Friday, March 21, 2014

(Non) Gluten-Free Wedding Weekend

I always dreamed of meeting someone at a wedding. It seemed like it would make such a great story. I much prefer mine and my husbands story because it's ours, but for two of our best friends, their story is that they met at our wedding. The best man and one of the bridesmaids from our wedding got married this last weekend after meeting for the first time the day before our wedding. This time, my husband was the best man, and I was a personal attendant for the bride.

Food is always a concern when attending weddings while on a gluten-free diet. Planning food for two people who are in an out of town wedding where there are no gluten free options at any of the wedding activities can be even harder.

We left early Friday morning with coffee and a box of Corn Chex as our breakfast. I love eating dry cereal in the car with my husband because I get to feed it to him so he can focus on driving. We snacked on chips and ate sandwiches during the remainder of the drive. It was quick, easy, and inexpensive, and the only extra prep it required was a cooler with freezer packs to keep the meat cold.

There was gluten-free pizza at the rehearsal dinner, but it was one of those places that offers gluten-free options because they think everyone who eats gluten-free does so by choice. I didn't dare chance getting sick for the rest of the weekend. My husband and I drank pop, and we were perfectly fine enjoying conversation with the wedding party. We were incredibly exhausted when we arrived at my uncle's house where we were staying the weekend. My uncle offered us all kinds of things including fried chicken, beef stew, and ice cream, but we politely declined. I grabbed an Enjoy Life Cocoa Loco bar just before we went to bed because I was a little hungry, and then we crashed.

Saturday morning, we got up early to get ourselves ready, packed a cooler with sandwiches for lunch, and then ate Chex in the car on the way to the hotel where everyone else was getting ready. We planned to eat lunch at the church, so we left the cooler in the car, and headed upstairs. My husband hung out with the guys while I helped out where needed with the girls and ran messages between the two groups. The bride asked that I go with the guys to the church to make sure everything ran on schedule for their pictures. When we arrived at the church, we discovered the cooler was not in the car, and after a moment of panic, we realized it had been forgotten at my uncles house, and there was nothing we could do. Someone suggested we run to a grocery store after the guys pictures, but I knew the bride didn't want anyone being anywhere they weren't supposed to be, so we both decided we could make it until after the ceremony on snack bars.

The guys had been given an assortment of sandwiches, beef jerky, bananas, and carrots. I normally eat a lot throughout the day, but somehow I made it on bananas and water. I suggested my husband eat a snack bar to make sure he had some sugar in his system so he wouldn't pass out while standing up through the ceremony, and he also ate a few bananas.

After the ceremony, I called Outback Steakhouse to see what we could do about having food ready for us so we could eat a real dinner. I felt horrible about doing this because I had mentioned it to the bride, and she insisted that we had to go immediately from the ceremony to the reception. I knew the bride and groom would be gone for at least half an hour getting pictures done after the family and wedding party photos, so we definitely had some time. Even if we had our sandwich stuff with us, I just couldn't see us making it through the weekend living on sandwiches only.

It took a little while on the phone, but the lady I spoke with at Outback assured me they could keep everything gluten-free and said they would have our salads ready to go at the table (mine would be in a to go container), and our food would also be ready to bring out. I made sure she knew it was ok if it was starting to get cold as we would be in a huge hurry, so waiting wasn't an option. It worked out perfectly. It was only about a mile out of the way, and just as she said, our salads were ready and waiting on the table when we arrived. A few minutes later, they brought our steaks out. We immediately asked for our check so we could leave as soon as we were done eating.

I have no idea how we did it, but from the moment we parked to the moment we got back in the car, only 15 minutes had passed. My husband should have won some kind of award because he had a huge porterhouse steak. I watched him do it, and I still have no idea how he finished it so quickly.

Just as I expected, we arrived at the reception before the bride and groom. A few other members of the wedding party were also missing, so we didn't feel bad about not "following the rules." There was going to be food that should be gluten-free at the reception, but it wasn't prepared carefully, and the caterer was very clear about that. I wasn't about to risk being sick for two weeks for a little bit of convenience.

The bride and groom had ordered 6 gluten-free cupcakes for the gluten-free guests, but I hadn't had time to confirm they didn't contain any other allergens, so I didn't get one, but I was perfectly fine with that. I was in charge of passing them out, so I simply gave mine to my husband. They were from a dedicated gluten-free bakery, and I've had them before, but that was before I completely cut soy out of my diet (I'm fairly certain they contained soy).

We enjoyed some great Riesling wine throughout the night, and after the bride and groom left really early, we headed out for drinks with other members of the wedding party at Applebees. There was no chance I was going to eat anything there after all the horror stories I've heard about cross contamination and simple disregard for understanding the gluten-free diet, but there was no reason we couldn't enjoy a small glass of wine and some great conversation.

The next day, we drove home. Chex was our breakfast once again. We had a late lunch at PF Chang which we picked up and ate in the car. It gets a little messy, but we had their gluten-free Mongolian Beef and gluten-free Shrimp Fried Rice. As the passenger, I would go back and forth between giving myself and my husband bites of food. It would have been nicer to eat in the restaurant, but we were more concerned about getting home at a decent time. That was accomplished with a 7pm arrival at home so we had plenty of time to unpack and unwind before going to bed.

That's what I would call success! Would I have enjoyed eating nice filling meals all weekend long? Sure. Did it ruin my weekend because we didn't get nice filling meals all weekend? Absolutely not. Would it have been nice if the couple had done more to cater to our needs? Not necessarily. I realize there is enough to do when planning a wedding, and I usually question the safety of the food unless I've done the arrangements myself anyway.

I think it's important to focus on things other than food too. I often get frustrated when I don't have anything to eat, but I refuse to make it my focus. When I have the opportunity to spend time with others, I'd much rather focus on that. Had we made food our focus, can you imagine how different my description would have been?

I'd love to hear your stories of attending weddings while on a gluten-free diet too!

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