How to Handle Wedding Guest Dietary Restrictions
Photo courtesy of Two Pair Photography
Keeping your guests happy with great food while offering options that conform to multiple dietary restrictions can be tricky. The most common guest requests that we see are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and vegan or vegetarian. Many of our couples struggle to balance guest experience with cost and availability. Is it really reasonable to offer 6 different entrees in the hope of keeping everyone happy? For most couples, the answer is no. But there are many small tweaks that can be made to an existing meal to make it food allergy friendly.
Photo courtesy of Ryan O’Dowd Photography
Gluten is a protein compound present in many grains, particularly wheat, that is responsible for the elasticity of dough. If you’ve got dough or a crust, you probably have gluten. There are two secrets to giving lots of gluten-free options: keep it simple when it comes to sauces and preparations; and consider the extended world of non-grain flours.
Keeping It Simple: If your dishes stick largely to fruits, vegetables, and meats, you’re already taking a step in the right direction from almost all allergy-compliant meals! Look at items that are baked or grilled rather than fried. Use spices rather than sauces for flavor. Gluten tends to sneak in when sauces and marinades need to be thickened. Simple preparations like rubs in oil, eliminate any fear of gluten!
Non-Grain Flours: Ask your kitchen if they can substitute a flour without gluten to keep the menu unaltered. This is a win some-lose some solution in some ways, because the most popular non-grain flours are made with nuts (almond flour, etc.). So you may gain on the gluten-free side, but lose on the nut-free side.
Dairy-free dieters are becoming easier to compensate for within your catering options due to the upswing in prevalence of substitutes like coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and soy milk. Even non-dairy cheeses are getting better and better!
Be aware of butter. This is the sneaky thing for dairy-free options. Ask your kitchen about cooking with oil instead of butter where possible, and that will eliminate one of the big dairy-free roadblocks.
Nut-free can be a tough one, simply because nut allergies can be so severe. If you know one of your guests is allergic to the point of requiring a nut-free kitchen, you might consider asking them to either bring their own food or offer a delivery meal from a nearby restaurant that they’re comfortable consuming. While not ideal from a hospitality perspective, avoiding anaphylactic shock is always a good idea.
At a broader level, watch out for nut flavorings and extracts as well as actual nuts. Almond flavored wedding cake is a classic flavor, but a true almond extract will set off a nut allergy. Also, as aforementioned, confirm that none of your flour or dairy substitutes are nut-based.
Photo courtesy of Tony Valadez Photography
Vegetarian and Vegan Tweaks
Vegetarian diets are not too difficult to accommodate – just ensure you have an option without meat or fish. Vegan diets are the holy grail of meal accommodation. Creating an interesting, tasty vegan menu is absolutely possible, but it requires extreme attentiveness!
With a vegan menu, it definitely helps to use a flavorful taste profile to keep things interesting for non-vegan guests. Think Indian or Mediterranean when it comes to dishes and spices. Also, be vigilant on your animal products. There are many that slip through the cracks – for example, honey.
Hopefully this gives you some guidelines for menu planning creatively while being sensitive to your guest needs. What’s your favorite recipe that’s allergy-sensitive that would be great for a wedding? Here’s a client favorite from a recent wedding – vegan tofu butter paneer! Send yours our way, and we’ll add it to our post!
Are you having trouble accommodating your wedding guests and their dietary restrictions? We would be happy to help you find options that fit you and the right caterer for your event! Contact us!