The Quick Start Guide to Having a Gluten Free Wedding

There’s no reason why food allergies should cut back on your fun, especially on your big day.

Planning a wedding can be stressful and there is no need to add more stress to the planning process if you or your guests are celiac or gluten free. The following are tips for having a delicious gluten free wedding that everyone can enjoy and that will leave your loved ones with incredible memories for years to come.

The Planning Process

Many facilities book out months if not years in advance, so you need to plan ahead. To make things more complicated, not all facilities and caterers are truly capable of organizing a gluten free event. Here are a few quick questions to ask your wedding caterer to make sure you don’t get bamboozled.

  • Have you ever catered a gluten free wedding before?
  • Explain how your facilities are able to prepare and serve gluten free food, such as dealing with cross contamination.
  • Can you send me a sample gluten free wedding menu for my event?
  • Is the food cooked on site or heated up in a microwave onsite?

Understanding the Difference Between Celiac and Gluten Free

If you are not Celiac or gluten free yourself, it’s important to understand that someone who is a true Celiac may suffer more than just discomfort or several trips to the bathroom during the wedding if the food is not handled just right.

A person with Celiac disease actually has a physical reaction that can damage the stomach lining and which can cause bleeding or worse. Even the cross contamination of a few tiny crumbs can be enough to cause a Celiac individual to react. However, individuals who have non-Celiac gluten sensitivities will generally not have as severe a reaction.

It may be tempting to jump on the first facility or caterer that claims to handle this type of situation but with people’s physical well-being at stake, you have to be absolutely sure they have it down to a science.

If you and/or your guests are not Celiac and you simply prefer to have gluten free foods, you may be able to be a bit more flexible in your choice of caterer. If you are Celiac or have guests who are, it’s critical that you work with a wedding caterer who has significant experience in catering gluten free weddings.

Understanding Other Potential Food Allergies & Diet Choices

Celiac is an auto immune disorder and many people that are sensitive or allergic to gluten may also have trouble digesting other foods such as:

  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Excessive Sugar
  • Alcohol

Still others may react negatively to:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • Soybeans
  • Corn

So if you want to make sure everyone who attends your wedding will be able to enjoy the meal, survey your potential guests to understand the various allergies you will be working with.

Vegetarian Options

According to Vegetarian Times, 7.3 million people choose to follow a vegetarian diet. If you’re a vegetarian and have vegetarian friends or family, this is a more important issue. However, understand that it’s highly likely that you will have one or more vegetarians in crowd. Having at least one vegetarian appetizer and or a healthy amount of vegetarian sides can ensure they have something to enjoy during your reception.

Vegan Options

Also be sure to ask if anyone is vegan, which ads a more complex layer. Anyone who is a vegetarian can usually eat something that is vegan, vegans are not always able to eat vegetarian food.

Here are some things vegans typically don’t eat:

  • Butter or cream
  • Eggs
  • Cheese from cows or goats
  • Milk from cows or goats
  • Meat, poultry, lamb, or beef (similar to vegetarians)
  • Fish, shellfish, shrimp, or lobster (similar to vegetarians)
  • Gelatin
  • Honey
  • Chocolate with milk, whey, or casein, which are milk derived
  • Sugar if processed with animal bone char

If you want a safe option for both vegetarian guests and vegan guests, go vegan instead. Ask your caterer for vegan options that can be incorporated into your menu. If you and your spouse are vegan, it’s perfectly acceptable to have an all-vegan wedding!

Selecting a Meal Type That Works for You and Your Guests

There are several different meal types that can be used for a wedding reception, including:

  • A sit down dinner. This type of meal usually involves a few courses, including an appetizer, a main course, and more. The dishes tend to be a little fancier with a sit down dinner as well.
  • A casual dinner. This could be a BBQ, a clambake, or some other casual dining.
  • Food stations. Food stations are a classier type of buffet, but are a little more upscale. Guests still serve themselves, but the fare is going to be much smaller versions of foods you might see at a sit down dinner.
  • Hors d’oeuvres or tapas. This meal type is perfect for a mid-afternoon wedding, where you want your guests to have something to nosh on, but you don’t want to serve a full meal.

There are pros and cons to each meal type, and it comes down to budget most of the time. Sit down dinners can be quite expensive, however, they convey the ultimate in elegance. Hors d‘oeuvres may be easier on the budget, but could leave guests feeling unsatisfied if not done properly. The good news, however, is that each of these meal types can be made gluten free. 

Working Out Your Budget

Gluten free doesn’t have to be expensive, but it’s critical to know how much you can spend before selecting food options.

  • Know how much per guest you can afford to spend. This is information that most caterers will need to know up front before they can provide you with selections.
  • Know what you absolutely want to serve and what you can compromise on. You don’t have to leave out the crab cakes that remind you of your first date, but in order to stay within your budget, it’s a good idea to have food choices that are flexible in order to give your caterer room to come up with cool, budget friendly options.
  • Be open to suggestions. Give your caterer your ideas, but be open to what they have to say. They’ve done this before and have a lot of valuable knowledge. By being open to what they come up with, you can have some really unique and personable foods at your wedding reception that don’t break the bank. 

Tips for Keeping the Costs Down

  • If you have hors d’oeuvres, don’t have wait staff pass them out among your guests. Instead, have them at tables where guests can serve themselves. This cuts down on hired labor.
  • Choose vegetables and fruits that are in-season. An autumn wedding is perfect for acorn and butternut squash recipes, while summer weddings can take advantage of the abundance of fresh fruits. Ordering out of season vegetables can be costly.
  • Consider cocktails and a sit down dinner. If you plan on having both, consider what you’re having for each. Pare down the dinner to three courses (because it’s still plenty of food with cocktails) and don’t double serve foods – if you’ve served a soup in shot glasses as an hors d’oeuvre, you don’t need it at the dinner.
  • Choose naturally gluten free foods. Avoid pastas, breads, and other foods that have to be made specially gluten free. They are more expensive than naturally gluten free foods like rice, corn tortillas, vegetables, and fruits. 

Gluten Free Wedding Menu Ideas

If you’ve decided on a gluten free wedding, you can have a lot of fun planning delicious foods for your reception. Here are some wedding menu ideas that will allow everyone to enjoy.


A fruit and cheese tray is a great way to serve simple, cost effective gluten free appetizers. All fruit and cheese is naturally gluten free (provided you don’t include crackers, or choose gluten free crackers), and vegans can enjoy a well thought out fresh fruit tray.

Fruit & Cheese Display - The Essex Room

Creative Salads

Salads can easily be made gluten free and they work well for sit down dinners, appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, and food stations. A salad can be served on a plate or in a creative dish like a glass, or even on a skewer. 

Creative Salads



Serving a wide variety of cooked and fresh vegetables is healthy, gluten free, and very affordable if you’re working with vegetables that are in season. 

Mediterranean Antipasto TableCan be served without bread or with gluten-free bread

Sophisticated Vegetable Platter



Serving seafood is distinctly New England, but coincidentally, also naturally gluten free. Seafood such as this may be on the costlier side, but if you’re not doing a sit down dinner, it may be well within your budget. 

Raw Bar

Raw Bar


A delicious raw bar is cold and refreshing for a spring or summer wedding.

Sushi with Tamari (Gluten Free Soy Sauce)

Sushi with Tamari

If you and your spouse enjoy sushi, or simply want to serve a trendy gluten free option, sushi certainly fits the bill. Just be sure your caterer serves it with Tamari – a more traditional soy sauce that does not use wheat like commercial soy sauces.

Spicy Shrimp

Spicy Shrimp - Essex Room Food Photo

Steamed Clams 

Streamed Clam

Hot Boiled Lobster

Hot Boiled Lobster


Lobster Clambakes 

Lobster Clambakes

Gluten Free Comfort Food

In New England, few things are as comforting as fried clams, barbecue, lobster rolls, or clam chowder. If you thought fried foods or barbecue were off the menu for your gluten free wedding, think again. Think gluten free fried clams, fried lobster, chicken fingers, ribs, French fries, lobster rolls, onion rings, and more.

Award Winning Fried Clams




Lobster RollsServe with gluten free bread or on a lettuce wrap 

Lobster Rolls

Meats & Vegetarian Entrees

Whether you’re having a sit down dinner or hors d’ouevres, you’ll want to serve a meat and a vegetarian entree of some kind. Here are some great ideas on what gluten free meats and vegetarian entress to serve at your wedding reception.





Beef 2

Eggplant Parmesan – without breadcrumbs 

Eggplant Parmesan


Discovering gluten free sides for your wedding can be a lot of fun! Here are few examples of possible gluten free sides you can serve.

Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tomatoes

Spicy Green Beans with Garlic and Tamari (Gluten free soy sauce)

Spicy Green Beans

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Gluten Free Alcohol and Beer

Most wedding receptions will serve alcohol of some kind. Beers are popular, but not all beers (or alcohol) are gluten free, although most are. Ask your caterer for a selection of gluten free beers and alcohol. If you plan on having a full bar, ask your caterer to create a drink menu that specifies gluten free alcoholic beverages.

Examples of gluten free beer:

  • Omission Lager
  • Whistler Brewing Forager Gluten-Free Lager
  • New Belgium Glütiny Pale Ale
  • Stone Delicious IPA
  • Ground Breaker Dark Ale
  • Joseph James Brewing Fox Tail
  • Short’s Brewing Space Rock
  • Ipswich Ale Brewery: Celia Saison
  • Green’s Gluten Free Beers: Enterprise Dry-Hopped Lager

Omission Lager





Wine and Food Pairing

Wine and Food Pairing

Ensuring that you have a variety of wines to pair with your gluten free fare is important. Discuss wine and food pairing options with your caterer.

Gluten Free Wedding Desserts

One way to make it fun for all is to offer a small truly gluten free cake for the “cut the cake” ceremony and other options like ice cream and or ice cream sandwiches with gluten free cookies that can be made into sandwiches for the non-gluten free crowd.

Gluten Free Wedding Cake

Gluten Free Wedding Cake

Gluten Free Cookies & Ice Cream

Gluten Free Cookies & Ice Cream

Gifford’s Ice Cream/Courtesy Photo


Fruit Plates

Fruit Plates

Gluten Free Wedding Favors

Wedding favors are traditional, and many people choose to give out treats instead of trinkets or other types of keepsakes. However, if you do hand out favors that are edible, keep them gluten free to ensure everyone at your wedding can enjoy them later.

Gluten Free Wedding Favors


Don’t believe the misconception that gluten free food is somehow not as good as food with gluten. In fact, some of the most delicious foods you’ve ever had are likely naturally gluten free, like sushi, filet mignon, roasted vegetables, and fresh fruits. By planning ahead of time and discussing your gluten free wedding menu needs with your caterer, you can ensure that everyone at your wedding will be able to enjoy delectable food and have a great time. Below is your printable gluten free wedding checklist!


Gluten Free Wedding Checklist

Interview with Caterers

Caterer has experience with gluten free catering
Caterer can avoid cross contamination
Caterer is able to offer other diet options, including food free of other allergens and vegetarian/vegan food

Determining Your Meal Type

Finalize your cost per person
Discuss gluten free options with your chosen caterer that are within your budget
Weigh the pros and cons of different meal styles and decide which feels right, given:

  • Your budget
  • How many people will be invited
  • The formality level of your wedding

Choose Your Foods

Discuss with your caterer gluten free options for appetizers, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages
If you’re having food stations or hors d’oeuvres, discuss with your caterer how to have unique, gluten-free options that work with your meal type
Set up a tasting to make final food choices

Alert Your Guests

Discuss putting “gluten free wedding” or “gluten free options available” on a card in your invitation suite.
If you have vegetarian or other allergen free options, consider adding that verbiage as well

Choose Your Wedding Favors

Decide if you plan on giving edible wedding favors
Consider options for edible wedding favors, such as individual jars of honey or jam, gluten free cookies, chocolate bars with custom printed wrappers, etc.

Remember to enjoy your wedding and the delicious food that you took time and thought to have prepared.