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Alamo Celiac Article- A Gluten-Free Wedding

August 13, 2007

A Gluten-free Wedding

            Before you get too excited, it wasn’t a wedding where the food was gluten free. I was gluten free, and I was at my sister wedding. I emailed the caterer a month before the wedding and asked about the food. I wasn’t going to make special requests, because it wasn’t my wedding,  but I did want to know what food would be prepared, and if I could expect anything to be gluten free. To my surprise, there were several things that I could eat!

            My sister is a cowgirl, so her wedding was very “southern” and she had food that fit the “southern” theme! She had wings, baked beans, corn, meatballs, fruit and cheese, and the cakes. There were also nuts and mints. It was actually a large spread for a 2 o’clock wedding.

            The caterer told me that the wings would be oven baked, not fried (and not breaded), so I was looking forward to being able to have a plate like everyone else! I was able to eat the wings, the baked beans, the corn, some fruit and cheese, and it was great to feel “normal” and sit and eat with everyone else.

            I was especially pleased because I didn’t have to bother my sister with questions. She had enough to worry about. So often we have to make special requests, and find that fine line between being thorough and being annoying. I like to be healthy, like the next person, but I don’t like feeling like I am annoying someone with questions about food. If I didn’t feel safe, I would have just not eaten the food, and then I would have been sitting with the wedding party, not eating. Talk about awkward!

            Well, all went smoothly until it was cake time. Everyone gathered to watch the cutting of the cake. It was a special moment, and I hope no one noticed that I was slowly backing away from the crowd! Cake doesn’t even look that good to me anymore, but that cake looked like a weekend in the bathroom.

            I am really proud of how much I have grown in the last 2 years. I feel like I have become so much more disciplined as a person, not just eating gluten free, but in other areas of my life. I was worried about what people would think if I didn’t eat wedding cake. I didn’t want to hurt my sister’s feelings. I just went back to my table, drank my punch, and chatted with my mom while she ate her slice of cake.

            She asked me why I wasn’t having cake, and I reminded her about Celiac Disease (you know how it goes, out of sight, out of mind). She felt bad for forgetting, and then looked at me with a big smile. She told me how proud she was of me, for taking care of myself, not matter how good the cake looked, or how many people were around, or how out of place I might have felt. And she said that it really showed how natural it was for me, that I didn’t make a scene, or look sad or upset, and was able to sit with her while she ate her slice of cake. I was so busy worrying what she was thinking, that I didn’t realize that I was actually doing a great job of being myself, taking care of my body, and making a quiet stand for sticking with the gluten free diet.

            It was a moment of cheer for me, knowing that I had resisted a huge temptation, and in the process, revealed great character. I know what I eat (and don’t eat) when I am home alone, or out to eat with fellow Celiacs. But a true test is around people who don’t know, or don’t remember, that I shouldn’t eat something. I am sure that for some people, the illness alone is a great deterrent from eating gluten filled food, but I struggled for nearly a year to learn that the damage was not just to my body, but also to my self esteem. When I would eat something that I shouldn’t, I was lying to myself. I was telling myself that I didn’t have Celiac Disease. I was also telling myself that I didn’t matter enough, and my health didn’t matter enough, to make the right eating choices. I have spent the last 2 years learning what Shakespeare meant when he wrote “to thine own self be true.” It doesn’t matter if I don’t eat the cake. The other person won’t care nearly as much as I think they will. And I have to be honest with myself. I will get sick. I will be hurting myself. I will be lying to the part of me that believes that I love my body and my health.  

            It was a huge day for my sister. And she was a beautiful bride! But there was a great moment for me too, amid the cake-eaters, that told me just want kind of person I was. I am not going to say “I have Celiac Disease, and I am proud” because I don’t feel like I need to defend myself to anyone. There was no scene, no food issues or fights, and few brief discussions about gluten and what I was doing with my “special” bread that weekend. No one begged me to eat gluten. No one said “just a little bite?”  I was so concerned that food would be a problem, and it wasn’t! Three days on a ranch with 2 families and I didn’t feel like a freak!  I ate my food, had a great time, and it seemed like no one noticed.

            My mom’s comments explained why. Gluten free was a part of life for me now, so it wasn’t a big deal. And when I didn’t make a big deal, no one else did either. I ate what I could, and didn’t eat what I couldn’t. Because no matter what I thought people might think, I was the one who would get sick if I ate the cake that day. So it wasn’t about other people. It was about me, and being honest with my self. And the only person that needed to be reminded that I was doing a great job being gluten free, was me.

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