Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Wedding Problem

Its wedding season, so I thought I'd say a little something about the anxiety from the nut free vegetarian perspective...

Most invitations come with a bare-bones reply card. For example, the last one I received had a space for number attending and then the following two choices to be checked off for the reception meal: Chicken or Beef.

First of all, neither of those proteins work for me. I haven't eaten meat in so long that not only is it against my belief system, but it would make me horribly ill. But, even if I could eat one or both of those, how are they prepared? What comes with, on, or stuffed inside of the protein? Where is it prepared? What else is in that kitchen, and what is the likelihood of cross contamination? Beyond that, what other courses aren't you telling me about: nut studded salads, breads, desserts?

If I know the couple or the family well, its easier for me to have a conversation with them ahead of time and ask these questions. At least once, the bride actually thought of me before I asked and made sure everything was safe. But, many of the weddings to which I am invited are arranged by people I barely know, or perhaps don't know at all.

We all get invited to an occasional random wedding: a coworker, attending as a guest with a friend who knows the couple, a family friend that you only sort of know yourself, an extended family member you haven't communicated with all that much, etc. I'm a pastor's spouse. This happens all the time. Most of the weddings my husband officiates come with an invitation in both of our names.

I feel like I'm left with a handful of awkward choices:
  • Go anyway. If there's a vegetarian option, choose it and hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Eat a light meal ahead of time. Take an anxiety pill. Pack Benedryl, an EpiPen, and a fully charged cell phone. 
  • Try to talk with whomever is in charge of planning the meal. If I don't know the person well, this usually goes badly. People that don't understand life-threatening allergies think I'm being picky and rude.
  • Just don't go. Safest, but it has some major drawbacks. If the wedding is for a member of the church, I can be seen as antisocial, or worse as if I have something against that particular member or family. 
...So, I challenge every one of you: if and when you are planning an event with a reception like this, be open to questions. Chances are, someone attending will have a food allergy or other reason for concerns. Maybe describe the meals a little more. Maybe add a phone number or email to contact with questions, concerns, or special needs. Please don't be offended if someone is asking these questions, not eating at the reception, or avoiding the dessert table. Chances are pretty good they are just trying to avoid a life-threatening reaction.

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