Your Unofficial Guide to Being a Gluten Free Wedding Photographer

It’s Celiac Awareness Month, and though I rarely, if ever, share about my Celiac, I’m 1 in 133 Americans with Celiac! I’ve been gluten-free for about 10 years now (Which is crazy to think about!), and in the last 3-ish years, have moved to a grain and dairy-free lifestyle to help with some inflammation and other symptoms I was experiencing. Because this has been part of my life for SO long, I often forget to share about it simply because living this way is second nature to me at this point.

I’m grateful to have found my Celiac so young, and while I may be a little (OK A LOT!) self-conscious about ordering when I go out to eat, I wouldn’t change a dang thing about my body. I’m so grateful that I’ve found a way of eating that fuels me well and allows me to feel good without brain fog and depression and like I’m not moments away from sh*tting my brains out at all times. (TMI? Maybe… but when you have Celiac, you become really desensitized to đź’© talk really fast.)

Recently, I stumbled upon a thread in a wedding photography Facebook group where fellow photographers were discussing strategies for living life gluten-free as wedding photographers, and it got me thinking… it’s been a WHILE since I’ve shared a list of my favorite snacks, but I’ve never shared about what it’s like to be a wedding photographer with Celiac! So though this post may be real niche, from that one Facebook thread, I learned that there are many people walking in similar shoes as me, many who had questions and could benefit from a post breaking down fool-proof products and strategies that won’t leave you feeling like dirt the next day.

Now… one quick disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, specialist, or anything like that. Everyone’s body is different. Your experience may not be the same as mine, and this has been written from my experience. I’m always hesitant of sharing any kind of information like this because I know it can be triggering for many, especially those with disordered eating tendencies. Your body is beautiful and deserves to be nourished in a way that is right for YOUR body. SO this post may not be the best information for everyone, and that’s okay! That said, if my experience helps even just one person out, I know this post has done its job!

SO before diving in here, know that I understand if you feel called to X right out of this post— honor your brain and body’s request. PLEASE. If you’re feeling curious and want to learn more, know this isn’t a bible. While I’ve been doing this for a long time, doing your own research is key. Use these products as inspiration… Not absolute truth! Also… always consult a doc before making any diet and lifestyle shifts.

OK NOW… let’s get into it!

General Tips

  • You’re not a burden
    • OK this tip is mostly in here for me because I’m STILL trying to convince myself of this fact… but it’s true! Anxiety can be a real thing with food allergies and sensitivities. Just because your body requires different kinds of food than the general population doesn’t mean you are a burden. I often joke that I chose the wrong industry for all my food allergies, but seriously… all jokes aside, you are not a pain or a burden and your body deserves to be nourished in a way that will not cause harm.
    • I’m often asked why I’m not eating the same meal as other vendors, and in that case, sometimes, it can get a little awkward! Whether I’m eating out of my Tupperware or am enjoying a hot meal different from other vendors at the table, know that you don’t owe anyone an explanation. If you aren’t comfortable talking about your food allergies and what happens when you consume an unsafe food (Which weirdly always seems to come up when people learn I’m gluten/grain/fun free), you don’t need to bring it up— simply mention what you are comfortable with. When this topic comes up and questions are asked, I often remind myself that people are typically trying to make conversation and don’t understand the anxieties or emotions that may go along with your sensitivities. You are more than entitled to share only what you are comfortable with— and it is okay if that differs from vendor to vendor and wedding to wedding.
    • A quick note here: I often worry about my couples or their families worrying about me eating during receptions (Y’all are the best!) OR wasting a vendor meal and the money my couple spent on me… vendor meals can be EXPENSIVE, y’all! Finding my meal day-of is something I handle with catering or the wedding planning team. This may be a personal thing, but I also do not let my couple know if there are any issues (Which is why I bring my own food— I’m easily able to eat whenever I need to!). I understand my allergies can be tough to accommodate, especially in a large group, and I never want to add stress to anyone’s plate. I’m never offended if I’m not able to eat!
  • Eat a big meal before you go
    • This is a tip for pretty much all wedding photographers out there, but eat a big meal before you go. You’ll feel better throughout the day in general, and just in case anything goes haywire during dinner, you’ll have a little more fuel in your system to get you to your post-game. Some recent favorite meals have been protein and fiber-packed smoothies, Simple Mills Avo Toast with egg, or giant omelet with fruit!
  • Snacks are your BFF
    • Again, this one pretty much goes for all wedding photographers, but bring snacks. I’ll include a list of some of my favorite snacks below. Mid-season I always get lazy with my snack game, and trust me when I say: having snacks available makes a BIG difference! I typically try to make a Whole Foods run the night before, so I’m stocked with healthy eats that I’m actually excited to eat. I can be someone that forgets to eat on wedding days, so having food I’m excited to eat helps.
  • Bringing a backup dinner isn’t a bad idea
    • We’ll talk about this in a second, but even if you’ve been told that dinner will be provided, don’t risk it. Bring your own meal, and if there is safe food for you, your meal will be a bonus to eat on the ride home or to have for lunch the next day as you edit sneaks. There’s nothing worse than working a long wedding day, only to get to dinner and learn that there is nothing safe for you to eat.
  • 10/10 recommend bring a lunch box
    • Ya gotta have somewhere easy to store your snacks and dinner. I definitely recommend investing in a decent-sized lunch box for all your goodies. Note: I use the word invest lightly. I think my lunch box was $5 at Giant. Make sure your lunchbox is big enough to fit your dinner + snacks— my lunch box is a little bigger than your standard lunch box from grade school, and while it may look a little silly, it’s SO nice to have all my snacks in one spot, especially if we are moving locations mid-day!
  • Do your homework in advance
    • More on this in a moment, but do be sure to share your food allergies with your couple and/or your couple’s wedding planner before event day. I include a line about food allergies and mealtime in my contract and also include another line in my pre-wedding questionnaire.

Meal Time and Contracts

  • Most wedding/event contracts include something about mealtime requirements. This is a nod back to the above point to do your homework— which includes defining what a safe meal is for you ahead of time in your contract. In addition to defining food safety, I also define my protocol for weddings where a safe meal cannot be provided. I’m never offended if I can’t be safely fed (I’m grateful I was told ahead of time, actually, and fully understand that it can be tough to feed someone with my requirements in a group!)… I never want a client to pay for a vendor meal that will just be left sitting there at the end of the night. Because I’m not a lawyer, I’m not going to include the contract verbiage I use for my meal safety… that said, I will share what I include in this portion of my contract, so you can work with your legal team to draft your own verbiage.
    • When a meal will be requested as part of our coverage (Typically at events 6 hours or longer) AND the benefits of receiving it at the beginning of dinner (instead of at the end of mealtime)
    • A hot meal is required for me and my second shooter. If I’m not able to eat safely, my second shooter will still need a meal.
    • I define my allergies and make recommendations for a safe meal
    • State protocol for weddings where a safe meal cannot be provided (Simply let me know so I can bring food! AND a meal is still required for my second shooter). I never want a client to pay for a meal that will not be consumed
    • Even if you are not able to be fed by the wedding’s caterer, do include that you will require time to eat

Go-To Meals

I have a (rather short and shrinking) list of go-to meals for wedding days. I’m pretty particular about what I eat because I want it to be safe, fast, easily prepped, and easy to travel. Right now, these are my go-to’s! I’m pretty confident things will change and evolve as I work through my career, but for now, these are pretty solid to-go dinner options.

  • Banza Pizza with Cashew Mozz
    • This is my STAPLE because it’s easy to make, easy to transport, and doesn’t require silverware to eat (AKA I can eat at any point I need to during the reception!). I linked my favorite options for making the pizza above, but you can’t go wrong with the DIY Banza pizza crust shells and the Miyoko’s mozzarella. Whole Foods has a solid pizza sauce that has little to no thickeners that I’ve seen in other sauce brands. It cooks up in like 15 minutes while I pack my bags and keeps well throughout the day. I get a *little* weird about bringing meat on wedding days (Because I often leave my lunch bag behind in the car by accident!). I love that this option takes away a lot of the potential ick factor that may come with leaving a piece of chicken in a 100-degree car and dramatically decreases the chance of wedding day food poisoning from funky meat.
  • Chipotle Salad
    • Depending on your level of sensitivities, Chipotle actually has some awesome gluten-free and Whole30 options. They are usually my go-to when I’m traveling a longer way for conferences or wedding days and don’t have access to my kitchen. It’s ALSO a great option for when you’ve had a busy week and need to grab something quick for dinner in the morning… just be sure to put it on ice or in a fridge throughout the day. My typical order is a salad (sans dressing) with chicken, fajita veggies, mild salsa, and guac.
  • Wegmans/Whole Foods Hot Bar
    • When there isn’t a Chipotle available, I typically try to hit a Wegmans or Whole Foods hot/salad bar. They often have ingredients listed, and if there isn’t anything available that I can eat, there are usually some other pre-made options throughout the store that are safe for me. I don’t really have a go-to order here because they are ever-changing, but if everything is looking good, you better bet I’m stocking up on fruit, veggies, chicken, and if they’re safe for me… potatoes!
  • Chicken and Veggies
    • If my couples’ caterers are able to feed me, this is my go-to recommendation. Just be sure to ask for veggies and chicken in olive or avo oil, instead of butter because… that’s happened to me by accident more than once, and let’s just say that it isn’t fun! I usually include a line about this being my recommended dinner option in my contract and in my pre-wedding questionnaire. If a catering company isn’t able to accommodate, it’s no big deal. I have plenty of other options I could bring along with me.

Go-To Snacks

I am a huge snacker, and even though I often forget to eat on wedding days, I 100% feel better when I munch on things throughout the day. These are a few of my favorite go-to’s at the moment!

  • Lara Bars
    • My personal favorite for post-portraits and pre-ceremony. I love the shorter ingredient list and love the little boost these give me mid-day. They’re perfect for tossing into my bag or fanny pack to keep a quick snack close by.
  • Apples, Peaches, Blueberries, Bananas, or Grapes
    • So honestly… fruit is a big go-to for me all the time, but on wedding days, I have to be pretty strategic. This is the most might be the most particular thing in the world, but I always prefer to bring fruit with a skin because it feels a lot cleaner and easier for me to eat. Though they’re my favorite outside of the wedding world, I always have to pass on strawberries on wedding days because the sticky fingers just aren’t worth it to me.
  • Simple Mills Crackers
    • I live by a life motto that Simple Mills can do no wrong, and I’ll stand by that fact until they prove otherwise! Their crackers are SO delicious and stay together like a regular cracker— if you’re gluten-free, you know. They have a few crackers that come in individually packaged bags which is a GREAT and fast addition to your snack bag in a pinch. If I don’t have anything on hand, I usually toss a handful in a Stasher bag or just bring the whole box with me because… they’re that good.
  • Waffles and Nut Butter
    • If you are a fellow gluten free person, you know our bread options are ummm often less than ideal. Gluten is the sticky protein, so many gluten free bread options tend to be pretty crumbly. I was searching high and low for an easy (and tbh affordable… because a lot of grain free bread is way more expensive than I care to admit!) option for a PB&J on the go. I soon learned that paleo toaster waffles actually hold up on the go, and they’re pretty delicious! I love the waffles from Birch Benders! I often bring one of these for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack, complete with some PB, almond butter, and maybe some Enjoy Life chocolate chips or honey! SO GOOD and so easy.
  • Liquid IV
    • I know this one isn’t really a snack, but I love popping a LiquidIV in my bag for some extra electrolyte love throughout wedding days. I love these as an easy, portable option for some hydration support— such a good addition on busy, hot wedding days!

A Note on Sneaky Gluten/Grains

Promise I’ll wrap this up here REAL soon, but I wanted to add one FINAL plug for a few places that unsafe ingredients have accidentally slipped in for me. Sauces and gravies are often thickened by flour or corn starch (Two things that my body does NOT like) and many veggies and meats are cooked with dairy. I typically ask for my meal to be served without sauce/gravy and for meat to be cooked in olive oil. If I’m unsure about something, I’ve learned that it’s better to pass than risk it which is why I always bring along backup.

PHEW… if you’ve made it this far, you’re a REAL ONE FAM. Are these the healthiest options? Meh maybe not! That said, I figure that wedding days are simply one day a week and portability and overall food safety is WAY more important to me than eating 100% balanced and whole meals! Now…

This is just one final reminder that these options and suggestions are simply based on my body and my own experiences. Chances are good, our bodies are different, and that’s such a beautiful thing! I encourage you to find options that make you feel good AND that work for the way you work weddings. Always consult a doc before making big changes to your diet or lifestyle.  I hope you found something in this blog post helpful— know I’m sending you love!

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