due to peanuts being present, and that’s just the way it is. If I’m good friends with someone, I’ve never had an issue getting the event to be peanut-free. Even one of my close friends was married and her partner-to-be had a mother that was wanting peanut butter cookies at the wedding. They took it very seriously and had to have tough conversations explaining why they couldn’t happen, but it didn’t fully resonate with the family member. They made clear the consequences, aka, anaphylaxis even for me just being around and having to manage cross-contact, and they made me feel important and like they wanted me to feel relaxed. I remember even at her wedding, my friend was monitoring the dessert table to make sure her mother-in-law wouldn’t sneak some out and she was keeping me updated. It’s situations like these where I feel so valued and loved because they were doing their best to keep me safe and that’s all I can ask. There are always risky scenarios, and cross-contact in so many places, without even eating involved. Like I’ve said before on here about cross-contact, I can have a deadly allergic reaction just from touching a surface and touching my lip, so I have to live my life in ways that limit reactions but also where I’m living happily and freely, and I truly am! I am always happy to discuss attending events and what I would do in a situation, so don’t hesitate to check out my food allergy resources and contact page.
Food Allergy-Friendly Wedding Ideas & Tips
When planning my wedding, I was pulled in so many interesting directions, it’s amazing how you have to pick an idea and stick with it when there are so many options you’d likely be happy with!
6 Food Allergy-Wedding Ideas & Tips
- Destination wedding
- If there’s a resort that has food you’re comfortable with, or a vacation spot you’ve really loved that was able to accommodate, a destination wedding is always an option.
- We considered going to a few venues that were at most 2.5 hours away, but I was unsure about the eating situation in both cities, so we ended up sticking near our home where we were familiar with local restaurants and so on.
- Allergy-free station
- We didn’t do this, but depending on the number of allergies you’re accommodating for, this is an option! Basically, you designate a separate area or table that offers food options completely free of certain common allergens like gluten, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish. This station can include savory and sweet dishes like salads, fresh fruits, vegetable crudités, and allergy-friendly desserts.
- Allergy-free beverage station
- We also didn’t need to do this because there weren’t any dietary restrictions besides peanut and tree nuts at my wedding, but I’ve heard of people offering special allergy-friendly cocktails that are free from common allergens like gluten, dairy, or tree nuts like almonds. If you’re doing many beverages, consider using alternative milks (such as coconut or oat milk) in place of dairy and using gluten-free spirits. Provide a selection of these signature cocktails at the bar for guests to enjoy. You can also have cooler with a variety of options, depending on the guests needs, like how we did with beer and soda waters at our wedding.
- Open communication
- Communication around allergies with caterers and chefs is crucial. Don’t shy away from having open and detailed discussions with your caterers and chefs about your allergy-friendly requirements. Ensuring they are knowledgeable about cross-contact risks and can prepare and handle food safely for yourself and for any guests with allergies. Collaborate closely with them to create a menu that meets everyone’s needs, and make it fun and personalized!
- Menu cards
- Allergen-friendly menu cards are a great way to ensure and list clearly the ingredients and potential allergens in each dish being served. This will allow guests to make informed choices about what they can safely consume and ask questions about anything they’re unsure about.
- When in doubt, bring your own food
- Typically if I’m a guest at someone’s wedding or event, I would hate to have to leave suddenly due to a reaction, not to mention, the reaction could be life-threatening and really scary. I always bring my own water bottle and snacks, and will either bring them with me or just leave them in the car or someplace nearby that’s safe, and can just eat those myself and continue enjoying myself without having to worry about cross-contact and if their vendor is going to take my allergy seriously. Since I avoid shared kitchen spaces with my allergen, most vendors I talked to do use peanuts in some form, so this is a great option for me to just pack my own food. If I want to, I’ll ask what food they’re serving, and bring my own version of it to eat so I don’t feel like the odd-ball out.
By implementing these additional tips, you can create a welcoming and inclusive environment for guests with food allergies, allowing them to enjoy your wedding day to the fullest, and/or enjoying their wedding to the fullest!
Invisibly Allergic Blog
If you don’t know my story and background or are new to my blog, here are related posts, free & paid consulting, & my About Me page:
- About Me: Invisibly Allergic Blog
- Food Allergies & Holidays
- What’s A Food Allergy? Food Allergy 101 [PDF Presentation]
- The Food Allergy Spectrum Explained & Food Allergy Bullying
- Remote Accommodations Post-COVID
- My Life With Food Allergies
- My Anaphylaxis Reaction
- Free & Paid Consulting Through Invisibly Allergic
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Love this!! So much great advice coming from first hand experiences!! I love you Two!! Happy Anniversary💘Mom