Photographs: Carmen Szeto Designs
In the spirit of the allergy friendly wedding series we’re doing here on EAF, I decided to pen the process I took to plan Amanda’s bachelorette and what precautions I tried to take to help her have a wonderful weekend. I will say it was lofty to think I could get away with a surprise party for Amanda as she weeded all the details out of me two weeks prior to the bachelorette. At the end of the day, the anxiety wasn't mine to bear and the best way to keep her at ease was to walk through the entire weekend so she would feel confident stepping away from her comfort zone.
As she mentioned, we initially wanted to do a spa weekend at her favourite spa in the countryside. This was my ideal pick as I knew she had eaten there before and I wouldn’t have to worry about food at all. More importantly, we’d all have our own rooms so everyone could bring their own snacks and I wouldn’t have to sound like a military commander in group chat threads. While many people look forward to having a debaucherous affair, we wanted to keep things classy, fun and memorable.
Unfortunately for me, this didn’t pan out and we needed another plan. Stat. Realizing I couldn’t have it so easy anymore, I definitely started to stress about how I’d get through 6 (maybe 7) meals together with a group of 12 girls and a tonne of food preferences.
We had nut allergies, avocado allergies, gluten restrictions, legume and soy allergies, dairy allergies and intolerances, vegans and vegetarians. How was I going to make this work for a whole weekend without anyone losing hair or needing emergency services?
In short, I packed our itinerary so we were busy bodies for two days and that’s all we needed to celebrate Amanda’s next big step. We got in on the Friday evening and had a beautiful dinner at the Drake Devonshire Inn restaurant. This was followed by a night of wine and watching Wonder Woman thanks to the ever resourceful Karrie Kwong. On Saturday we had a wineries tour booked all day and at night we were beat and lugged home two cartons of wine! The evening meal was at home, cooked by us. And finally Sunday ended with a boozy brunch at the Drake Devonshire again. So how did I plan it? Read on.
First, I started planning months in advance. I narrowed down some weekends with the group and then proceeded to fill in every fun event I could think of that occurred within the county of Prince Edward. Mandy had suggested we stay at her cottage and I jumped at the opportunity because I knew hosting it at hers meant I could ask everyone to respectfully keep her allergies in mind and we’d have our own kitchen to cook in, which would give Amanda peace of mind. So, meals at home were going to be easier to manage.
Second, once I locked down activities, I proceeded to call restaurants and business owners months ahead of time. I scheduled time with every person on the phone and wrote down a list of items Amanda couldn’t eat and things she preferred (raw bars, fruit, oysters). This was tedious and I was concerned no restaurant in Wellington, Ontario would be willing to host us. But thankfully the wine touring company organized lunch, so I was happy to be going through a professional event business and kept my worries on the back burner for a while.
Once I knew the restaurants were locked in, I felt better about the rest of the weekend. The closest to the bride, her bridesmaids, were best at making her feel comfortable so the four of us drove to the cottage before everyone else. This enabled us to do a massive haul of groceries and ensure we were checking every brand of oil, syrup and produce to ensure they were "mandy-friendly". Despite our best efforts, we missed the ‘caramel sauce’ in the balsamic vinegar and decided not to use it as a main dressing.
On the right: A picture of the home cooked meal we made consisting of pan-seared chicken, roast potatoes, roasted red peppers and two salads.
The first night I pre-arranged a simple sit-down dinner with the Drake for the party and kept things really simple. Amanda had eaten there before with her family, and we had featured a Drake chef before so we knew they could be relied on to get things right. Dinner was a success and the girls could take their time getting into the county after a busy week of work.
On the Saturday, we booked a tour with the County Wine Tours in Wellington. Not only do they do summer tours (that I’ve been on) but during the winter, they chauffeur you around all the wineries as you spend the day getting quite tipsy on wine! More importantly, we kept them informed of our groups restrictions and worked with them to contact all the wineries and pick a restaurant for lunch. Contacting the wineries was important because wineries can use two kinds of casein to preserve their wines and one of them is made from a dairy source. We knew finding a restaurant would be hard (the Drake was unfortunately booked) so we offered to bring in Amanda's lunch ourselves if that was needed. Lunch turned out to be a delicate affair because sometimes even chefs with allergies find it challenging to accommodate a lot of food requirements. It takes experience and really top-notch communication to pull off a safe lunch. Amanda is not the pickiest eater as a result and was satisfied with a large plate of fresh produce (an assortment of berries). The wineries itself were quite a treat - each had a rustic vibe and a family story to convey. Needless to say by the end of the tour almost everyone was asking ahead about casein in their wines so Amanda could feel comfortable in each situation. We also walked away with more than a dozen bottles in tow so closet alcoholism might come out of this weekend and I am not to blame. Turns out Ontario wine can be a treat!
Sunday's brunch took the most time to plan as we booked out the Drake's private room and organized a gesture especially for Amanda. We decided we'd all have the same allergies for one meal and live in her shoes. The Drake had plenty of pre-set options but I had to keep things very simple, and everyone had to drive back to Toronto for two hours so drinking excessively was not an option. While we don't have any pictures on our final day, brunch was smooth and perfect.
When hosting a bachelorette, it's important to have some downtime because chances are not everyone will know each other. I think our most enjoyable parts were together at home, playing cards games and conveying stories and laughing into the wee hours. I wasn't aware how much anxiety Amanda would go through till reading her version of the weekend. I'm glad the stress was never passed on to her and she got to enjoy herself. My worry was eased by the group of friends we brought together for the weekend. Almost everyone had been on the EAF blog and in the EAF kitchen with us, so I knew they would understand but again the anxiety is not mine to bear. It was clear that everyone in the group loved Amanda and wanted her to feel special this weekend. At the end of the day, I knew I did my job well because she whispered 'it was perfect' in my ear. After that I rode into the sunset, cowboy hat on and there was a dramatic landscape shot of me on my slow old horse.
Nope, that last bit didn't happen, but it could have!!!