Can you eat gluten-free at a wedding reception? This is a question I’ve had to deal with multiple times a year when I go to weddings.
There is a lot to deal with when you go to a wedding. You have to have your accommodation, your dress or suit, your gift, your transport… and then figure out if you can actually eat the food at the party.
In the past, I’ve gotten in touch with the couple having the wedding to ask about wedding food.
There are a few ways to make sure you’ll have a gluten-free meal at a wedding party:
- On your RSVP, make a small note that your dietary restriction is “gluten-free.”
- If the RSVP doesn’t have a way of making a note, it’s OK. Send a polite email to the bride or groom asking if the caterer may have a gluten-free option.
- If the bride or groom hasn’t gotten back to you by the time of the wedding, send a polite follow-up text or email.
- Try to think of someone else with a gluten-free diet who may be attending the wedding. You can band together at the party to speak with the caterer.
- If the bride or groom replies and says you’ll be able to have a gluten-free wedding meal, confirm with your server or caterer as soon as you can when you arrive at the wedding. Point out that you are the “gluten-free person” on the list, and note where you are sitting, in order to be clear.
- At the wedding party itself, ask a server if you can speak with the catering staff about gluten-free options. Or, ask about the ingredients in the dishes being served.
- When food arrives, double-check with the server that your food is gluten-free. If the server is not sure, politely say you’d like a confirmation before eating, due to your gluten allergy.
If you’ve taken the above steps in trying to find out if there is gluten-free food at the wedding, you’re doing a good job!
Gluten-free Cocktail Hour Food
For me, the best part of a wedding is the cocktail hour food. I’ve also been lucky to go to lots of weddings with awesome food. My favorite foods to eat for gluten-free cocktail hour foods have been:
- Meat carving station: I’ll eat carved turkey, roast beef or pastrami with mustard and cranberry sauce
- Sushi: I go for the nigiri, which is sliced raw sushi fish with white rice on the bottom. This avoids seaweed wrappers, because they’re sometimes made with soy sauce (not gluten-free).
- Make-your-own-taco station: Confirm that the tortillas are 100% corn and that the meat or vegetables are not fried with any sauces that are not GF. Then, go nuts with tortilla chips (corn only) and salsa.
- Crudite (cut vegetables) and fruit: Always gluten-free, in their pure forms. I like olives, cut peppers, cucumbers or zucchini, all fruits and nuts.
Reception main course option, meat: Gluten-free steak
If steak is on the menu or among the wedding food choices, I ask a server if mine could be made without sauce, marinade or any gluten-containing flavorings. Sometimes, the server won’t be sure. If that is the case, feel free to ask to speak with a chef or head caterer.
Steak is usually a good choice because if it’s prepared without marinades or sauces, it is cooked in its own juices and with some spices.
Reception main course option, meat: Roasted or grilled chicken
If chicken is on the menu, find your server or the caterer as soon as possible to ensure that you can eat chicken without heavy sauces, marinades or breading. Hopefully they can accommodate, if you find them during the cocktail hour.
I find that chicken is an easy gluten-free wedding meal to have because it can be prepared plainly with oil and spices. Watch out for items like chicken marsala, which will sometimes have gluten, wheat starches or flour in the sauce.
Reception main course option, fish: grilled, broiled or pan-fried fish
Fish is an easy gluten-free wedding food to eat; that is, unless the fish is fried in batter or breadcrumbs. If the fish served is fried fish, as your server what he or she knows about ‘how it was fried,’ whether it was with other gluten items or not. I tend to stay away from fried foods, as the oil in the fryers can be contaminated with gluten frying.
If the fish is broiled, pan-fried or grilled, this seems OK (again, unless there is a dusting of flour, breadcrumbs or a gluten-heavy marinade). Ask your server how the fish was made, or speak to your table’s server before seating.
Wedding reception main course gluten-free side dishes
If standard American fare like chicken, steak or fish are being served, usually each comes with sides of vegetables, mashed potatoes or fingerling potatoes.
Here’s what to watch out for: mashed potatoes can sometimes have gluten. It pays to ask!
Fingerling potatoes or roasted cut potatoes are usually gluten-free. You can ask to be sure.
Sides of vegetables are sometimes cooked with soy sauce or other marinades for flavor. Ask the server when the food arrives if the vegetables have been marinated or fried with gluten-containing sauces.
Vegetarian gluten-free wedding reception entrees and mains
The best vegetarian and gluten-free wedding food I had recently was a vegan risotto with shallot, leek, pepper and other vegetables. In this case, the bride was a close friend of mine and had made gluten-free meals available to vegan and gluten-free wedding guests with the same dish. That made it easy!
If you mention gluten-free as your dietary restriction and an uninformed server thinks you mean vegetarian, specify that you cannot eat flour, wheat or gluten products. Many vegetarian dishes served at weddings will contain flour or will be hard to pick apart. For example, stuffed peppers may have any range of ingredients in their stuffing (couscous, breadcrumbs, wheat starch, and others).
Gluten-free salads at wedding receptions
A salad should be gluten-free… right? Unfortunately, not all types of salads were created equally. Salads might have croutons (gluten) or might already be dressed with dressings that have gluten in them (namely Asian sesame types, or any dressing that has malt vinegar, for example).
My suggestion is to ask the server who’s serving your table, either before you sit down or as soon as possible, if your salad can be served GF. It’s ideal to ask early, before all salads are made at the same time and then served to wedding guests.
Beware of the following wedding foods that are not gluten-free:
- Meatballs: usually made with bread crumbs (gluten)
- Flour tortillas: if it’s
- Hot dogs in blankets: the outer dough is always wheat flour dough (gluten)
- “Asian food: This includes the gyoza (dumplings), fried rice, fried noodles, sweet and sour chicken, beef and broccoli or fried vegetables usually loaded with soy sauce and/or fried in fryers where oil had gluten
- Bread served at the tables
- Desserts: unless dessert is ice cream, sorbet or fruit, most pastries, cakes, doughnuts, cookies and other sweet delights will be not be gluten-free
- Soups: beware of consuming heavy and thick soups that are not ‘clear soups.’ Just like with dining at restaurants, thick soups usually have a flour thickener. Ask your server to be sure about gluten-free soup courses at weddings.
I’m sure you can do great with eating gluten-free at the next wedding you attend. A few final pointers to keep in mind are:
- Start doing your research early. This means talking to the bride or groom, or someone close to them who is involved in wedding planning.
- Come prepared with a snack in case there are not many gluten-free options or if you’re erring on the safe side when ingredients are unknown.
- If there are lots of gluten-free cocktail hour foods, eat plenty, in case the main course is less gluten-free-friendly.
- Speak with your table’s server as soon as you can. As an alternative, try to speak with catering staff during cocktail hour, before formal seating begins.
- Double-check with your server when the reception main course arrives.
- If all goes as planned, send an appreciative thank-you to the bride and groom for accommodating your gluten-free diet at their big celebration.