Weddings are Tough!
If you’ve ever planned any large party or event, then you’ll know just how tough it can be.
There are so many moving parts to organize, so many different people to please, and always some last minute glitches! So just imagine when you also have to add in Paleo/Gluten-Free/Dietary Restrictions into the mix!
From the start, Jeremy and I were worried about the food at our wedding, and we found a caterer months before we did anything else (I wrote about our wedding menu just before the wedding in this post)!
Our caterer (Joshua Charles) was fantastic, but all sorts of other food and drink issues come up nearer the time (should we serve a cake, what about desserts, what oils should the food be cooked in, was there enough variety for everyone, what party favors would our guests like, what alcohols should we serve, should we serve soda???). And this was outside of the technical issues we encountered with our RSVP website (we wanted to go high tech) or our uncertainty as to whether the taxi service would be able to drop people at the location or our last minute decision to install a dance floor into the courtyard (and yes, the police did stop by for a friendly chat with me about the noise!).
It would have been easy just to give up on my diet for one day, but this was the biggest opportunity I had for demonstrating to my closest family and friends just how fantastic Paleo food is and can make them feel! And it turned out to be not difficult at all because we paid attention to the five areas below.
- Location, Location, Location
- Finding the Right Caterer and Asking the Right Questions
- Desserts or Not?
- Informing Our Guests In Advance
- Making it Unique
Location is a big deal just because many event spaces have set caterers that they use with a very restrictive set menu (often you only get to choose between 3 menus with practically no customization).
This was the main problem that we faced early on, which is why we ended up holding our wedding at my parents’ house. Their garden turned out to be a perfect location (although the size limited us on how many guests we could invite). Other options we considered included restaurants, wineries, and gardens.
A lot of caterers will say they can do Paleo or gluten-free when they really have no clue what it means! We had one caterer who had no clue what Paleo was and who came up with the most bland and boring menu I could imagine! So, here are a few basic questions we asked before hiring:
1. Have you ever catered a paleo/gluten-free event before?
2. Have you ever catered an event as big as mine before?
3. What oils do you cook your foods in, and is it possible to cook everything with olive oil/coconut oil/clarified butter instead?
4. What equipment will you need at the event space to work with?
5. How do you heat the food up before serving it (do you cook it at the location or use a microwave to heat it up)?
6. Can you send me a sample paleo/gluten-free menu for my event?
7. Do you offer event planning as well (this is useful to ask if you need to rent tables, chairs, plates etc).
We gave our caterer a full list of foods we didn’t want to be included at our event so that the sample menu and the tasting they prepared for us would give us a much better idea of what the food would actually be like on the big day.
The food at our wedding was simply superb – everything was cooked in olive oil and cooked at the location (nothing was reheated in the microwave). Here’s our wedding menu along with some photos of the amazingly delicious food (we went with a buffet format so that there’d be more choice for everyone).
One of the toughest decisions we had to make was about desserts. In the end, we opted for no desserts (we did a food and wine pairing, a dark chocolate tasting, and tea sampling instead). Our decision centered on the question “what would make our friends and family have the most fun.”
While desserts are of course delicious, they offer most people a short momentary feeling of happiness before they get tired and sluggish from the sugar crash. We wanted everyone to stay til the end, dance a lot, mingle and talk a lot, and of course, drink a lot. For us, that meant everyone had to stay awake and not be tired for as long as possible (despite suffering from jetlag).
So, here are the things we did instead of dessert.
Food and Wine Pairing
We had great fun coming up with these food and wine pairings, and I have to say the German Riesling went amazingly well with German sausage and mustard! I also loved the fact that 2 of the pairings didn’t even involve cheese so dairy-free guests could enjoy them.
Dark Chocolate Tasting
We made the chocolate tasting into a fun game (although I think most people just ate the chocolate!).
Although I drink coffee, I have always loved tea growing up, so putting in a tea tasting gave the wedding a personal note.
If Desserts Mean A Lot To You
However, if desserts mean a lot to you and your guests, then there are many great Paleo/Gluten-free bakeries and store-bought dessert options to choose from, and many bakeries offer gluten-free wedding cakes now.
One thing I would advise against is making your own desserts for the wedding – there’s always plenty to do just before the wedding no matter how well you plan, so adding in the stress of cooking for a ton of guests is not going to help.
Most of our friends and family know that Jeremy and I don’t eat bread, pasta, cakes, etc. However, not everyone expected that we were going to have a zero gluten, seed oils, desserts, or soda at the wedding. That’s why we tried to inform as many people as possible beforehand.
We also made sure there were enough vegetarian options available so that no one would be left hungry!
And to excite our guests (and allay their fears about how good Paleo/Gluten-free food would be), I sent some of them a copy of the menu before the wedding).
We knew our wedding was going to be really different from the start because we wouldn’t be serving any bread, pasta, or cakes, but we didn’t want that to be the only thing our guests remembered about our wedding. So, we decided to make it unique in other ways too.
Fruit Bowls as Center Pieces
I’m not a huge flower person, and the wedding was mostly in my parents’ garden, which has lots of flowers, vegetables, fruit trees, and other plants. So, we opted to save money on flowers (and spend it on food instead!).
We headed to Ikea and bought some large wooden bowls and to Costco a few days before the wedding and bought a ton of fresh fruit. (We also bought a lamination machine and some BBQ skewers to make our own table numbers!)
And the fruit didn’t go to waste – they were cut up at the end of the evening, and we all ate them as a refreshing snack between dances.
Local Raw Honey Wedding Favors
Most of our guests had traveled from afar, and so we wanted to give them something local to take back with them. While the area around us is more famous for garlic and wine, neither of those made great gifts to take onto a plane. So, we opted for small jars of raw honey, beeswax candles, and beeswax hand moisturizers, all from a local apiary (bee farm).
And Great Photos Make All the Difference!
I love photography, and fantastic photos to memorialize the special day are always important. While I was willing to settle on some things not being perfect, the photographer was not one of them!
Luckily, Jeremy’s childhood friend, Jason Hales and his wife, Natalie Hales, are amazing wedding photographers. They fly all over to take wedding photos and love doing it. All the photos you see on this post without watermarks were taken by them (i.e., all the good ones). You can follow Jason’s photography on Instagram.
And these are my favorite photos: