Wedding Etiquette Forum

Bridesmaid with a food allergy and an awkward situation

My brother and his fiancé are getting married in the fall. I've grown quite close to my future sister-in-law and she asked me to be a bridesmaid. The awkward part is that I have a dairy allergy that didn't develop until I was a late teen and in is often forgotten about by my brother.

When the talk of food at the wedding came up, my mother privately asked him about food options and he informed her that "there'll be stuff for [me] to eat". I'm deeply concerned about being able to actually eat anything, as dairy is often added to dishes in small amounts unexpectedly. If the venue (who is catering the wedding) is unaware of the allergy, all the dishes my brother thinks are okay may be far from it. Normally in situations such as these I bring my own food/snacks to get by, however the venue doesn't allow *any* outside food whatsoever and I am not sure how I will make it through the evening.

Not being able to eat is a huge problem but I don't want to make things difficult for my brother and his fiancé. If I had realized that this would actually be a problem earlier, I would have bowed out of the wedding party but now I've committed and don't want to let his fiancé down.

What do I do??

Re: Bridesmaid with a food allergy and an awkward situation

  • Unfortunately my brother seems to forget because he either thinks my allergy is psychosomatic/over blown or believes he can simply judge what's safe and what's not. Even I can't judge if something is safe just by looking at it and generally avoid eating things unless I speak to whoever prepared it. Despite that, I'll make sure to mark it on the RSVP, it can't hurt.

    I've thought about that, my FSIL has been very understanding about it in the past. I just worry that it will cause some sort of tension (though I suppose that's unavoidable). At the very least, I can ask her for the meal selections so I can plan ahead.

    Luckily the dress I'm wearing isn't super tight so eating a big meal will work pretty well. I love the idea with the snacks. :)

    My mom and I were thinking about contacting the venue to talk to them about what to do so my brother and FSIL don't have to worry about it, would that be overstepping?
  • lc07lc07 Sunny Southern California member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    edited March 2014
    It sounds like your mother has already reminded your brother about your allergy and he has said that it has been taken care of. 

    I don't think it would do any harm to talk with your brother again or your FSIL and let them know that many dishes have "hidden" dairy in them and can they please check with the caterer that you will have something safe to eat.'

    ETA: Also, let the staff know when you arrive at the reception. They will be able to tell you what is truly dairy-free.
    PrettyGirlLostluckysnorkelBubblegum5586
  • UGh. people without allergies can be rude to those who do have them. I can't imagine treating ANY guest like that if I knew. Especially my sister.
    My MIL cannot eat a LOT of things. She isn't allergic, but she has a digestive disease where certain foods (seeds, nuts, popcorn, fruit/veggies with edible seeds, etc) make her very ill. We had to get a list from her and pass it on to the caterer. We didn't think twice about this and they ensured that all salsas were on the side, ordered bread/crackers without seeds, etc.
    The caterer will be used to this and have no problem accomodating. I think your FSIL is your in here, or your mother if she attends the tasting/menu planning meetings. Hopefully she can make your brother understand that expecting you to eat the side dishes he picks is not an acceptable route and he needs to ensure there is a FULL dairy-free meal for you (or, that dairy parts - like a gravy - are on the side so you can choose to avoid).
    Good luck!
  • sara5119sara5119 member
    Name Dropper First Comment
    edited March 2014
    I have a similar situation with my niece having multiple life-threatening food allergies. While our venue also has a strict "absolutely no outside food" rule when I was discussing her restrictions with them I was told they would make an exception for severe food allergies and she could bring in a meal if what we're serving won't work for her. So that may be an option.
  • thisismynickname2thisismynickname2 City By The Lake member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    Agree with other posters' responses AND.... don't forget your epi pen! (I hope I spelled that right as I don't own/need one myself.) 
    ________________________________


  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    phira said:
    That's really frustrating. I assume that if a guest says, "I'm allergic to dairy," that it means, "My meal must be 100% dairy-free." It's none of my business to decide how severe an allergy is, although if it's severe enough that the guest couldn't sit at a table where the allergen was present, I'd like to be told. But what I mean is that, as the host, if I'm told, "Person is allergic to this food," then there needs to be a meal that Person can eat that does not have that food in it. Doesn't matter if the food would just make them feel bloated or give them a stomach-ache, as opposed to induce anaphylactic shock.

    While it's great that your brother has been reminded, based on his past behavior, I'd be ridiculously wary as well. I would talk to your future sister-in-law, not because the bride is "really" in charge while the groom isn't involved, but because it'll double the likelihood that the allergy information makes its way back to the caterers.

    Here's what I'd say, "I don't want to add to your stress, but I'm concerned about being able to eat at the venue. My dairy allergy is severe enough that the caterer will need to know about it. I wouldn't make such a fuss, but because I don't want to violate the venue rules by bringing in my own snacks, I need to make sure that I'll be able to eat at the reception."
    @phira says it best here.
    classyduck
  • OliveOilsMomOliveOilsMom South Jersey member
    Tenth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    My H is lactose intolerant.  I'm assuming that is your issue too?  In that case, I would go over to brother's house and have a small sip of milk and then let your brother find out first hand what happens when you consume dairy!  

    I would approach your FSIL first and just ask that the caterer be made aware of your allergy.  They have probably faced crazier things than lactose free.  If you mom has the info, she could also try calling the reception venue to let them know about the allergy. Lastly, if the other stuff doesn't work, then tell them when you arrive and sit down at dinner.
  • My venue is awesome with dietary issues. And I bet a lot of venues are. If you are super nervous, I would just call and let them know about it. We put a line on our RSVP cards that said, please shoot us an email with any dietary issues. The venue will tweak anyones meal to make it work. I bet the last thing the venue wants it you puking on the table because they put milk in the mashed potatoes! 
  • I can't possibly imagine a scenario where telling your FSIL about the allergy, so that she can notify the venue, would be any sort of hassle for her.  (It's not like she's cooking it.)

    If she gives you grief about it, she's an asshole.  FWIW, if ANY of my guests, ESPECIALLY someone in my WP had an allergy, I would want to know so that I could make sure that they can enjoy themselves just as much as everyone else.  This includes making sure that they have a full belly.
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  • HaileyDancingbearHaileyDancingbear Arkham Asylum member
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments First Anniversary Name Dropper
    I agree with PP's that you should let your FSIL know how severe your allergy is- I know dairy allergies have a range of severity, and while she might know you cant have stuff like milk and ice cream, she might not be aware that even small amounts of dairy in your food can cause a reaction.  

    Let her now that she just needs to notify the venue about your allergy and they can handle it- I understand your concern, it's super easy for cross-contamination to occur in a kitchen and the venue absolutely has to know about the allergy in order to prevent that.  

    If you are super worried, bring a snack in your clutch.  I don't think anyone is going to be rifling through bags before you enter the venue, and I doubt anyone would actually notice you eating it. 

    And saying you have an allergy would absolutely make any employee shut up and let you eat.  
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    luckysnorkel
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer

    My H is lactose intolerant.  I'm assuming that is your issue too?  In that case, I would go over to brother's house and have a small sip of milk and then let your brother find out first hand what happens when you consume dairy!  


    I would approach your FSIL first and just ask that the caterer be made aware of your allergy.  They have probably faced crazier things than lactose free.  If you mom has the info, she could also try calling the reception venue to let them know about the allergy. Lastly, if the other stuff doesn't work, then tell them when you arrive and sit down at dinner.
    No OP said she had a dairy allergy. . .that is different from lactose intolerance.

    I have a co worker who has a dairy allergy that she also developed later in life, and if she has any dairy her intestines actually become paralyzed, there is no peristalsis, which causes a major back up, if you will, and extreme, intense pain for 2 to 3 days.

    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


  • Cookie PusherCookie Pusher Looking over your shoulder member
    Ninth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I have a guest with a pretty bad dairy allergy (not lactose intolerance, but an actual allergy to one of the proteins in dairy). I let my caterer know, and they are totally able to work around it. Not everything will be dairy free (hard to make dairy free ravioli in cream sauce), but all of the sauces for the proteins and 3/4 of the sides and salads are completely free of dairy. I also already know of 2 guests with shellfish allergies that the caterer is going to work around as well. It never crossed my mind to minimize anyone's allergies just so I don't have to trouble the caterer. After all, I'm paying them to make food my guests will enjoy.
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    PrettyGirlLosts-aries8990
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    BTW - my DH is a chef.  He deals with special meals ALL.THE.TIME   it's not a big deal.  Really.






    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
    PrettyGirlLost
  • To be honest, the situation is rather nerve wracking for me because even after 6-ish years of being dairy free, it's really embarrassing to have to go to all these extra lengths when eating out, etc. Dairy allergies are treated like pseudo allergies that are kinda equated with lactose intolerance (so I understand the confusion Oliveoilsmom). Most of the time I go out to eat, I actually have to explain that dairy includes milk and cheese and butter, etc, because for some reason, a lot of people don't know that. Dairy allergy certainly doesn't have the same clout as a peanut allergy.

    That being said, my brother at one point or another has made comments to the extent of "she's being dramatic and it's not real" and "it's a drag that things are made dairy free". He hasn't made one of those recently (as far as I remember) but it makes me wary of how he will feel about my bringing it up.

    Not to say he's a groomzilla, just complicated sibling politics. And this is only my third wedding ever, so I have no freaking clue how all of this works.

    Thank you so much for all the advice. I feel a lot less anxious about the situation. It's still going to be complicated though, seeing as we all live two states away from where the wedding is :|
  • lc07lc07 Sunny Southern California member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    To be honest, the situation is rather nerve wracking for me because even after 6-ish years of being dairy free, it's really embarrassing to have to go to all these extra lengths when eating out, etc. Dairy allergies are treated like pseudo allergies that are kinda equated with lactose intolerance (so I understand the confusion Oliveoilsmom). Most of the time I go out to eat, I actually have to explain that dairy includes milk and cheese and butter, etc, because for some reason, a lot of people don't know that. Dairy allergy certainly doesn't have the same clout as a peanut allergy. That being said, my brother at one point or another has made comments to the extent of "she's being dramatic and it's not real" and "it's a drag that things are made dairy free". He hasn't made one of those recently (as far as I remember) but it makes me wary of how he will feel about my bringing it up. Not to say he's a groomzilla, just complicated sibling politics. And this is only my third wedding ever, so I have no freaking clue how all of this works. Thank you so much for all the advice. I feel a lot less anxious about the situation. It's still going to be complicated though, seeing as we all live two states away from where the wedding is :|
    I feel your pain. I can't eat gluten. I was recently at a sushi restaurant and asked if they had gluten-free soy sauce. The waitress said, "No, but we have low-sodium soy sauce, will that be okay?" *head-hits-table*

    It will be okay. Talk to your FSIL. Let the waitstaff know when you arrive at the reception. They will have SOMETHING you can eat.
    KitKat4979
  • phiraphira Bahstin member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    Mostly off-topic, but the frosting for our wedding cake will be dairy-free because IT WAS DELICIOUS (shortening instead of butter). Dairy-free can taste amazing. Your bro is just wrong.
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  • I have a friend with a severe food allergy and she just asks the bride/groom for the catering manager's info so she can speak to them directly and find out what items are OK. So far TJ brides have been understanding, and happy to not play "middle man."
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  • I would talk to FSIL about it. It really shouldn't be that big of a deal. I have an uncle with a severe nut allergy (like really bad. The smell even makes him sick) and I was really firm with the caterer that absolutely nothing was to have nuts in it. They kept trying to show me things with almonds and walnuts and I was like I said no nuts and they said we thought you meant peanuts. *eye roll*. Anyway, I'm having no nuts because he can't even stand the smell but I think that it is perfectly reasonable for you to ask your FSIL to make sure their are some dairy free items that you are able to eat.
  • I think it's really rude that your brother wasn't thinking of your allergy. If you've had it for awhile and you know he's your brother and you are in his wedding party I think it's safe to say that was rude.


  • i am sure they can work around it ask your fsil what the menu will consist of is it plated or buffet style if its plated ask for her to make a note that all your food has to be dairy free
  • InkdancerInkdancer The Shire member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer
    As a fellow dairy allergy sufferer, I totally understand your pain. My allergy is only minor but nobody seems to get that I can't just take some Lactaid and get over it.
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    KitKat4979
  • OP, I would actually suggest going to the caterer instead of FSIL. I'm envisioning a situation where you go to FSIL, then she mentions to your brother that you talked to her about your allergy and he tells her not to worry about it because he's taken care of it, so FSIL doesn't do anything. I don't know if this is likely, but it could happen.

    I have a guest that has allergies to gluten and a bunch of other things. When I was talking to my catering manager, she said that she would prefer that the guest contact her directly to discuss the allergy and figure out a meal that the guest could eat.

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  • cmfarr said:
    OP, I would actually suggest going to the caterer instead of FSIL. I'm envisioning a situation where you go to FSIL, then she mentions to your brother that you talked to her about your allergy and he tells her not to worry about it because he's taken care of it, so FSIL doesn't do anything. I don't know if this is likely, but it could happen.

    I have a guest that has allergies to gluten and a bunch of other things. When I was talking to my catering manager, she said that she would prefer that the guest contact her directly to discuss the allergy and figure out a meal that the guest could eat.
    To the bolded, I wouldn't go to the caterer without first informing at leas your brother, or at best both he and FSIL. I know I would be taken aback by someone contacting the caterer without my knowledge. Not that it's wrong, but I think giving them a bit of a heads up would be courteous.
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