In today’s world of common food sensitivities, it’s important to know if your guests have allergies. While avoiding foods with peanuts or shellfish is relatively simple, wheat is a hidden ingredient in many different foods like sauces and gravies, pastas, breading, pie crusts, cake, and more. If you have guests at your wedding who have celiac sensitivity, you may want to consider having a gluten free wedding, or at least a wide variety of gluten free options.
John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher. Today, I’m here with Shelby Brand, and we’re talking about having a celiac safe, gluten free wedding. Welcome Shelby.
Shelby Brand: Thank you. Happy to be here.
What Is Celiac Disease?
John: Shelby, what is celiac disease, and how did you come to be diagnosed?
Shelby: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. There are these little finger-like projections in your small intestines called villi. When a person with celiac disease is exposed to gluten, those become flattened, and you can’t absorb vitamins and nutrients as well. I became diagnosed about five years ago, and my symptoms were just being really tired and having low vitamin D and low iron.
John: Is that something that you dealt with your whole life and just didn’t understand what it was, or is it something that came on later in life?
Shelby: We’ve seen symptoms back in my history throughout my life, but it became more prevalent as I got older, and a lot of people who have celiac disease exhibit a lot of GI symptoms at times. I just didn’t have as many. There can be many different symptoms that a lot of different people experience. Everyone’s different and it makes it a little bit harder to diagnose sometimes.
John: Okay. Right. What does it mean to have celiac disease for you on a daily basis?
Shelby: Having celiac disease on a daily basis isn’t that hard to deal with if you know what you’re looking for in food. You have to avoid things like malt and barley, rye, wheat, and then it’s in some hidden sauces such as soy sauce. There are some soy sauces that have gluten, and there are some soy sauces that don’t. Once I was able to figure out the best brands and what was easy to eat for myself, it wasn’t too bad but there are some things that are harder to make or harder to get when you have celiac disease.
John: Right. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking at the label on something to see whether or not it has something that has gluten in it. But other times you really have to do a little bit more research because of those hidden places like you said.
Shelby: Correct. Most things you can find gluten-free option flour or make yourself, but a lot of times it can take a little bit longer just to make the gluten-free version.
Gluten Free Wedding Venues
Shelby: I have been at Woodman’s a little bit with the Celiac Association, they advertised through their magazine, and they have been funder of a few of their events. But I hadn’t heard about the Essex Room, and when we were looking for different venues for our wedding, my husband came upon it on The Knot website. And we actually didn’t know how wonderful they are about handling people with celiac disease and being gluten-free until we actually got there, and they were really amazing with everything.
John: Tell me a little bit more about that, why did you end up choosing the Essex Room for your wedding?
Shelby: When we got there for a tour, we were just hoping that my food could be gluten-free. They were more than accommodating with that. When you go in to just even take a tour, they do a mini-sampling for you and they bring out some food that they’ve prepared. And Chef Ned was amazing — he had no clue I had celiac disease, I had no information that it was gluten-free when we got there, and he had actually had some things already prepared and that were gluten-free for our wedding that we were able to try, and he said that he had just made some things that are gluten-free in case there were allergies.
John: Wow, that’s great, without even knowing that you had that issue, he made some of the things gluten-free just in case?
John: That’s clearly on his mind as the chef of the Essex Room that this is a fairly prevalent thing and that a lot of people now are gluten-free and even more so with celiac disease and things like that, so he was anticipating that. That’s great.
What made you end up deciding, rather than just having Chef Ned prepare some food for you or maybe a few of your guests, to have an all celiac safe, gluten free wedding?
Shelby: After talking to Maureen, [we discovered] there was no additional pricing or any additional cost for us to make the whole wedding gluten free. And when you have celiac disease, cross contamination can also be a big issue. [The amount of gluten that can be harmful] is the amount of gluten that would fit under your pinky nail. Knowing that, they want to be really careful with me, and they were really accommodating being that we had a few other people that were gluten-free coming to the wedding. They said it was going to be just as easy to make the whole thing gluten free, and so we opted to do that.
Favorite Celiac-Safe Gluten Free Wedding Foods
John: Wow, that’s great. And what were some of your favorite celiac-safe foods that you had at your wedding?
Shelby: It’s really hard to find a gluten-free mozzarella stick, and it’s hard to make those at home, so that was something that I really loved before I was diagnosed with celiac disease and something that I really had to have a really good version of. So, I asked for those, and even at our tasting, Chef Ned made them two different ways for us to pick. That was one of my favorite things. He also made a wonderful cornbread, and for our dessert instead of giving a traditional cake, we did a small cake that we cut, but then he made ice-cream cookie sandwiches for us which were delicious.
John: That’s great.
Shelby: He had three different gluten-free cookies available.
John: Did your guests know that all of the food was gluten free, or was that something that you told everybody, and then what was their reaction afterwards to the food?
Shelby: Many of the guests didn’t know anything was gluten-free. We had told the people who did have a gluten sensitivity, a gluten allergy, or chose to be gluten free, that things were safe for them, and a lot of the people had no clue and they were actually really surprised when they found out afterwards. It was so good, I remember running over to one of my husband’s cousins at the time, saying, you can eat the cornbread, you can eat everything on the table — it’s all gluten free. I was very excited to be able to share that with other people too.
John: That’s really great. All right. Shelby, thank you very much for speaking with me today.
Shelby: Thank you so much.
John: And for more information you can visit the Essex Room website at essexroom.com or call 978-768-7335.