In the spirit of getting ready to plan my sister's bachelorette weekend, I wanted to grow upon the page's wedding planning section and share what I learned when planning a bachelorette (or bachelor) weekend, how to manage it with food allergies, the precautions I took, and how we handled unplanned issues.
The first and most important, almost non-food allergy-related tip I want to share is to communicate what you want and DO NOT want at your celebratory weekend. For one, I did not want it to be a surprise and wanted to be fully involved in the planning. This really helped keep the stress and anxiety at ease during our trip to Orlando, Florida.
My sister and I took care of the plans for the festivities, planning to spend the long weekend at our family's timeshare condo. Since the plans were not a secret, we created the agenda to have the 6 of us head down to Florida Thursday morning, spending the day at the resort. This allowed us to use the condo's kitchen to make the meals for that day. On Friday, we spent the day at Universal Studios and the evening at City Walk, where we had dinner at VIVO Italian Kitchen. On Saturday, we spent most of the day at the resort again before heading to Disney Springs and heading home Sunday. The plan was exactly how I imagined it, but, of course, my anxiety kicked in.
There were a few things that were on my mind. For one, I was worried about dining in restaurants. The year prior, I had suffered from the worst allergic reaction and eczema rashes I have ever experienced. Even though I was almost 7 months in recovery by the time the trip rolled around, I always had the fear my body would relapse. (I still have that fear and anxiety until this day). In this case, unlike any other outing, this time around, I would be the "guest of honor" and wouldn't mean I could sit off in the corner like I normally do, going unnoticed; a lot of attention would be on me for the weekend.
Secondly, I was worried about my health overall. Joe and I use to follow a very routine daily schedule. I was nervous breaking that and changing things up, even for a couple of days, would cause my immune system to lower, or the heat would cause my eczema to flare up uncontrollably again. I was also worried about what would happen if I took my medication a little later than I usually did. What if that would leave me not feeling well during the trip? Finally, I was worried about contamination in a condo with 5 other people, some of who didn't normally have to worry about food allergies, keeping surfaces clean, being mindful of certain scents...basically, following what it is like to live with me. There wasn't going to be much privacy for me to mentally unwind, and I wouldn't have Joe there to silently and seamlessly help me, but I did have my mom and sister there, both of who were well aware of what I go through, aware of every last crumb on my restriction list, and how I was in my high-anxiety situation. They worked hard to keep the weekend very Amanda-safe, even in the ad-hoc moments when plans didn't go perfectly, or stress was high.
Just a couple of weeks before the trip, I started expressing my fears to Joe. As the days neared closer, I started to have panic attacks and breakdowns. Even though I was going on a trip with my relatives, and they all know the allergy and health situation, I was still panicked. I kept thinking I would have a severe reaction while we were out and ruin the weekend. I was embarrassed for feeling this way and frustrated that, just for this one weekend, I couldn't be a normal easygoing, and excited bride-to-be.
As the weekend quickly approached, I did a few things, physically and mentally, to make me feel comfortable. First, I reassured myself to relax because we were going to a place we have been to many times before, and was as comfortable in the area as I am at home. Second, my sister and I researched as many possible places there were for me to dine at safely. We even created a grocery list of brands that are typically found in all Whole Foods locations. This acted as a huge relief to my sanity.
On Thursday, I flew down with my mom, sister, and cousins. We met my aunt at the condo, who prepared the room before we arrived. Once I was settled in, my aunt drove me to Whole Foods, and I stocked up on snacks to bring to the parks, and food to prepare in the condo. I ended up with a cart full of Applegate products, Simple Mills, Siete, Vital Farms, That's It, and Larabars, plus tons of fruit and veggies. When we returned, we made lunch before heading to the pool. Later that evening, I made a fun pasta primavera dinner for me, while everyone else ordered from the on-resort restaurant. We kept their food in their to-go containers and away from my food, to keep things safe. We also made sure to wipe down the kitchen and dishes before using anything. Being that it is a shared condo, we needed to do a big load of dishes before cooking or eating on them. Luckily, the condo did have a dishwasher!
On Friday, we woke up early enough to have a big and safe breakfast before heading out for the day. At the park, I made sure to stay hydrated, consistently reapplied sunblock (as I did the entire weekend), and packed tons of snacks to keep my hunger at ease. We emailed many of the park's restaurants when planning, but many of them used soybean, vegetable, or canola oil and couldn't promise there would be no cross-contamination. Since park policy does allow you to bring in manufactured sealed food, I relied on my That's It and LaraBars, as well as the park's kiosks that served fruit in a container. The park also allows medication, such as inhalers and epi-pens, to be brought in, just in case you were wondering.
At VIVO Italian Kitchen on Friday night, I had an incredible salmon and veggies dinner that I still dream about today. Seriously, I cannot wait to visit Universal again, this time with Joe so he can enjoy this dish too! They were very accommodating. As always, at first I was nervous, seeing how busy they were. My big advocates, my mom and sister, went in to speak to the hostess and a head chef who assured them they take food allergies very seriously. After hearing everything I was allergic too, they even were excited to be up for the challenge! And the accepted challenge turned into a happy fully tummy for me. They do make fresh pasta on-site, and did offer to make me fresh gluten-free pasta, but, even with their disclaimer of taking food allergies very seriously, I was nervous about cross-contamination and passed on this offer.
On Saturday, we spent most of the day by the pool before heading out to Disney Springs for the evening. That is where we encountered our blip in the trip.
When arriving at Disney Springs, the restaurant I choose to dine at was completely bought out for a party and was accepting no additional reservations for that day. Quickly, I began to worry. It was busy, as excepted on a Saturday night. I didn't feel comfortable eating somewhere I didn't research first. I started to assure my family that I didn't need to eat, but they wouldn't hear of it. Just like that, they fanned out looking for a safe restaurant. We came across an Irish pub that was accommodating. My mom also took it as a sign as we are Irish and felt like a good end to the weekend.
Upon seating, the waitress let me know what safe foods I could have. We decided on salmon cooked in olive oil and a side of Brussels sprouts and butternut squash. Just as I was about to be very relieved, our waitress returned back with bad news. The Brussels sprouts and butternut squash medley she was so excited to offer me turned out to be pre-prepared in canola oil. Even though I insisted on just having the salmon, she kept listing off other things to do as a side, such as a salad. I am extremely picky when it comes to certain foods I eat, salad being one. I need to know the lettuce or leaves of choice are 100% organic and then cleans properly. Because of this, I don't eat salad out. However, members of my party were unaware of this and started to push for me to order the salad. My mom quickly noticed my aniexty kicking in while in this situation and jumped in to my rescue. (Food allergy moms are real-life superheroes). While this bling did create a bit of a mood kill, we made the best of the rest of the night before heading home the next morning.
Over a year later, and I am back planning another Bachelorette party, this time for my sister! Despite how nervous I am about it, again, Ashley and I are doing our research and finding out how to make the weekend safe and enjoyable for all. Using what we learned from mine, we will make sure to have backup plans just in case and will schedule some downtime for us and the girls, enjoying moments playing card games, telling stories, and laughing.
If you are hosting a bachelorette party and have a friend or family member coming who has food allergies, remember to keep their safety in mind. It is one thing to understand their situation, but the anxiety is not yours to bear. Let it be clear to everyone invited what food cannot be around and ways they can keep the event safe. Stay in communication with that person, and let them know what the plans are so they can do what they need to do to ensure their own safety. Most importantly, if they decide to stay back for any of the schedule plans, don't take offense to it. Know they are doing it for a reason and be happy they are staying safe instead of risking anything they are uncomfortable with.