My mom, mother in-law, and sister in-law were kind enough to plan my wedding shower this past January. I have a really big family and lots of friends and family friends, so it was destined to be a pretty big event. Wedding showers can vary quite a bit depending on the personality of the bride and her family, the size of the guest list, and the budget. Some people opt for a small gathering at a restaurant, having friends over to their house for kitschy party games and finger foods, or having a large gathering at a hall or party room. Each type of party brings its own unique fun and experience. We had about 60 people and held it at my in-laws' condo party room. It's a beautiful, big room in a really nice building and was centrally located; perfect for the occasion.
My mom and I had our usual banter about whether or not to have desserts. I am strongly in favor of not having dessert, except fruit, because my party should reflect me. However I also know that it's ok to have some non-friendly desserts around after the lunch service so long as I don't eat or touch them. This is a conversation we resurface every year in some way or another, and have done so since I was a child. At one point I was adamant that I could bake my own cake for the shower, but my mom was determined to not have me do any work; she just wanted me to attend and enjoy it. My mom has always gone out of her way to find or make birthday cakes and other special treats that are safe for me, and stock-piling them in our freezer. I recall happily eating Christmas yule log cake for about 3 months past the holiday as a teen because they were safe and on sale.
Ensure that the person planning your party is someone you trust with your allergies. There are certain people that I trust, but not with my food. Your shower will go by in the blink of an eye and as the center of attention, you will be chatting and socializing the entire time. Knowing your food is well taken care of is of very high importance. My mom is someone I trust with my food, and we worked together to make sure it was a comfortable environment for me. She first called around to a couple restaurants that I am comfortable eating at, but felt none of them were the right fit for the occasion. We also got the "we cannot guarantee that there will be no cross-contact" response more than once. We then moved on to considering a party room and caterer type of event, which is what we settled on in the end.
As you can guess, the shower was not a surprise party. I am known to hate surprises, especially when they involve food. I feel a lot better maintaining at least some level of involvement so that I can give feedback and check things out for myself. This significantly helped to reduce my allergy anxiety.
I assisted my mom with calling caterers to see who was available and able to manage my food allergies (allergy to peanut, tree nuts, dairy, soy, legumes). When some caterers came back with the response that they could create a custom menu at a premium, my mom knew from her experience raising me that it was a signal to move on to the next. The last thing we wanted was for everyone to go home hungry or to pay extra for something that was refined down and simplified significantly. When you have allergies it's not uncommon to pay more for plainer/very basic food, and it can be aggravating.
We settled on a friend of ours who is an outstanding caterer and who has cooked for us many times in the past. He was well versed in the language of food allergies and was able to put together a menu that would please everyone, myself included, and be totally safe. He was also very open to feedback and altering the dishes in any way we requested. And he charged a fair price! Ultimately if there is a caterer that you know or have worked with before successfully, look to them for these types of events. It's not the time to try something new.
Despite my mom and mother in-law's search for a cake they were not able to find one that was totally safe for me. They did find cupcakes that were free from most allergens, so they were present but I did not eat them. It was totally fine with me, and they were served near the end of the party and on the opposite side of the room from the lunch buffet. We did have milk and cream for coffee and tea, but I just stayed away from it as I would at any other event. We also had a virgin cranberry cocktail that was super delicious! When I got there I immediately went to the bar and read the label of every drink available, so that I could order freely once the guests started arriving. I also checked in with my pals in the kitchen and scoped out the dishes as they were being assembled.
My advice for planning this type of occasion is to not be shy about being involved, and don't let politics or family dynamics determine what your day will be like. Make sure you are entirely comfortable! I am fortunate to not have those issues in my circle, and everyone was very considerate and communicative, but I know from others' experiences that weddings can attract drama and tension. There may be traditional dishes that you have to forego because of your allergies, or family-favorite restaurants that you want to opt out of for comfort, but ultimately the day is about you and your loved one so get in there and help plan it!
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