Hello everyone! I am so excited to be guest blogging for Charm City Wed. My name is Caitlin, and I just celebrated my 25th birthday. I live with my fiancé John and our puppy Levi in the beautiful city of Baltimore. We’ve been together for more than seven years now, and we’re so excited to be getting married this fall! We spent the first four years of our relationship at different colleges over three hundred miles apart, but it taught us to appreciate each other’s time and value the moments we did get to share when we were together. Now that we live in the same place, we spend a lot of time entertaining our two-year-old hound dog Levi, hanging out with our great friends in our favorite neighborhood bars and restaurants, and shouting answers during Jeopardy. John loves to mountain bike and watch Arsenal FC games. I’m currently re-watching all of the American The Office, start to finish, and listening to a lot of Beyoncé. And planning our wedding, of course!
Photo: Katie DeLorme
John proposed to me on our seventh anniversary, looking at the Inner Harbor from the Pride of Baltimore memorial, after delicious dinner at the Rusty Scupper. I’d love to say that I took some time and enjoyed the bliss of our engagement for a few weeks, but that’s about as far from the truth as it gets. I wasted absolutely no time in starting to plan the wedding; I bought a binder and two-dozen divider tabs and got organized. I made a lot of spreadsheets and lists to keep all the venues, photographers, appointments, and emails straight. We made a lot of very large decisions in what felt like an incredibly short amount of time, but we couldn’t be happier with all of our choices. Our wedding will be this September at the Evergreen Museum and Library. With the invaluable help of our incredible family and friends, we’re planning everything ourselves.
Like many other brides, I’m sure, I have never planned anything even remotely like a wedding, and I (hopefully!) never will again. So of course we did a large amount of research on venues and vendors, and compared not only prices and availability but also how we generally felt about working with them. I think I can confess now that I’ve been thinking about this wedding for quite some time, so I had a pretty solid vision for most of it. Some of that’s changed during the planning, but for the most part it’s intact. The only thing I didn’t really have a clear vision for was the menu.
I’m not crazy about food. I know a lot of people absolutely love food and eating and trying new things and pairing dishes with wines and all of that, but I really don’t. My eating habits are very similar to that of a kindergartener, by which I mean I love snacks and my recipe books are filled with same repertoire of dinners that my mom made. I am a creature of habit, food-wise, so I wasn’t too pressed about the actual menu. I was, however, pressed about the caterer.
So, there’s one more thing about me: I’m gluten free. About eighteen months ago, I got tired of feeling generally icky; I wish there was a more precise medical definition of how I was feeling, but let’s just say I was gastrointestinally compromised and dealing with a concerning amount of anxiety. After realizing that anti-anxiety meds only made me light-headed (and consequently more anxious), I determined that my discomfort and my anxiety were linked to food and eating, so I started on some dietary experiments with some professional advice. I cut all alcohol, red meat, caffeine, sugar, and gluten from my diet. I slowly reintroduced everything, and I saw the most profound reaction to reintroducing gluten. I completely removed all wheat, barley, and malt from my diet, and I haven’t looked back. I was tested for Celiac disease, which I very fortunately do not have, but I am gluten sensitive, meaning that if I eat anything containing gluten, I react immediately.
Obviously, I would not like to have a gluten reaction on my wedding day. Anyone with a food allergy or dietary restriction knows how quickly very wonderful things can be completely ruined when you unknowingly eat something you shouldn’t, or just plain can’t. My wedding is not something that I would like to be even marginally ruined, so the caterer had a pretty important role as far as I was concerned. We’d been given a list of approved caterers for the Evergreen, so we started looking at their websites. My mother did most of the research, and had a really good feeling about a few of them after seeing some reviews about their consideration of dietary restrictions. I was feeling pretty optimistic about our chances of finding someone who could accommodate our needs.
I went with my mom and one of my lovely bridesmaids to a wedding expo in Harbor East late in the summer, and was excited to meet some caterers in person to ask them directly if they were able to plan gluten free dishes. We spotted their booths on the directory and just as we were planning our route through the ballrooms, my mom stopped at the very first booth and said, “This is the one I was telling you about!” So we hopped into the line that had formed at the booth and waited to speak with the representatives. Love at first sight sounds dramatic for choosing a catering company, but I know that at the very least that all other caterers were ruined for me after meeting the lovely ladies at Rouge Fine Catering. They were patient with my questions and enthusiastic about giving me plenty of menu options that I could be comfortable with, assuring me that they take dietary restrictions and allergies very seriously. They even mentioned avoiding cross contamination (preparing gluten free food in a non-gluten free space), which is always a clue that someone knows what they’re talking about. I felt extremely confident in their attention to my needs, but that wasn’t even the best part.
Having a completely gluten free wedding wasn’t something that I’d even considered, because it isn’t as simple as it seems to remove gluten from a lot of recipes. Gluten is a protein composite that makes things like bread and pasta dough rise and be deliciously chewy, but it can also be used as a thickening agent in soups and dressings. It’s also found in quite a few places you might not expect, like vanilla extract and Worcestershire sauce, which is why I wasn’t anticipating a completely gluten free menu at the wedding. But Rouge has an extensive full-service catering menu that can be printed right from their website – and probably close to half of the dishes are already labeled gluten free. This meant that I wouldn’t have to sit down in a long, tedious meeting with a catering director and ask for the ingredients of every appetizer, main course, and side dish that we wanted to have. Miraculously, I would have too many choices.
Photo: Rouge Fine Catering
We did tear ourselves away from the Rouge booth to walk around the rest of the expo and meet a few other caterers and bakeries. Every time we broached the subject of a gluten free menu, we got a mix of responses. Some people flat out said no (which I appreciated), but others kind of cocked their heads and said something like “Sure, we could make that happen for you,” which has never inspired confidence in me. It became very clear that Rouge was going to be the most prepared, knowledgeable, and accommodating vendor to meet our needs.
With the exception of beer, bread, and most of the cake, our entire wedding will be gluten free. After a full tasting with Rouge, we couldn’t be happier with the menu we selected, and I can feel so comfortable on my wedding day because I’ve already eaten everything they’re serving and I know for sure it’s all safe for me. The Baltimore Cakery is making the top layer of our wedding cake gluten free so I can participate in that wonderful tradition of my new husband gently feeding me a little bite of it without getting any icing on my face, of course. We’re having a ‘first look’ photo shoot before the ceremony for several reasons, but one of them is definitely because I want to eat as many gluten free mini crab cakes as I can during our cocktail hour.
For once, I’m really excited about food. Absolutely everyone has told me that the day flies by so fast that I won’t have a moment to eat anything anyway, but someone is going to have to drag me from my plate if they need me before I’ve had a little of the whole buffet.