What’s the Best Way To Throw A Sober Wedding?

by Alyssa Mooney, Emeritus Staff

Two questions came to APW recently, both regarding not having a sober wedding.  First, Court:

“Here’s my question – have you ever had a wedding graduate who (either the bride or groom or both) are in recovery, so it was an alcohol-free wedding, reception (rehearsal, everything)?  Before Grant went through treatment at the beginning of 2009, I would have thought going to a wedding without alcohol would be horrible and, if I’m being honest, would have judged it.  I didn’t understand addiction, and didn’t understand why the person in recovery couldn’t be around alcohol.  As it has been put to me now, which I do understand is “if you go to the barber shop long enough, you’re gonna leave with a haircut.”  The important thing is for Grant to stay in recovery.

We love our new lives here.  We are so excited to get married, and stay on this path to being happy and healthy.  I’m wondering how to explain to people that it will be a dry wedding weekend, and how that is not the point.  That Grant and I found each other, that we are making it in a relationship with his disease (addiction) and my disease (depression), and that we want to keep doing it every day – that’s the point.”

Amanda also had the same question:

“My fiance & I are getting married in the fall (wheeee!) and are having a full dinner & dance reception after our ceremony.  We are not, however, serving any alcohol.  While we both enjoy a bevvie (especially when dancing!), we chose to have a dry wedding to respect our MOH and a groomsman who both cannot drink due to medication requirements.  Also, there is a single cousin on both sides who tends to become a mean drunk.

Rather than alcoholic beverages, we are serving Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Cider, sparkling water, and a signature punch (from a champagne fountain, no less).  There will be wine glasses to drink from, and no lack of garnish.  In other words, a classy & very “us” beverage selection; one that just happens to also be non-alcoholic.

My dilemma is this: everyone keeps referring to the alcohol that they are assuming will be served.  “It doesn’t matter what songs are played, but more which liquor is served!”; “I can’t wait to get sloppy and find the single guys”; and the list goes on…

Should I tell people upfront that liquor will not be served?  If so, do I provide the (rather personal) reason for this?  Or do I just let people travel 800+ KM to our wedding and chance them being disappointed?  Really – if someone would choose not to attend my wedding due to no liquor, they aren’t a good friend of mine.  That said, I don’t feel the need to run around telling people the wedding will be dry (as that is SO not the focus of the day!).  So I am stuck.  Suggestions??  Advice??”

The short answer is, “Eff ‘em.  If they need booze to have a good time, then they have bigger problems than not enjoying your wedding.”


What?  You want more?

GOD.  This gig is going to be harder than I thought.

Okay, the big problem here is a matter of not wanting to offend.  We talk so much about it being YOUR wedding, but NOT your day.  And that’s true.  However, both readers (and anyone else with this dilemma) have very real and important reasons to not have alcohol at their wedding.  Even if the reason is monetary or just personal beliefs, there’s no reason you HAVE to have alcohol at your wedding.  If the guests are old enough to get themselves to your wedding, they are old enough to wait a couple of hours until they can get a drink with friends.  That’s what wedding after-parties are for.  There is plenty of time to get sloppy and make bad romantic decisions at a bar or house-party after the happy couple has ridden off into the sunset.  Just like your guests will survive if they have finger sandwiches instead of a sit-down dinner, they will be okay with the beverages that you provide in lieu of beer, wine or liquor.  If they get really upset about it, make them sit with their head between their knees as you rub their back and whisper “This too shall pass.”  Then plan an A&E-style Intervention because it’s obviously needed.

But you ladies know this.  The reason I’m reiterating is because the underlying problem is a matter of owning your decision.  Alcohol is a big part of our social structure, but it does not have to be.  You don’t have anything to apologize to your guests for, nor do you owe anyone an explanation.  You’re both being completely admirable in thinking about the tone you want to set for your wedding and it’s not one that includes embarrassing or angry behavior by certain drinkers and uncomfortable silence by the teetotalers or responsible drinkers.

But here comes that harder part – actually dealing with people who bring up drinking at your wedding beforehand.  There’s a couple of ways to deal with this.  If the people are close to you, you can just let them know there won’t be alcohol and the reasons why.  If they respect you, they’ll respect your decision.  (There may still be whining, but they’ll respect it.)

But if that’s not an option, take a tip that I’ve learned from moms and teachers – don’t make an issue out of it.  If they mention they can’t wait to get sh*t-faced at your reception and hit on your hot cousin, just say, “Oh, we’ve decided not to have alcohol at the wedding.” There’ll be “no way” ’s and “Aww, really” ’s and “What?  WHY?” ’s, but just continue to reiterate that you and your fiancé made the decision not to have it.  Resist the urge to get defensive because honestly there’s nothing to defend and it’s really NOT a big deal.  Also resist the urge to get self-righteous in your decision because, well, nobody likes that guy.

Also, Court, your fiancé’s sobriety is wonderful and something, I think, worth celebrating.  Think about including in your invitations or program some recognition of it.  As in, “In honor of Grant’s 2 years of sobriety, the reception will be alcohol-free.”  It’s out there, it’s owned and it’s admired.  AND, anyone who complains about no booze after that will look like a total d*ck.  Bonus.

But in the end, it is your decision and they will live with it.  You’re not banning alcohol from their LIVES, just your wedding.  And I raise a glass of sparkling apple juice to you both. (Seriously, that stuff is kinda tasty.)

So APW’ers, have you had a completely sober wedding?  What were the reactions and repercussions?  Do you regret it?  How about some of you who had alcohol at your wedding, if you could go back, would you do it again?

Alyssa Mooney

Alyssa received a BA in Theatre and a minor in Gender Studies from Stephen F. Austin State University. She lives in Dallas, Texas, with her adorably red-neck husband, Maggie the Wonder Dog, and sassy baby Tater.

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  • We both came from fairly sober families, my husband does not drink, alcohol was never a big thing for either of us and so I never even thought of it. And if a friend gave us the stank eye, they soon got over it, because we didn’t make a big deal about it. We focused on different aspects of the wedding – not just being a party. Sure, maybe some beer would have been fun, but the reception pictures prove that you don’t *have* to be filled with some liquid courage to have a damn good time.

    “That’s what wedding after-parties are for.”

    This. There was an outrageous after-party that all of the young folks went to. From the modern day shivaree we received on our wedding night via voicemail, they had kept the love rocking late into the night. That may or may not have ended up as a tradition in our circle….

  • Rebecca Meyer

    Thank you so much for this post! I totally agree with the fact that it shouldn’t be a big deal and anyone who makes it such is just being immature. My fiance and I also come from families who are not big drinkers, and my father is a pastor, which has led us to decided against alcohol as well. However, we are planning on serving unique drinks in our colors: pink and blue. There are so many ways to make a wedding memorable and fun that I know our friends and family won’t miss out on the alcohol.

    • EratHora

      I just wanted to comment to say I have been to a few very gorgeous weddings that were alcohol free. One was very traditional–evening reception. The other was a classy lunch time reception with lots of activities int he park after. People are there to support your love–so happy you found each other. Cheers!

  • Liz

    alyssa <3

    we had only champagne. it was awesome.

    alyssa's right- the only hard part will be BEFORE the wedding, when people ask about it. i found it easiest to let people know right in the invitations- "join us for dessert and champagne." a completely dry wedding may be harder to word, but you still may be able to squeeze it in there. because- let's face it- even though they're NOT SUPPOSED TO, people always expect some booze at a wedding. other than that, those "whaaaat, no drinking?!" conversations need no explanation. i wouldn't get into the nitty gritty of why. just leave it at "nope" and start telling them about the awesome appetizers instead. (alyssa is so dead-right here- you don't owe them the backstory) they can stay home if they don't know how to have a good time without a shot of tequila.

    one of the other concerns i've often heard (though not really mentioned above) is that the party will be "boring." noone will dance, noone will mingle- everyone will be restrained by their sobriety. FALSE. that's all. just. false.

  • ddayporter

    Alysssaaaa you are awesome. That’s pretty much what I came here to say, because I don’t really have anything helpful to add to the discussion. We had alcohol at our wedding, and I couldn’t say we regretted it. BUT I can say, my sister didn’t have alcohol at her wedding, and you know what, I didn’t even notice. I definitely was one to mumble under my breath about the dry factor in advance, but actually at the reception it was totally a non-issue. We had punch and sparkling cider and it was fabulous.

    I really like the idea of making a note about the groom’s 2 years of sobriety, that is something to celebrate!

    • Someone

      The cider thing always confuses me in this context, cider is an alcoholic beverage where I come from!

      • Carreg

        Hello Someone! Totally agree with you, cider is alcoholic where I come from too (are you British as well?) — in fact rather more so than beer. If unfermented apple juice is cider, I wonder what the fermented stuff is called. Anyway, sparkling non fermented apple related product sounds like a lovely thing to drink at a wedding to me and if people turn their noses up they are Being Silly.

        Great post, Alyssa, and best of luck to Courtney and Amanda. If it helps I’ve been to loads of parties where most people weren’t drinking and the people having the most fun were the sober ones. People don’t really need alcohol to enjoy themsleves, they just think they do — if they can see the bride and groom having fun and dancing they _will_ follow suit, even if they are stone cold sober. Also, a friend of mine went to Egypt and tells me that drinking is not common there (since it’s a Muslim country) but they still have great parties, and they dance rather better because they aren’t gradually losing all co-ordination over the course of the evening. Not sure that’s practically helpful but it’s nice to know.

        • Cider in the US can refer to two different beverages. Regular apple cider is generally a fall drink, sometimes sparkling, that contains no alcohol. Hard cider is the stuff that contains alcohol, like Strongbow or Woodchuck.

          • Yup. Cider (of the non-alcoholic sort) is less processed than apple juice — it’s what you get from just mashing the apples (mmm, and then doughnuts get made incorporated the mashed bits, yum), whereas apple juice is further filtered — it’s both clearer in appearance and milder in flavor. Also usually pasteurized. (Here you can find bottles of apple juice on the shelves in the grocery store, but cider will be in the refrigerator.) Cider will sometimes be served hot and mulled with spices, I’ve never seen that done with apple juice, though. (Or with hard cider, for that matter – it’s always just consumed straight out of the bottle or from the bar tap – but maybe that does happen in places where it is a more common drink?)

          • Nah, Jennifer. If you were to mull the hard stuff you’d burn off the alcohol (though I have a friend who makes hot cider that she mixes with cinnamon-infused vodka after the mulling process is finished).

          • Clare

            Oooo… from Jennifer’s description what you call cider we’d call cloudy apple juice (descriptive, huh?) in Australia. My only experience with the cloudy stuff is mixing it with ginger beer and vanilla vodka and serving it as punch :P
            I like the idea of mulled cloudy apple juice though. Way better than mulled wine (which I like the smell of, but not the taste).

            In Australia, (like the UK meaning, with maybe different applications), cider is something one would drink in the heat of summer as a refreshing (and boozier) alternative to beer.

  • Wow. Alyssa is goooooooood.

  • Someone

    My mother always taught me that as a guest you have no right to complain. You should be grateful for whatever your host provides. They didn’t have to invite you or feed you.

    Elsewhere I have seen people hold their weddings earlier in the day to alleviate the situation a little. Afternoon tea seems to be popular – not so many people want to be plastered at 2pm.

    • meg

      Good advice!!! We had wine and beer at our lunch reception, but people didn’t drink that much (and our crowd tends to drink quite a bit). I hear they got smashed at the afterparty though, and good for them!

      So yes, early in the day would make it almost not noticeable.

      • Alyssa

        Lauren, Meg’s intern, mentioned this also and I think it’s really smart and a good way to avoid the whole situation.
        I didn’t bring this up because I really think the important part of what the readers were dealing wtih is owning what you’re going to do. It’s the same thing we talk about in any part of a wedding and what Meg preaches on a daily basis. Just cause it’s with booze doesn’t mean that changes!

    • Eve

      Yes– we are having our wedding at 11 a.m. and our big decision consists of: Mimosas? Or nothing?

      • Leona

        I have an 11 am wedding as well and decided not to have alcohol at all. I just come from a family where drinking is severely frowned upon. I have mocktails consisting of sparkling cider made with cinnamon and cranberries. I have seen weddings with mimosas that early, though, and it seemed totally fine. I think because it’s a celebration, people are more likely to excuse themselves for drinking that early and there’s nothing wrong with that. Another upside to having the reception earlier in the day is that even if people do drink, I can’t imagine someone would get embarrassingly drunk.

        I’m also not having dancing because most of my guests are older family members who I know very well will not dance. I think with a daytime reception it’s just a little bit harder to get people to dance, too. I do plan on having an after-party with my friends and cousins with drinking and dancing so I’m not incredibly sad. :)

        • ElfPuddle

          We aren’t having dancing, either. We don’t have a time set, but as it’s young-kid friendly, weekend, Catholic, I bet it’ll be noonish as well.
          We’re going to have games (croquet, board games, etc.) instead of dancing.
          (Yay for including things the family enjoys!)

        • Tricia

          We had a reception with limited drinking and no dancing and I have a word of advice for you. I would consider having a planned activity (lawn games or something) to get people engaged and active. And have a rain plan for that too. Without some kind of activity the dreaded “boring reception” can become a reality.

          We were planning on lawn games, but got rained out and I wasn’t proactive about breaking out the board games. The upshot was I looked up part way through the reception and half the guests had wandered off to do something else and our reception was dead. It was fine though. Everyone came back for the cake cutting and we had already had two days with everyone to talk and hang out (including a fantastic campfire the night before). So we had a fantastic wedding that was all I could ask for. However, if I have one regret it would be not breaking out the board games earlier. I hear they ended up having a great time with them after we left.

          • ElfPuddle

            My other half and I are BIG board game geeks…so breaking them out won’t be a problem. Also the several decks of cards. We’re also looking into renting a local park that has a riverwalk and playground. (In case of rain, the tables are covered. In case of really bad weather, there’s always getting everybody to the house where even more board games are.)

          • Leona

            I’ve definitely looked into finding a game to play during the reception. Ours isn’t very long (about an hour and a half) but I’m currently trying to find a seated game to help people mingle. Maybe something like Apples to Apples. If anyone has suggestions I’m wide open.

        • ElfPuddle

          I have a lot of suggestions, but it depends on your guests’ personalities. Are they familiar with a lot of games, or mind learning new ones?
          Growing up, our family favorites were card games (Hearts, Nurtz, Palm Springs Rummy), Risk, Life, Monopoly, Clue, the “traditional” well-knowns.

          My fiance & his children play a lot of games from Days of Wonder ( http://www.daysofwonder.com/en/ ), especially the Ticket to Ride series. We also like Mystery of the Abby, Carcasonne (I don’t remember if that’s DOW or not), Calosseum and Cleopatra. His 12 year old daughter loves The Queen’s Necklace, and the 11 yr old boy adores “Gloom” (which is not DOW…it’s a card game where you try to make families live miserable lives.)

          If you have a theme, it wouldn’t be hard to find a board game in that them. I’d be happy to help.

  • Laura

    Alyssa, I’m so glad you’re on board. I’ve always loved your comments. And of course your advice is spot-on!
    My first marriage was to a recovering alcoholic. He had been sober for some years when we got together, and was well used to being the only non-drinking person at the party, so we had the usual open bar that people mostly expect. I’ve blocked most of that wedding from my mind (yikes), but one thing I do remember is how his AA friends partied just as hard as the people who were drinking. They danced, mingled, talked to everyone, and generally enjoyed themselves. I think I danced more with the sober people that night than some of the ones who were drinking! Anyone who says you can’t have a good time without booze just isn’t trying hard enough.

  • Carbon Girl

    Wow, I am going to have a dissenting opinion here. Hopefully, I will not get too badly b*itched out for this. First of all, with the fiance in recovery. Yes, absolutely that is an extremely good reason not to have alcohol at your wedding. I assume that your close friends and family know about his treatment and will be able to kindly and without judgement get word out to guests who ask the day of why you are having a sober wedding, so you don’t have to worry about it.

    Second, I do not think the friends on medication or the mean drunk cousins are good reason to have a sober wedding. I have a celiac friend and my dad is a diabetic but I did not have a gluten- or sugar-free wedding. Instead, I made sure they had options that they could eat without forcing their dietary restrictions on everyone else. That was part of being a good hostess. Hospitality is huge in my family and part of that hospitality means providing alcoholic drinks to your guests at an evening wedding. My parents did not drink most of my life, but always provided those options to guests. Yes, your guests expect it and maybe they shouldn’t, but they do. As a hostess, I wanted them to enjoy themselves and have a great time. After all, many did drive 3+ hours or fly cross country to be there and I would hate for them to be disappointed. Not that you have to please everyone, but a non alcoholic decision might upset a lot of them.

    As far as keeping mean drunks at bay. We only served beer and wine since it is harder to get drunk off those beverages than hard liquor. You could also inform the bartender that the cousins in question should be cut off after X many drinks or have a family member watch out for them.

    Lastly, if you want to have a sober wedding. Maybe it would be best to have a brunch or lunch reception where alcoholic would be a lot less expected by guests. I do not mean to offend anyone here, but that is just my two cents.

    • Liz

      i think one of alyssa’s best points is that there’s no such thing as a “bad reason” to make a decision the way you want to make it.

      • Michele

        That sounds nice and all, but people make terrible decisions all the time, and use even more terrible excuses to justify them. And I mean that in a very general sense, not specifically in regards to weddings.

        • Liz

          lucky for me it’s not my responsibility (or right) to judge them for it.

          • Michele

            You’ve never taken issue with the choices people make and they excuses they use to justify them? Ever? I find that impossible to believe.

            Just yesterday I was shopping with a girlfriend – a girlfriend who is unemployed and has $10k in credit card debt. She picked out a pair of shoes and said she was going to buy them because they were on sale. NOT because she loved them, but because the price was great. I kindly reminded her that she has no income, and therefore probably shouldn’t be spending money she doesn’t have on things she doesn’t need.

            Call me crazy, but THAT is what a friend does – she asks ‘are you sure you really want to aim your car for that brick wall?’ when someone she loves is clearly on a collision course. She doesn’t just sit back, say ‘it’s none of my business,’ and watch her friend crash and burn.

          • Liz

            we aren’t talking about your friend’s shoes. we’re talking about weddings.

            when someone is making a financial, religious, aesthetic- or any other kind of decision about their wedding, it is NOT up to the guest to judge that decision and determine if their reasoning is valid. it’s just not your call to make.

            your only decision is whether or not you’ll be going. and what you’re going to wear/bring. the end. that’s the extent of your authority as a guest.

          • Michele

            I did specifically say that I was speaking generally – not specifically in regards to weddings.

            I apologize if I sounded bitchy, but I just can’t get on board with the idea that there’s NEVER a bad reason to make a decision the way you want to make it. Because there is.

            And unfortunately, all too often, when someone invokes that argument, it’s because they KNOW they’re making a bad decision, but do so anyway.

    • Ha, didn’t see your comment before I posted. I had many of the same thoughts about the second letter. See my comment below … I didn’t touch on this, specifically, but rather a personal experience.

    • Someone

      I think the point is that you absolutely COULD have a gluten free wedding. Lots of people serve totally vegetarian or vegan food.

      • we had a vegetarian wedding! and very light alcohol… :)

        • Carbon Girl

          If vegetarianism is important to you as a couple then that absolutely makes sense. Again, the couple should own it, say it is what they want, rather then saying it is for the comfort of a few guests over the expectations of many guests.

          • I don’t know if we really owned it… there just wasn’t any meat served. And nobody really said anything about it. It was pretty much between us and the caterer. Maybe those egg bakes were just so darn delicious that nobody noticed the missing meat.

          • Corinne

            I understand about ‘owning’ your own wedding and about making choices that you are happy with on the day and being true to your self and all that, but you invite guests to your wedding, because, I assume, that you want to be surrounded by people that you love and care about and that love and care about you. So what is wrong with wanting to please them too on the day. We changed the location of our wedding so that over a hundred of our guests didn’t have to hire cars and try and find limited accommodation. I could have said too bad its my day and I’m owning it and I’ll get married where I want, but to me that is being selfish and I may as well go and elope if I don’t consider my guests. although alcohol is a much trickier choice.

    • I had this same conversation with a dear friend of mine. To her comments (which were incredibly similar to yours) I responded:

      Do people go to weddings to drink and eat? Or do they go to weddings to celebrate the love of the bride and groom?

      For me, it’s a celebration of love. And that comes with no expectation to be served food that makes me cry tears of culinary joy, or drinks that get me drunk so I can have a good time. I have a good time at weddings because they are so, so special..and FUN…regardless of what’s served. Pretty much, the only thing that I anticipate when I’m getting ready for a wedding is that there will be a happy couple, and they will share vows and promise love to one another. Beyond that, it’s anything goes in my mind!

      • Jackie

        Well my comment is probably not going to go over well, but I have to make it. When you say that a wedding is a “celebration of love,” I agree 100%. However, in my opinion celebrations should have good food and good wine and good music. I don’t think I need an intervention either for thinking that. Now if you have a good reason (like Court in the first example), then that is fine. Otherwise, I just cannot imagine celebrating anything without all three. I go out for drinks/dinner anytime ANYthing good happens – a particularly good day at work, a success in my personal life, etc.

        I respect that this may not fit in with other people’s culture, and if you don’t serve alcohol, fine. But please don’t judge those of us who are secretly thinking that it should have been offered.

        • Kat

          I grew up going to weddings where alcohol was both not expected and not served and where dancing was also not expected and not heard of… You had a ceremony, a reception with a bit of a program and then everyone goes on their way. No first dances, no cake cutting, no dj, no bartenders. It wasn’t until I was 22 that I went to my first wedding with first dances, cake cuttings, djs and bartenders…and it was weird.

          In some cultures, and some religious groups it’s just not a thing that is done. Please don’t judge those of us who just don’t do that thing… we’re not being rude, ignorant or boring, it’s just not what we do.

    • Laura

      Well, I’m allergic to nuts and shellfish and so we made sure not to serve either at my wedding. No one noticed or cared. Obviously that’s not the same as not having alcohol, but the point stands that if the bride and groom or anyone else they particularly honor has some kind of food allergy or other restriction, you can work with it and still be a good host.
      I do agree with you that the reception should be about the guests comfort. There are ways host graciously without alcohol.

      • I think the circumstances change when it’s the bride and groom with the restriction, as opposed to guests of the wedding.

        If the b&g in the second letter want a dry wedding because they want a dry wedding, they should definitely do that, BECAUSE IT IS THEIR WEDDING. However, to reach for a reason/justification (and that is how it reads) instead of just owning it, makes it sound a little bit silly, and may actually make for guests giving the stink-eye to the wedding party (I hope that doesn’t happen, btw).

        I have friends who are on medications that make it so they can’t drink, and none of them are put off by being around alcohol — in fact, often they offer to help DD. Granted, all scenarios and circumstances aren’t true for everyone, so I don’t want to make a sweeping generalization, but the odds that the MOH and the groomsman would mind alcohol being served are pretty low, in my experience.

        Alcoholism is a total game-changer, though, and I don’t think anyone would dispute that.

        • Alyssa

          It’s not reaching for a reason or a justification; it’s why they’re not having alcohol and it’s their decision and as you said it’s THEIR wedding.
          Implying that it’s reaching or that her reasons are silly is just mean, and I’m sure not what you meant, right?

        • Carbon Girl

          Yes, I think that was totally what I was getting at. If they want a dry wedding because that is what they want, they should go for it. Own it as you say. To do it for the comfort of a few guests at the potential annoyance/discomfort of many didn’t seem right to me in terms of hospitality. That is why I said it is important to have options for everyone.

    • lou

      i have to agree with you on this – i think we are on our own here!

      i think there are, of course, great reasons to have an alcohol-free wedding – having one half of the couple in question in recovery is a no-question great reason.

      however, where i come from, alcohol is a really big part of how people socialize. and i don’t agree with the assumption that people who enjoy it have a problem with drinking. i know that if we had a no-alcohol wedding (no addiction issues for us) people would be disappointed, and to my mind – fair enough. for us it’s a cultural thing – weddings are not just about a meaningful ceremony. they are also about the letting loose after wards, having a cold beer in the warm evening is something I know our guests will look forward to and i can’t imagine not providing that. however, as someone who enjoys a drink i would say that!

      but, on the flip-side, there are always things that people tell you that you ‘have’ to have at a wedding. we are not serving a sit down meal, food yes, but no sit down meal, and i’m sure a whole lot of people would have an issue with that. there will always be someone who thinks you didn’t do it right – so you just have to go with your gut. mine is saying ‘prosecco under the stars after the ceremony? yes please!’

      • I think, if you have alcohol, you need to have food. Not necessarily a sit down dinner (a friend of mine did a heavy apps/limited open bar/partial cash bar for her wedding, and it was great), but definitely plenty of food to eat, for obvious reasons. Sounds like that’s your plan, though! (And it sounds lovely!)

        Also, I agree with you about alcohol being a cultural thing. It is with my family, and with Hubby’s. Our big thing was, we wanted to be able to drink what WE liked at our wedding – that is, craft beer and boutique wine. Most wedding open bars are well liquor, Sutter Home, and Coors Light, none of which I particularly care for. I’ll usually drink rum and pineapple juice most of the evening, or if that’s not an option I’ll nurse a couple glasses of cabernet or merlot, and call it a night. Hubs will try to see if there is Grey Goose (for martinis) or a good scotch at the bar and have one or two of those, and then stop. (If there isn’t, he just drinks water.) We often don’t drink a lot at weddings because I’m pretty fussy about my alcohol … so, for me, I’d be OK with a dry wedding, even though I do enjoy drinking.

        But I think that’s the thing – most guests won’t complain about the wedding to the bride and groom, and if they do, they’re jerks. They’ll come, they’ll have fun, and they’ll wish you well. This isn’t to say they may not be disappointed with one thing or another, but that doesn’t mean they will give you any grief for it. The ones that will give you grief are generally immediate family and the bridal party – they’re close enough to you that they think they can give you that sort of feedback honestly (sometimes welcome, sometimes not). If they’re not giving you grief, though, then you REALLY don’t need to worry about it, because no one else will, either. If they are … well, hear them out. If you still decide to go dry for WHATEVER reason, then you should – but sometimes they just want to be considered.

        (This got sort of tangent-y … sorry!)

        • lou

          oh yes! totally agree – i think open bar can descend quite quickly with an enthusiastic crowd!

          we are serving lots of food, but more antipasto platters/cheese/bread/desserts. and for drinks i think we will serve one really nice kind of beer, one kind of prosecco and one white wine. we might do a punch as well for those who like the fruity drinks, but apart from that we aren’t doing spirits. for us it’s about the quality of the drinks we are serving, rather than having everything available.

          • Yup, us too. Our venue wasn’t licensed for liquor. My mother told me a coupleof her friends would be upset because they drink schnapps (one) and kahlua (the other) almost exclusively, and “could they bring it?” I said to my mother, “The venue isn’t licensed. If they get caught with it, they could get in a lot of trouble.”

            They did, apparently, sneak it in, and one of them apparently got caught and was scolded by the waitress! I laughed, because I had a feeling this would happen. I just didn’t want to “know” about it.

      • meg

        Just for the record, I don’t think anyone is really saying this, “i don’t agree with the assumption that people who enjoy it have a problem with drinking.” I, um, rather hugely enjoy alcohol. I might even privately grumble about a dry dinner wedding. I’d also have a great time, not b*tch to the couple, and think it was their choice to make. So. I think what Alyssa is saying is a little more nuanced and a little more about owning your choices.

        • lou

          oh yeah, i totally see what you mean, and what Alyssa meant. Just that in the comments there was a bit of a ‘well if having a drink at a wedding is so important then they obviously have a problem’ vibe. and i don’t think that’s necessarily fair.

        • Alyssa

          For the record? Giant fan of booze. I don’t want anyone to think I’m not, because all that hard work I put in during college and at bars after would be lost. And I used to work for an alcohol distributor (so if you drink with me and order wine at a restaurant, you might get a lecture on quality and on-premise mark-up.)

          If I was at a dry wedding, especially if I wasn’t close to the couple or didn’t know a lot of people, I’d be a bit disappointed if there wasn’t alcohol at the wedding.

          And then? I’d get over it because I’ve made it two to four hours at a function without alcohol before and I’d be able to do it again.

          And personally? (Not speaking as an APW contributor?) I think if someone considers it that big of a deal, they do have a problem. But not with alcohol. They have a problem with good manners, and I think I should speak to their mother.

          • PS I’m really glad APW has this advice column and you. This obviously needs to be talked about!

          • Alyssa– you rock. :)

        • peanut

          this exactly. We celebrate pretty much everything with a glass of wine or a cocktail, and to me a dry wedding would be a bummer – but not the end of the world, and certainly not something I would care so much about that I would feel the need to bring it up to the B&G.

    • Anon

      I agree. I don’t feel the reasons outlined in the second letter are sensible at all, and if I were a guest at that wedding – particularly one who’d spent a lot of time and/or money to attend – I woud be pretty hacked off. As several people have said, if you don’t want drink, don’t have drink – but don’t come up ‘justifications’ that don’t actually jutify your decision.

      Alcoholism is a completely different matter, of course.

      • meg

        Ok, I really DO object to the, “I spent time and money to attend and you owe me something” logic with weddings, always. What guests are owed is the couple getting married, cake or a cake like substitute, punch or a punch like substitute, and good conversation. That’s it. As guests we need to re-adjust our expectations to focus on what it’s really about. Which, as much as I love it, is not booze. No one owes us that, period.

        • Grete

          I think that the idea that wedding receptions MUST include alcohol is kind of like the idea that weddings must have flower girls, matching attendants, a white wedding dress, favors, flowers, dancing, details, etc. By that I mean, if you want them, great. If you dont, then that’s fine too. I think that if APW ladies are on board with letting tradition go when it comes to the bouquet toss and the cake with fondant, then we can let alcohol go too. My husband and I had an alcohol free wedding for no real reason, we aren’t big drinkers, we were on a fairly tight budget, and that was that. Dinner was served with water, iced tea, or lemonade. And no one complained. Becasue they flew from Alaska and Massachusetts, drove from Minnesota and Montana, to be with us as we started a new marriage. Not to get plastered.

          • ElfPuddle

            On an off-topic note, how long did your guests stay? How did you deal with accommodations? When we get married here in GA, our guests will be from Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and maybe even Chicago and New Hampshire.

          • Grete

            Struggling to reply to the comment below, so I’m replying to myself :)

            We dealt with accomodations by reserving rooms for everyone from out of town at a local dude ranch (not something that works for everyone, but a hotel would do the trick). We let everyone know what was available and which days, and that kind of suggested how long we expected them to be there. Some family memebrs came early and stayed with us, like my dad. For the most part though, they were there for a long weekend (Friday-Sunday) and cleared out the Monday after the wedding.

          • ElfPuddle

            Thank you. (I need all the tips I can get.)

        • Carbon Girl

          It seems like a lot of you are lucky to have nice guests. I had my extended family complaining for months about how our wedding was three hours away and to not serve alcohol would have made those complaints even worse. Even if they are grumblers, it was important to me to for the guests to be happy. I guess that was one of my priorities when it came to the wedding.

          • meg

            Right, but it’s unfair to imply that people who choose not to have alcohol (or not to give into guest grumbling on whatever point) are bad hosts, or they don’t want guests to be happy. If we’re talking about manners, grumbly guests are the ones breaking the rules, not polite hostesses who are being firm about their choices.

        • Anon (the same one)

          I don’t feel that guests are owed much – but to pretend that you don’t owe them anything at all always strikes me as a little disingenuous. For example, we went to a wedding last year which for various reasons cost us several *thousand* pounds to attend. I think that if you’re asking people to spend that kind of money – or even a tenth as much – you owe them some consideration of their needs and wants, even if they don’t tally completely with yours. Time and money are finite resources, after all.

          • Liz

            i don’t see the travel/gift/expense thing as being in exchange for some food/drinks/whatever.

            you’re INVESTING your time, etc in being there to SEE ME GET MARRIED. not trading it for a steak and martini.

          • Liz

            or, to put it another way- i’m not ASKING you to do anything for meee. i’m offering you the opportunity to be apart of the awesome experience that is being apart of a person’s wedding.

          • I’ve had some far away weddings that have cost me a LOT of money to attend. I attended because I wanted to be there for the bride and groom. If I didn’t want to spend the money to go, I wouldn’t have gone. If I didn’t have the money to spend, I wouldn’t have gone.

            I would never expect to be treated differently because I spent $3,000 (or whatever amount) on airfare, hotel, food, etc. It was their choice to invite me to their wedding. It was my decision to attend and I did so with an open and thankful heart. Thankful that they wanted me to be included in their day, thankful that they thought highly enough of our friendship to put my name on the guest list.

          • meg

            As a grown-up, you get to choose if you want to spend the money to attend a wedding. That is one of the many, many perks of being grown. If you choose to attend, you are owed the privilege of seeing a couple exchange life changing vows, the hospitality of the hosts, cake (or something like), and punch (or something like). If you will be unhappy with this arrangement, you should say no.

            Of course a guests needs should be taken into account. They should be provided with kindness, a place to sit, gratitude for their attendance, and the aforementioned vows, cake, and punch. The rest is, as they say, icing.

          • Meg, I think it’s time to rerun the “Your Wedding is not an Inconvenience” post.

          • Tiffany

            As for accommodating guest’s preferences that differ from your own, I’ve been invited to dinners by people I dearly love where I have been offered an…. interesting array of vegan nut- and seaweed-based dishes. But they’re my hosts, not a restaurant, and one night of macadamia-soy cheese sauce won’t kill me, so I smile and thank them for their trouble. I believe Miss Manners backs me up on this point.

      • TNM

        I think that this conversation is really more about tactics than hospitality…

        That is, the first and second letter writer both have great and sensible reasons for wanting a dry wedding: any reason that is sincerly held is a “great” reason. And as hosts of the wedding, they have no hospitality obligation to their guests to serve alcohol or anything else: people do not fly across the country to get free booze, they do it to see you get married. As a matter of “tactics,” however, I have to agree that the second letter writer may just want to state that “We and our families have decided on a dry wedding,” and leave it at that. The difference between the first and second letters is that in the first, the host’s needs are deciding the outcome, in the latter, certain guests’ needs are setting the outcome. I think folks are fine with the first situation, but that you will get more – not less – grousing about the lack of alcohol if the reason is the preferences of just a couple guests. People, being people, will immediately think it’s unfair that other guests’ wishes are placed above their own… “why does Mary get catered to,” etc. I’m not saying that this is a kind or reasonable reaction, but as a matter of tactics, I think that there may be less pain if the hosts “own” the decision.

        • Kate

          I agree with this but more for the sake of the MOH and groomsmen. I know if it were me, I’d feel pretty uncomfortable if my friend told all her guests she wasn’t having alcohol because of my medication, because their wedding isn’t about me. I don’t think you should ever feel like you have to explain your decisions anyway

          • Jess

            Well, it seems like if the ‘mean drunk’ thing makes the bride and groom uncomfortable, then the choice not to serve alcohol is for the comfort and happiness of the hosts (as much as those specific guests), and therefore is their call and should be respected (and owned).

        • YES, this was what I was trying to get at with my comment above. You said it much better than I did. :)

      • Tricia

        Even if I agreed with you that the reasons given are not sufficient, which I don’t think I do (particularly with respect to mean drunks which will be a problem for all of the guests), I really think that you should a) respect the couple’s decision, and b) give them the benefit of the doubt that there may be additional reasons that they don’t choose to share with you and may or may not be fully acknowledging for themselves. For instance, they really can’t afford to feed all their guests all the alcohol they can drink but don’t feel comfortable saying that (since our society has at least as much of a taboo about talking about money as talking about sex). Or, like me, they hate being around drunk people for various reasons of their own. Or, mean drunk is a euphemism for un-recovered alcoholic who is liable to make a scene or worse if the bartender tries to cut them off (not saying or implying that this is the case for the original letter writer, just saying that it is a euphemism that is sometimes used). And you know what, none of that is any of your business any more than the stated reasons in the letter. You should just respect the couple’s decision, mutter under your breath a little where they can’t hear you if you have to, and then go have a good time.

    • Agree with Liz, but also have to wonder if the folks on medication would want the etoh-free bash on their behalf? Do they want to be singled out in that way?

      • Meredith

        LOVE that you just wrote Et-OH.

      • I think that’s why many commenters suggested not giving the reason why if it wasn’t due to one of you in particular?

    • Jess

      We went to a ‘dry’ wedding a couple of summers ago… a lovely afternoon picnic. The friends in question had a history of alcoholism in the family and did not feel it was necessary or appropriate for them to provide it at this (family) event. That said, they did tell us that if we wanted to bring a couple of bottles of wine to drink with our group of friends discretely (as the wedding was held in a public park) that this would be fine. We kept it on the DL, but enjoyed a sip of wine in celebration. No-one else noticed or cared and a good time was had by all.
      I, too, believe in good hospitality. But when you’re hosting an event with such a broad demographic as a wedding, I think people modify their expectations. What might be essential for your idea of a great party might simply be not-cool on a day like wedding where family and other personal history are involved, and everyone is emotionally charged. Also, my fiance had dietary restrictions, so I get the parallel (weddings can be a struggle for those with allergies). If he eats a nut by mistake, this creates a life-threatening situation for us. Thus, we have to be very careful at weddings. But if you think for a second that we’re going to tip-toe around the food at our own wedding, you can think again. Maybe everyone’s idea of a good meal includes chocolate, fish, eggs and nuts, but that won’t be our wedding feast, and it’s not our life, and I sill plan on being an excellent hostess!

    • Ann

      Saying that there is a “bad reason” to not serve alcohol is basically saying that your guests are entitled to it, which in my opinion is simply not the case. Your guests are entitled to your sincere efforts to make them feel comfortable and welcome. While alcohol often serves this function in social situations, it is definitely not the ONLY way to accomplish it. (Or else do you really want to invite these people?)

      Also, the dietary restriction analogy isn’t very good. The thing with alcohol is that it’s not just something you put into your body that only impacts you — it’s something you put into your body that impacts you and your actions, and thus other people, and thus the tone of the event. So one person consuming it means that everybody has to, in some sense, participate in that consumption. This isn’t true of dietary restrictions.

      • Megan

        Exactly. My fiancée and I are having a dry wedding. Neither of us is interested in alcohol, for various personal reasons. Those reasons include the behavior we have observed in people who get drunk. Now, don’t get me wrong. If you want to get drunk, or just have a few, that’s fine. My parents drink, have all my life. It’s your choice. But since it is the celebration of him and me, we have chosen not to have to be uncomfortable in the presence of those drinking at our own party. So, no alcohol.
        And whole some of my college age friends have complained, they will get over it and live. Because, quite frankly, they don’t have to come. Do I want them to? Yes. Do I want them to have a good time? Most definitely yes. But that does not and should not mean that I “owe” it to them to make my self and my new husband possibly uncomfortable at our own celebration just because they drove four hours or more to attend.

  • We did not have alcohol at our wedding, and no one seemed to notice. We didn’t advertise it in advance, or make a big deal out of it. We did, however, set the tone by having a lunchtime outdoor pig roast, with live music, no dancing, and pie.
    People had a blast, and no one complained to us about the lack of alcohol.

    • You had a pig roast!?

      Sorry guys, but I have to be shallow real quick and say that THAT’S AWESOME.

      • One of my third cousins had a pig-roast in a pull barn when I was a kid. It was a good time for me, I got to run around and be a kid on a farm! (speaking as a city girl)

    • Anon

      I wanted a hog roast; sadly our reception venue’s in the middle of a city with no outside space!

      (Also, I think my vegetarian mother would actually cry.)

  • Excellent!

    And I totally, 100% agree with “But in the end, it is your decision and they will live with it. You’re not banning alcohol from their LIVES, just your wedding. And I raise a glass of sparkling apple juice to you both.”

    I’ve been to an alcohol free wedding and I didn’t think twice about it. It’s what the couple wanted, for whatever reason (Financial? Sobriety? I’m not sure, I didn’t care enough to ask.). I loved the couple and I loved that I was invited to join them in their special day of celebrating their love. For what it’s worth, I couldn’t tell you what food was served at their wedding, either – but I can tell you that it was a magical day and it was uber joyous and wonderful and people still danced their butts off while singing along to ridiculous music (I specifically remember Journey…but there were others).

  • Obviously these are planned already, at least to the point where some things may not be able to be changed, however the best advice I got on this was to have a brunch-style reception. If the wedding is at 11am, people are less likely to miss the alcohol.

    Of course, I got married at a vineyard, so I didn’t opt for a dry wedding … it was something I read somewhere.

    I will say this – I went to a wedding where I knew it was going to be totally dry beforehand. The bride and groom couldn’t afford to have a reception at a banquet hall, so their church offered up their community room, but no alcohol was allowed. I was disappointed upon hearing this (I hadn’t been to many wedding receptions at that point and was looking forward to the “party” … I was also much younger), but I got over it pretty quickly. I was more disappointed, when I got there, to find that my boyfriend and I flew hundreds of miles and 2 hotel nights (over a holiday weekend, mind you) to get light appetizers and have no dancing. I thought there would at least be dancing!

    In hindsight, I realize the Bride and Groom were trying to be inclusive while staying within a VERY meager budget, but as the girlfriend of someone who didn’t know them very well at all, I was (I’m ashamed to say!) annoyed. I think if the Bride and Groom had said something like, “Listen, friends who are far away, we would LOVE to share our day with you, and if you can come we would be simply honored to have you there, but …” and explain the circumstances. I think if this were to happen now, I would not be nearly as put off and much more understanding, given that I’ve gone through the process myself. But, keep in mind, many people have not, and they have preconceived notions. They’re not TRYING to be jerks, they really aren’t.

    • So, are you proposing that, in addition to already complex invitations, the couple add an insert, apologizing for their decisions? Or send out mass e-mails, or personal phone calls? I’m not trying to be snarky, but this decision for alcohol or no alcohol is no different than any other wedding decision that involves the pleasure of the guests. Gaps, seating, time, children or not, food selection, cake selections, how many guests to invite, location… The only difference is that so much hooplah surrounds alcohol, thinking that it is a necessary to have fun. As a guest, I keep my expectations and disappointment in check. As the bride, I hoped that the guests would do the same. No one is made out of the time or money that the WIC demands of us… why should guests demand it, too?

      • lou

        i’m not sure about this – with our invitations we explained in the information insert bit that we weren’t having a sit down meal and also the no-kid rule and lots of other things. mostly because i didn’t want people showing up with expectations that they would be having a certain thing and then being annoyed when they didn’t get it.

        i think it was helpful and has prepared people for the kind of wedding they are coming too, i think including a note about no-alcohol is a good idea. because even if you don’t like it, some people like a drink and will expect to be able to have a drink at a wedding…

      • No, no, nothing that formal. A quick email would suffice.

        In fairness to my above post, I never actually saw invites to this wedding we went to. I don’t think they were formally sent out (I think the b&g just did a mass email). I also remember meeting them a few months before the wedding (they were in town for another wedding, which we weren’t invited to), and we were having dinner with another couple, and she said to us, “Oh, wait, you mean all of you guys are actually coming?” She invited us, but didn’t ever imagine we would actually make the trip for her modest affair. We didn’t realize it was such a modest affair. I think there was a cultural disconnect there, too – northeasterners who throw banquet bashes vs. southerners who throw more modest affairs in church halls …

        … and I think that’s the crux. People in different regions of the country do have vastly different expectations of what a “wedding” is. I do think that, for the people who are traveling, a run-down of what the day will entail is appropriate, if for no other reason than so they can plan their travel accordingly. It doesn’t have to include a formal insert on expensive paper. It can be an email, or even a mention on the wed-site (if you do one).

        • lou

          i totally agree with you. and it’s not all about railing against the WIC either. some of it i think is just being thoughtful about what people might expect and managing those expectations if you are having something that isn’t the norm. it makes people feel more comfortable when they know what to expect.

          most of our guests are traveling at least 800km (some internationally) to be there and i want to make sure they know what’s happening on the day and how it may differ from their idea of a wedding.

          • Carbon Girl

            Yes, managing expectations is super important in this case. The guests can get over it before they arrive and then can hopefully put their energies toward enjoying the day.

        • Erin

          I’m going to chime in here and agree that, indeed, expectations are different in various parts of the country. I was married to a Northeasterner in the Northeast and we had a big formal feast and an open bar, and yes… lots of guests who traveled — because I am actually a born Midwesterner. Now my sister is getting married in the Midwest and I have to tell my husband firmly to GO AWAY when I write her emails about it, because he keeps insisting I add things like, “You have to have a huge dinner for people who are traveling,” (which will only be US) and “You have to serve alcohol.”

          Church basement weddings with punch and cake are pretty normal where I come from. So are alcohol-free VFW Hall buffets. As a guest, it’s helpful to remember to temper expectations and prepare to have a good time anyway.

          • Jessica

            I can totally understand these cultural expectations.

            Where I’m from, big weddings are the norm, but I had never seen anything until I moved to the NY-Metro region where, if you don’t have a raw bar at your cocktail hour and Viennese dessert hour (in addition to cake) at your wedding, YOU ARE A FAILURE. Accordingly, I’ve noticed people tend to give cash gifts (and very expensive cash gifts, at that) to “cover the costs of their plate.” To me, this seems to be NOT the point of a wedding.

            I even remember going to an afternoon wedding where there was a nice buffet with chicken, fish, carving station, open bar, etc. Someone commented that the groom was “cheap” because the main course was chicken and not beef. Wow. I thought the wedding was beautiful, sane, and tasteful.

            I’ve lived here for a few years and most of friends are here, so I will probably end up getting hitched here, too. But a big, lavish wedding is not my thing and there is also a lot of alcoholism on both my side of the family and my BF’s. Reading these responses makes me nervous that people will think I’m cheap or insensitive if I choose to have a dry wedding with no sit-down dinner or dancing. Yikes.

          • Liz

            jessica- philly is similar to the new york situation you describe. i had friends trying to worm out of my mom how much each “plate” was costing, so they could be sure their gift “covered them.” silliness.

            i grew a thick skin. i wanted all of my guests to be comfortable and have fun- but if they considered me cheap because THEY set some weird expectation? too bad. then “cheap” i was, with my unemployed self and my unemployed fiance.

          • meg

            God forbid anything at APW would ever make you feel like you had to do something so someone wouldn’t think you’re cheap. Please ignore crabby commenters. People who judge your wedding as cheap or not cheap are, by and large, not people who’s opinions you should be worried about. Period.

          • Marina

            Jessica, it’s true some people might think you are cheap or insensitive–people who don’t know you very well, people who don’t understand your reasons. If it would work for your crowd, I think some way of sending out a message letting people know what you’re doing and why, focused on the positive aspects of what you WILL be doing rather than what you WON’T be doing, might help. For instance, we had a wedding webpage with an FAQ section, and wrote there that “Both of us have more fun without alcohol, and are planning all sorts of fun shindigs so that you will too.” We also had a root beer and ginger beer taste-off that we were really excited about, and that made it easy to change the subject. “Yeah, we won’t have alcohol, but we will be drinking these other things, which I’m so excited about! It’ll be so great!” There may still be some grumblers, but they will be proved wrong when your wedding really IS super fun. :)

          • Jessica, I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for me I wouldn’t think you were cheap or inhospitable or anything like that.

            Over-justification/excuses tend to get under my skin. And I know I am guilty of it myself, so it is somewhat hypocritical. However, for example, I found myself being more annoyed with the guests who felt they had to justify why they couldn’t come to my wedding, rather than the ones that just said, “Sorry, I can’t make it. I hope you have a wonderful day!” The ones who couldn’t make it because they “couldn’t take time off from work”, or because they “couldn’t afford it”, etc., I found myself getting much more irked, especially since the excuses seemed flimsy at best. Even though, if pressed, the other people who didn’t come would have come up with similar excuses, it bothered me less when they just didn’t explain it. I just thought, “Oh, too bad, I’ll miss them,” and moved on.

            In other words, they owned their decisions, and I respected that more.

            I think that was my visceral reaction – seeing the thing about the two bridal party members being unable to drink because of medication (not because of a disease), I thought, “OK, and how is that my problem?” But if it was, “We’ve decided to do this because it’s the best decision for our family and our wedding day,” I would think, “Oh, bummer, but cool.”

        • Oh yes, there are definitely cultural expectations based on region. My family’s from New England, I grew up in the South, and now I’m back in New England so I really see the dichotomy. In fact, one of the first things my mother asked me was, “Do you want a Northern-style reception or a Southern-style reception?

          • Leona

            This is it for us too. I currently live in a very rural part of NC and many people here, especially the people attached to my family, associate drinking with immorality. (Seriously, a few days after I started a new job, I had a co-worker who saw me in a bar, not even drinking, and mentioned it to my boss. Later on my boss said he never expected me to be such an honest person.) Out of all my guests, I really only have a few friends and cousins who drink. This weighed a lot on my decision, but I agree mostly with the person who said that the opinions of your family and bridal party are the ones to worry about. They’ll be around the longest to give you grief.

  • Mallory

    As I told my friend who recently accidently dyed her hair a shade fairly close to purple “Just own it!” If you sound like you are ashamed of your decision, people will pity you which does not set the stage for an awesome party.

    Depending on your family and friends you may want to think about incorporating some other sorts of activities than dancing. For my family at least, the sad truth of the matter is there would be little dancing at a dry wedding so I would want to offer other entertainment options. Sarah at 2000wedding has a list of some fun ideas:

    “Also resist the urge to get self-righteous in your decision because, well, nobody likes that guy.”

    Definitely agree with that statement, and I think it applies to explaining/defending any aspect of your wedding. I’ve already noticed this with myself making comments about the less traditional aspects of my future wedding especially around my friends who did have a very traditional wedding. I’m really trying to stay aware of not doing that.

    • The topic of owning uncomfortable situations came up recently. I have always been a fan of being forthright in these sorts of situations. If you’re honest about it and the reason, it makes it much harder for the other person to complain.

      Alyssa, you’re right on the money with this: “Also, Court, your fiancé’s sobriety is wonderful and something, I think, worth celebrating. Think about including in your invitations or program some recognition of it. As in, “In honor of Grant’s 2 years of sobriety, the reception will be alcohol-free.” It’s out there, it’s owned and it’s admired. AND, anyone who complains about no booze after that will look like a total d*ck. Bonus.”

      At my first wedding, my dad wanted a dry wedding (alcohol is against his religion), and my then-fiance’s family wanted an open bar (they’re country club people who have before, during, and after-dinner drinks). Rather than just going with one or the other, we attempted to compromise by not having an open bar, but having waiters take drink orders. The compromise turned out to be a mistake. The waiters were not properly instructed (or lazy, not sure which), and never took any drink orders. So not only did we not have any alcohol, we didn’t even have water or soda. Also, someone did complain and wrote anonymously on our guest book picture frame, “Open bar?” When guests were leaving early, I was upset, but after the wedding, we thought it was funny and hung the picture frame where people could see that and laugh.

  • Jess

    I did not have a dry wedding, but I have been to one. The bride and groom were paying for the wedding themselves, the reception was in the afternoon, the bride does not drink, and the groom was being treated for an illness and could not drink at the time (but I think they decided on no alcohol before the groom became sick). The friends of the couple who enjoy drinking went out ourselves afterwards. Was it my favorite wedding I have been to? No. Was it a fine wedding, and did I still have fun during the wedding and afterwards? Yes.

    Everyone does something at their wedding that some people will like, and that some people won’t. And many APW girls don’t include things in their weddings that people expect at a wedding. Some people don’t serve alcohol. I did have alcohol, but I did not have a cake, and did not play slow songs—which bummed out traditionalists and older guests who did not want to dance to Justin Timberlake. Do what you want, and people will undoubtedly enjoy some other aspect of your wedding.

    And I also don’t think that someone who has a booze-less wedding owes anyone an explanation for why, just as I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why I did not serve a cake!

  • My husband and I got married 6 weeks ago, and we tried to have a sober wedding. I enjoy a social drink but he doesn’t drink at all, due to a family history of alcoholism that had pretty horrible effects on him as a kid. When we first started planning, it was a huge issue. My parents (who were paying) were mad, and said they’d buy alcohol anyways, our friends teased us about having a dry wedding, etc. Due to all the negative feedback, we decided to compromise. We planned a morning wedding to lower the odds of people becoming over-served and then served mimosas and plain orange juice in champagne glasses. There was alcohol (NOT an open bar, which was also a huge argument) at the party the night before the wedding, but that only lasted two hours, and we figured if someone got totally drunk in two hours… well… :)

    As far as the reactions of our guests… I’d say most of them didn’t mind. I think part of the key to that was that we didn’t have a big dance party at the reception, though. A lot of times, it seems like drinking helps people feel more comfortable on the dance floor (this is purely speaking from my own experience), and gives them something to do if they’re standing around not dancing. At our wedding, we had a mini-golf tournament, and no dance. I think since the wedding was so untraditional, the guests didn’t expect alcohol as much. Honestly, I think a couple of my friends were a little disappointed. But they didn’t say anything to me, and if they didn’t have the time of their lives at my wedding… well, I think I’m okay with that.

    • Becca

      Who could NOT have the time of their life with minigolf? Minigolf!!

      That’s AWESOME!

    • Sooz

      you can have minigolf??? how??? was it something at your venue, or did you get it hired in somehow?

      I wonder if that’s possible in the UK…..

      Sooz (whose partner is incredibly keen on minigolf!)

  • If it had been solely up to me, we would have had a dry wedding. I depending on alcohol way too much to have a good time in high school and to avoid putting myself in a position to become an alcoholic, I decided to abstain from booze. Plus, my husband rarely drinks and my grandparents. whose cottage we were married at, abstain for religious reasons. However, since both sets of parents like to have wine with a meal and since my aunt makes her own wine, we decided to have it at the wedding. I honestly didn’t care and I don’t think anyone who attended the wedding did either. And I can honestly say that even if we hadn’t had the wine, people would have be a-okay.

    Like Alyssa said, I think the best way to deal with it is to make the decision that feels the best to you and your partner and not to defend your position when it gets brought up. People who feel they need booze to have a good time may whine and complain, but it’s your decision and it sounds like you know what’s right for you. Thanks to the wedding industry, weddings have become synonymous with booze and anyone who falls short of an open bar is often considered a prude or cheap… the more sober weddings people start hosting, the greater chance we’ll have to move away from this negative and ridiculous association.

  • Katy Beck

    This post almost made me cry.. I hadn’t realised how strongly I felt about it.
    I don’t drink due to medication and the comments I get ALL THE TIME are so frustrating. Alcohol is such an accepted part of our culture (i’m in the UK).

    I can’t believe that anyone would see not serving alcohol as being a budget option (but again maybe that’s a UK thing where we MASSIVELY overprice our soft drinks) but I really respect it from a moral/health stance. If I read it on an invitation I would love the couples honesty even more.

    Incidentally the obsession with us getting a new set of wine glasses as part of our gift list also grates a bit!

    • Do you mean that you can’t believe people wouldn’t serve alcohol because of money?

      Because that’s what we did. Our budget didn’t allow for us to pay for something that wasn’t important to us.

      • In fairness, the custom in the UK is cash bars, which really wouldn’t add to overhead. In the US (depending on which region), open bars are the trend.

      • Anon

        I think she’s referring to the fact that in the UK a) soft drinks are barely cheaper than alcohol in bars and b) people would probably resent a dry cash bar, so you’d end up paying for it all.

        • Aaaah. I guess I come from a place where alcohol is “meh.” Cash, open, none… meh. I’m surprised coke costs as much as booze. Given my caffeine habit… I’d resent that too. ;)

          • Kat

            bottled water is often more expensive than a massive glass of wine or beer.

  • We had a dry wedding. Both of our families come from a background where alcohol was not accepted in their homes, and we wanted to respect that. Plus, we wanted to have the reception on our alma mater’s property (which happens to be a Mennonite university that does not allow drinking). The nice thing is that the majority of people at our wedding were part of that culture and probably assumed we’d have a dry wedding to begin with. I did have to explain it to a few friends who hadn’t been to a dry wedding before. We had a wonderful time and served mint tea, lemonade, and water.

    • Kat

      This. This is what I’m so worried about. I’m Mennonite. My mom’s family is Mennonite. My dad’s side not (his family didn’t come to their wedding). My fiance’s family is from the east coast and they like their booze… Also I have friends who’ve never been to a cultural Mennonite wedding before and so have NO idea what that’s all about. What to do. What to do.

  • I grew up in the south among a bunch of Baptists. Can I just say that I was in college before I went to a wedding that had any alcohol served? And it was a cash bar, not an open bar. Where I am from, it was having alcohol that was the unusual option! :) Now I have lived in many other places, and serving some alcohol was something important to my husband, so we did provide champagne and offer a cash bar for our wedding. BUT…all those Baptist weddings I have been to over the years? I had a great time and a lot of them were evening weddings with dancing. I guess maybe the difference is, among that community, a dry wedding is common. So….I have no idea how to handle the backlash of not having alcohol, but I can say that I have had a lot of fun at many dry weddings over the years. :)

    • I totally agree with this. We’re not Baptist, but we come from a background where religion and general culture made this an easy decision for us. I don’t drink, my husband does occasionally, none of our families do, and our friends are pretty split. For us, to have served alcohol at the wedding would have been cause for WAY more comments and fights than to not serve it.

      Also, we had a Monday morning brunch wedding, and we made sure to have an amazing spread of hot drinks and cider and orange juice and other things so it just wasn’t an issue.

      I’ve been to many more dry weddings than any others and they’re just as fun and powerful and awesome as weddings with alcohol!

      • Jocelyn

        Same here! I come from a religion where we don’t drink alcohol, and so it never even crossed our minds to have it. Our guests had a blast, nonetheless. And pretty much all the weddings I’ve been to have been dry for the same reason, and they’ve always been fun and happy and awesome.

  • LeahIsMyName

    Well. This is a great post, and a topic that I’ve thought about a lot. At my wedding in November, there will be no alcohol. For one thing, it’s a tiny wedding with family only. For another, it’s in my mom’s house. And she happens to be a very devout fundamentalist Christian who believes that anyone who drinks alcohol in any amount is a degenerate. So, her house, her rules.

    As to the rehearsal dinner (in a local restaurant), there is a differing of opinions. I won’t be drinking (due to medication, I can’t), but I think that my fiance’s family should be able to order a damn glass of wine if they want. My fiance has already told them not to, though, because he doesn’t want my mom to think they’re all drunken degenerates. This is yet to be decided.

    I was married once before, though. We had a giant afternoon outdoor lamb roast wedding, early enough in the day that people wouldn’t overindulge (we thought). We only served wine because of my mom: we thought that beer would be a little too frat-house for her. But my ex’s aunts and uncles ended up sneaking bottles of whiskey into the reception and got so drunk that his aunt tripped and staggered into my mom (thereby just reinforcing her stereotypes), and another aunt started kissing random people on the lips. I was pretty pissed off that they disrespected our wishes like that (I didn’t learn all this until after the wedding day).

    Like lots of other commenters, I think that if you’re going to have a dry wedding, own it! Explain the situation if necessary, but make it public knowledge. And maybe designate a couple of people to police the crowd if you think you might have a problem like I did.

  • Rachel

    “But in the end, it is your decision and they will live with it. You’re not banning alcohol from their LIVES, just your wedding. And I raise a glass of sparkling apple juice to you both.”

    This is what it’s about for me. My fiance and I are having a dry wedding as well and I get pretty irritated with people when they have a problem with that. It’s a few hours in the middle of the day, you’ll be fine without booze, give me a break. If you REALLY need to, go home and drink after the wedding to soothe the pain of a dry afternoon.
    One of the ways we are dealing with this fairly prevalent issue is by having a smaller wedding. We’re not inviting everyone we’ve ever hung out with or people I used to party with or anything like that – only our dearest and closest friends. Those are the people who are coming because they’re psyched about my fiance’s and my wedding – not just suffering through the ceremony to get to the party. I HATE that — the ceremony is what it’s about anyway. Those closest to us understand why we aren’t having booze and we’re less likely to get any flack.

    But like I said, it doesn’t matter if we do. We’ll be providing lots of yummies for them and they can stay home if it’s that big of a deal. Another thing though – is anyone yet to have a dry wedding afraid of people bringing in their own booze a la a flask or something? I would hope no one would be that disrespectful but you never know…

    • Liz

      people brought flasks to our wedding. but our decision to be mostly-dry was made for both financial reasons and a scarce one or two that we knew had an alcoholism problem. so if the rest want to smuggle in booze- whatever.

      the thing is that the one main person that we didn’t want sloshed at our wedding (because he has a real problem that he refuses to admit, and because he’s been known to start fist-fights with relatives when he’s drinking) showed up totally smashed anyway. he didn’t make it to the ceremony, of course. but came to the reception sloshed. my solution? i avoided him the entire time so i wouldn’t rip anyone’s face off.

    • meg

      Re: the flask. I’m not opposed, exactly, but here is the nuance: bringing a flask to a wedding where it’s dry because someone is in recovery is HUGELY not ok. Bringing a flask to a wedding where it’s dry because, whatever… well… I will let that slide if you follow protocol. Which means, of course that you must SNEAK the flask in. That’s part of the fun. If the bride sees you drinking from it, you’re not being sneaky. Also, if you think the bride would be mad instead of thinking it was hilarious, it’s probably a bad idea.

      I would have been THRILLED if someone had brought a flask to our wedding (we had no hard liquor, after all). But then again, I was really really hoping people would hook up too. REALLY hoping. In my world flasks and hooking up means you threw a good party. Also, I have a pretty serious sense of humor, as does David, and people know that about me. So would it have been ok to sneak a flask into my wedding? H*lls to the yes. Would we sneak a flask into select friends weddings? H*ll yes. Are there other friends weddings that we would NOT sneak a flask into? Um. Absolutely. So know your crowd and follow flask protocal and tradition.

      • I’m sneaking a flask into my OWN wedding. I probably won’t even remember to drink out of it, but as you say, the fun part is the sneaking!

        • meg

          Don’t worry, I’LL remember to drink out of it ;)

        • anon

          I snuck tequila into my own wedding! (It was beer and wine only.) One of my favorite photos from the night is my friends and I sneaking into the teeny tiny bridal dressing room for a nip!

        • kat

          Ha! I was thinking of doing the same thing!

        • Alyssa

          I think a flask needs to be in the wedding stage manager’s kit, right there next to the sewing kit, aspirin and emergency pair of pantyhose.

          • ElfPuddle

            Alyssa, I think you need to be my stage manager. Come out to GA much?

        • Morgan

          Our wedding party gifts were full flasks. I have pictures of us before the ceremony, all taking a slug. It was great – kept us warm during the cold hours of picture taking, and settled nerves before the whole scary solo aisle walk.

          We had an open bar wedding, as we clearly come from families of drinkers… :)

      • Maddie

        I judge the success of my parties on hook-ups too.

      • Elizabeth

        Late to the party (pun intended), but….

        I paired up bridesmaids with groomsmen based exclusively on who I thought had the best chance of hooking up. My cousin was spotted the next morning wandering the hotel halls in her dress, so I think it was a success.

        But yeah. I had a big northeast style bash, booze and all. And I loved it (and all the fun pictures posted to FB in the last week.) His southern relatives might have been a little…alarmed, but they opened up (I think.)

  • I’m not married yet but we (my fiance and I), rarely drink. Futhermore, our tiny guest list includes several friends who are Muslim and also do not drink.

    I told my parents that we would not be drinking and my Dad’s response was to say he would buy champagne; which is nice. But it’s not one of our priorities so there will be no alcohol. Instead there will be a tea bar (we drink a lot of herbal and spiced teas in this house), and several varities of Italian soda (which I adore). So you can get creative (have breakfast wedding, serve an alternative to booze etc), or you can just be honest and ignore the people who don’t understand.

    If you’re worried about people not dancing (if you’re having a dance); you can have infectious music or enlist the help of some friends who love to dance even when they are sober.

    I don’t think you have justify that it’s a dry wedding and you don’t have to throw a brunch the next day for the drinkers. If I go to a dinner at a friend’s house I don’t get to dictate what is served. You should probably say, dry reception to follow so that people aren’t rude at the wedding but if people choose not to go because there will be no alcohol….then do you really want them there to begin with?

    • I just wanted to say I *love* the idea of a tea bar.

  • I’ve been to plenty of dry weddings. Having fun things to drink that aren’t alcohol are helpful with that.
    Awesome answers, Alyssa!

    I know alcohol will be a tiny bit of a factor for us, since C brews his own beer and his family and friends, and my friends all drink. My family on the other hand, doesn’t. We’re going to try to deal with that by having as much beer and certain mixed drinks as could be drunk, as well as non-alcoholic options that are equally fun, and letting people bring their own if they want something different.

  • Steph

    Personally I don’t think it’s a big deal and I think the advice is spot on. I’ve been to a dry wedding (they didn’t publicize ahead of time that it would be dry, it just was) and it didn’t detract from the day at all and to me felt in line with that particular couple and their religious values.
    Hubby and I looked into having a wine and beer only reception for financial reasons. Neither of us are big drinkers (though some of our family on both sides are) and it seemed extravagant to pay so much extra for 4 hrs of full open bar. As it was the package we chose had full open bar for the same price as wine and beer only, so we figured “as long as it’s not costing us more” and went with the full open bar. But really it’s about each individual couple and how important alcohol (or lack thereof) is to the individual couple.

  • I can relate to this definitely – yes, we will have alcohol at our wedding, but by making our “reception” a brunch reception at a restaurant it’s instantly a less booze heavy event. And people have made comments, not in a mean spirited way at all but just things in passing and just emphasizing how they’ll be more sober, and just leave right after and be able to drive,etc. Which in its own way makes us feel guilty or bad that we’re not giving them the ever-expected Saturday night booze fest with live band and all of that.

    But I know ultimately that we’re doing what is right for us, and what we want – and that the people spending that day with us mean the world to us and they’re excited to be there and be a part of it – it’s just become a non issue. It’s not what it’s about – it’s about the commitment, and love, and building a joint family….and hopefully the guests for both of those brides will feel the same.

  • B$

    its your wedding , you do what you want! period. Plus – if people are really determined to drink – they will most likely find a way. I attended a wedding with a pregnant bride who decided to go booz-free and the wedding party snuck in bottles and drank hard and fast in the parking lot.

    things did not end well.

  • Sept Bride

    Great advice, Alyssa. As with ANY wedding decision, the key is owning it. Period.

    My husband and I had a fairly standard wedding with booze. We had a signature cocktail during cocktail hour and beer, wine, and champagne throughout the party. We also had an afterparty (which we attended – until 3 in the morning…). Our reasons for not serving hard alcohol all night or having an open bar were pretty simple – (1) it is expensive!! and hard to determine quantities when you have to buy everything yourself; and (2) we were worried (based on previous experiences) that certain people would get out of hand if there was too much hard alcohol on hand. We also provided shuttles to and from the wedding because I was REALLY worried about our guests getting behind the wheel after indulging in a few glasses of wine.

    The problem with having alcohol, for us, was that a few people made some really bad alcohol-induced decisions after our wedding. Of course, there will always be unfortunate scenes and ill-advised hook-ups at weddings, but – looking back – I feel like the abundance of alcohol during our festivities (ESPECIALLY at the after party) made for some really unfortunate occurrences that I wish I could erase from my wedding weekend memories. Sure, if my husband and I had not attended our afterparty, I probably would be blissfully unaware of these incidents, but then we would not have had as much fun. During the planning stages, I knew that of course we would serve alcohol! Looking back, I am not sure greasing the wheels of bad decisions* is always a great idea at a time of love and celebration. Just my two cents for anyone on the edge of this decision…

    *Of course, our guests are adults. Bad decisions could have/would have been made regardless of what we served. I just wish my memories were not tainted in the way that they are, and all of my bad memories go back to booze.

  • One of my best friends is Mormon, so she, her family, and most of her friends don’t drink. They served pink lemonade and sparkling cider, and while I was annoyed (mainly because I was annoyed about a lot of stuff that day and wanted a damn glass of wine), I was grateful to be part of the celebration and get fed to boot– plus religion is an awfully good reason to do/not to do something– so I didn’t complain.

    But that’s me. My in-laws recently went to a wedding where guests received two giant, chocolate-covered pretzels as favors and complained about them for days. I touted the stats about how guests prefer edible favors and that the bride didn’t even have to give favors at all, but it didn’t make a difference.

    My point is that some people are going to FIND something to complain about, no matter what. So do what you want to do.

    • ddayporter

      chocolate covered pretzels Might be my favorite thing ever. I would have loved that wedding. but I’m confused, what did they expect instead? a bag of jordan almonds? some trinket? I am amused by favors and like to see what people do with it, but I can’t imagine caring one way or the other about it, whether there was a favor or not or whether it was edible or not.. I will say, if they are not edible they are uuuusually a bit tacky and get thrown away (jordan almonds also get thrown away). except at the wedding I went to last weekend, the couple provided a crossword puzzle about themselves at each place setting, and they had mechanical pencils with their names and wedding date on them! which I loved way more than the little box of personalized hershey miniatures.

  • I’ve been to at least 2 dry weddings one with dancing and one without. One was held in the early afternoon the other was later at night. I can honestly say that no one seemed to care at all. If it helps put your mind at ease, when we all sit around and gab about the weddings no one brings it up. Instead funny memories of things someone did or said get mentioned, the exact same thing that happens for the weddings with alcohol. Neither of my friends felt the need to apologize. I think if someone asks you can give them your reason otherwise just go with it. Also, if you want to sub something in other than just sparkling cider you could have fun different types of mixed nonalcoholic drinks these are only called punch if they’re in big bowls right?

  • cheryl

    After years of event planning, it’s finally sunk in that part of being an awesome host is to set your guests’ expectations. We all do this in so many ways: having a more casually worded invitation for a more casual wedding, letting people know that there will be “dinner and dancing” or “pies, hula hoops, and cutthroat yard game-age.” For our wedding-on-family-farm, we made a note that men shouldn’t feel compelled to wear jackets and women might want to leave the sky-high heels at home.

    I don’t think this is just helpful for practical reasons (like not being cold or making sure to eat lunch before the wedding). It also helps put folks in a good mindset for your wedding–ready to get with celebrating YOU and YOUR LOVE in the way that you planned. Less stink-eye, more woot! Yay!

    The other side of the alcohol coin: Almost NONE of our family celebrations include alcohol lots of different personal reasons. We decided yes on alcohol for our wedding, and I didn’t want my extended family members to be upset in a “surprise!” kind of way, so our invitations specifically mentioned, “lunch, drinks, and dancing.”

    Maybe non-alcohol wedding invitations could say, “Join us at the reception for dinner, dancing, and all the sweet tea you can drink!” Or, “Reception to follow: Cokes, cookies, and cupcakes.” Or, “Hors d’oeuvres, wedding cake, and a sparkling apple cider toast.” Those things all sound really fun, and if I got an invitation saying something like that, I’d totally be prepared and psyched to celebrate sans alcohol.

    • Amandover

      Just had to verbally say, Yes! This is the answer to me. Because I’m an extroverted communicator, and only inviting people I can be (mostly) honest with, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a (carefully worded & upbeat) email/ wedsite page explaining the details of your wedding. Knowing your crowd is key.
      I have heard several “horror” stories about lackluster weddings, and thus am trying to head expectations off at the pass. Will I succeed? Maybe not, but people will have expectations, and letting people know they should eat before the wedding, bring a sweater, or expect to get sweaty dancing just helps them be more present.
      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for guests to have their own definition of “a party” or “hospitality,” and I think if the hosts have any doubts that what they’re planning isn’t what people expect, they should let people know. Many people haven’t been to weddings outside their own culture/city, and don’t realize the range of wedding “traditions”. I sure didn’t until I started planning.

  • Dissenting opinion here.
    Let me preface by saying that where I come from having a wedding without booze is just not done.
    I was recently in a wedding that excluded alcohol because the bride and groom both had individuals in their extended families that were recovering alcoholics (or at least that’s what they said….I’m pretty sure it had something to do with budget as well).
    Had the bride or groom had personal reasons themselves to have a dry wedding, I would have felt more ok with it, but the reasons they listed seemed irrational to me. Why punish the group due to one individual?
    Really, I’m ok with not drinking, i’m not a big drinker myself, but I do believe that if you’re having a wedding reception your number one priority should be your guests comfort. And well, I have never been more uncomfortable at a wedding than I was at this one.
    They had a cocktail reception with very little food and no alcohol, even though there was a cash bar just outside the reception area that we were forbidden to go to. It also didn’t help that the dj was horrible and the only people dancing were the flower girls.
    I know for a fact that a great percentage of the guests at this wedding left way early, and unfortunately, there was a lot of tsk tsking about the fact that there was no alcohol.
    I guess I kinda dissent about the whole “your wedding is about you and your fiance” thing. I believe your ceremony, your location, your attire—those things are all about you. Your reception, if you have one, should be about your guests and bringing together those people who are special to you in a celebration of your new found love and commitment.
    As a previous commenter stated, as a guest you should be grateful for whatever your host provides, true. But as a hostess you should attempt to make your party enjoyable for your guests. That means making the reception fit the experience.

    • Alyssa

      I guess my question is, and it’s an honest question, does alcohol contribute to a guest’s comfort? I mean really and truly?
      They have food, they have beverages, they have comfy places to seat and people to talk to and music to dance to and lots of love to go around.
      Is alcohol REALLY that essential a part of it?
      Why isn’t it just like favors or welcome bags or anything else a couple provides for their guest? A nice extra, but not vital?

      I’m asking because as I said, I drink, but I just never thought that a lack of alcohol could equal a lack of hospitality.
      Do y’all just have bad expereiences with dry weddings?

      • Jessica

        Agree here.

        The definition of comfort is subjective. To me, it is not comfortable to be surrounded by a bunch of drunken antics and have crazy loud music being blasted in my ears for 4 hours. To me, a comfortable wedding is one where I can actually talk to people instead of screaming over the music and eat delicious food.

        • lou

          but does serving alcohol equal this? just because people like a drink doesn’t mean they are going to get smashed or plastered or wasted and be rude or annoying. people can enjoy a drink and be normal and pleasant.

          • Liz

            i would imagine that for some circles of friends, yes. the presence of alcohol does immediately result in the situation above. (unfortunately) it’s just a matter of knowing your guests.

          • Jessica

            No, but providing alcohol does NOT equal providing someone with a comfortable time. Maybe it is a cultural thing, but I feel your guests do not NEED alcohol to feel comfortable, welcomed, and appreciated. Making sure people have refreshments, adequate seating, adequate parking, temperature control – that makes someone comfortable. Alcohol, I think, is a want, not a need.

          • Jess

            Maybe it’s because weddings are sometimes uncomfortable functions where we are required to interact with people outside of our usual social spheres… and alcohol can help ease the tension of getting through an afternoon of chit-chat if other socializing options aren’t provided. But like many people have suggested today, there are so many ways to be a good host and create a comfortable environment for your guests! Games, fun food and non-alcoholic beverages, enough chairs to go around, great music…. all of these things would make me want to step out of my shell, have a good time and forget about the alcohol I’m not drinking.

      • Carbon Girl

        I think it could be a regional thing as people had said before. I am from the Northeast and have never been to a dry wedding. I have only heard about them for religious reasons. Even cash bars are looked down upon in our region, so I think expectations there are for alcohol to be served. Maybe that is why to me being a good hostess=serving alcohol. I have never seen the dry option at any formal event except at baby showers.

        • Liz

          but, also being from the northeast and growing up in the culture you described, i refuse to cave to this idea. i don’t doubt that there were people who thought i was rude or cheap for serving only dessert and champagne. i’m sure that’s why a number of them didn’t come.

          in fact, guests at my bridal shower (held in my parents’ backyard on a breezy summer day) complained to my parents that it was “rude” and “cheap” of them to not have it at a restaurant or hall. there HAS to be a point where you say, “hold the phone. i’m not contributing to this idea of ‘hospitality’ any more.”

          but exactly for that reason- the fact that everyone would be expecting a catered dinner with open bar- i included “dessert and champagne” on the invitation. so they had fair warning and could determine for themselves, as adults, if it was “worth their time” or “worth their gift” to come.

          i guess what i’m saying is, cultural expectation is not reason alone for making a decision.

        • meg

          Look, I’m calling nonsense, and I lived in New York City for a decade. Here is the thing: the basic APW mantra is you don’t have to do things because other people tell you that you have to, period. You don’t have to wear and white dress, you don’t have to serve a seated dinner, you don’t have to change your name, you don’t have to have kids, you don’t have to have a specific kind of marriage. So yes, that includes not having to serve booze at your wedding, and being able to look someone straight in the eyes who said something judgy and say, “My goodness, I thought that the reason you were coming to our wedding was that you loved us. I can’t imagine it will be a huge problem.” And then you may raise one eybrow, pivot on your heal, and walk to get a refill of gin.

          You’re welcome.

          • EXACTLY.

          • Kate

            Totally agree. There were tons of things I did differently. I did not explain why to all my guest, but I did tell me guests what to expect. Communication is key. Not even for your guests comfort necessarily (although that is important), but for your own sanity. When guests know the plan, they’re less likely to ask why something was done. Yes, it’s rude, yes they shouldn’t ask, yes, if they do you shouldn’t care. But I know it would bother me, so I did what I needed to to avoid it. So when you tell them it’s dessert and champagne they know to grab a bite before coming; or when you tell them the ceremony is outdoors on grass, they’ll know if they wear heels they’ll sink; or if you tell them there is no alcohol, they’ll either decide not to come (jerks you don’t want there anyway), or they’ll come and have a great time and not wonder where the beer is. You don’t need to justify your decisions, just communicate them.

          • Meg, that sounds like a scene from a fabulous movie! I’ve never had a chance to pivot on my heel– but now I’m planning to be on the lookout for one.

    • Kathryn

      I think the key here though is that other things at the reception were sub-par – what if that dry reception you went to had a totally awesome DJ, fantastic food, and/or other fun activities to do (I think people mentioned live music, mini golf (how cool is that!), etc.) I was at a dry reception with a scavenger hunt – super fun!!

      The way I look at it, we should acknowledge that alcohol (beer/wine) for better for worse is one of those things about a reception that guests – depending on local culture – consider to be an addition to the fun of a party. So if you’re not going to have alcohol, whatever the reason might be, and you want to make sure people aren’t bored, have other fun activities so that guests can still par-tay!

    • It sounds like the discomforts of the wedding you attended were not soley no booze related. Obviously there were other things at play. Maybe booze would have helped smooth over those other awkward parts, but booze would not have solved all the issues. Booze never does.

      I think it’s interesting that there is so much discussion of guests’ comfort. But in the case you are speaking of, the bride and groom did not have booze for guests’ comfort. Yes, it was for specific guests, but they obviously love those guests and realized the comfort of those guests was a bigger deal to them than other folks. They must have figured that the other guests were grown adults who could suck it up.

      • Anon

        But see this reminds of grade school when the entire class would get punished because one person wouldn’t stop talking. I was not a fan of that then, and I’m not a fan of it now.

        • meg

          You’re not being punished by not having booze. The couple chose not to have booze, lucky for you, they did choose to invite you to their party. How delightful! Now have a good time, or act like you are. You may complain in the car on the way home, but you may not complain in public.

          • Anon

            I disagree. If people are not serving alcohol because there is an issue (i.e. the bride/groom is in recovery, etc.), then no I’m not being punished. However, if alcohol is not served because one guest tends to get mean, then yes I am being punished for that guest’s lack of control.

          • meg

            Bottom line: it’s none of your business why alcohol isn’t being served. It’s not your party. As a guest, you’re job is to show up and act lovely.

        • Marina

          If going to a wedding feels like a punishment, that wedding has problems beyond whether or not alcohol is served.

      • To me, a wedding reception, or any kind of “party” for that matter, is largely planned with the guests in mind.
        If I know I’m going to have a large amount of vegans, I’m going to be sure to provide vegan fare. If I know there are going to be 20 kids under 12, I’ll probably have something kid friendly.
        For me to have a good time at my own party would require everyone else to have a good time as well, and I’d try my best to do whatever I needed to in order to achieve that.
        The wedding I attended did a poor job of keeping the guests in mind at all, the booze-free atmosphere was just one small part of that (since the large majority of the guests were younger and drinkers).

        Yes, it’s their wedding reception, yes I do believe that they have the right to do whatever they want booze, no booze, dancing/board games, vegan feast, pizza–WHATEVER. But I do have certain expectations of weddings based around what is traditionally done, namely I would expect cocktails when the invitations reads “cocktail reception”.

        I’m not saying I was offended or really put out by the lack of alcohol, but I did feel bad for the couple who had the majority of their guests leave less than two hours into the night because they were hungry or bored or had driven 8 hours in rush hour traffic to get there and dammit just wanted a beer already.

        Maybe they were ok with that, I don’t know. But I do feel like it’s important to realize that while we have the god-given right to do whatever we want at our weddings, it might not always go over well. And it may not result in the type of party we had envisioned. The question becomes not “is it ok to do blank or not do blank?”, but rather….”are we going to be ok with the result if we do/not do blank?”

    • peanut

      you were FORBIDDEN to go to the cash bar?! That’s weird. That would annoy me on principle, even though I don’t think it’s a big deal to have a dry wedding.

  • Meredith

    Alyssa needs her own comment colour

  • FM

    Right on Alyssa, about owning your choices generally. I have a feeling that will be a big theme in Ask APW. That was a big lesson that I had to learn and I assume every couple does at some point. Every wedding ever has had some aspect that bothers or annoys or doesn’t meet the expectations of at least some segment of the guests – it’s inevitable. Once I accepted this fact, wedding planning became much less painful for me and I apologized for my decisions much less.

  • Kayte

    We had an alcohol free wedding last summer. Neither my husband nor I drink, although almost all of our friends and family do. There were plenty of groans and whining, and at some point I told my then fiancee that I just didn’t want to hear it anymore, which he kindly spread to our close friends.
    Folks laid off, and it was a great wedding. We served Indian food (neither of us are Indian, we just think it’s tasty) and had mango lassis, chai tea, and for toasting we had a blood orange sparkling drink from Safeway.

    As someone who doesn’t drink, my friends always think I need Martinelli’s to celebrate special occasions. Perhaps it’s novel and fun for people who do drink, but for me it tastes like super sweet carbonated apple juice -yuck.

    Anyway, the wedding went great. About a year after I found out that there might have been a flask or two floating around, which I’m totally OK with, I’m just happy I didn’t have to deal with it.

    The afterparty had drinking, but nothing crazy. It was a great time.

  • shorty j

    for the record, the best party I’ve ever been to was a Mormon keg party where, instead of booze, they had a keg of homemade root beer instead.

    but besides that, one point I just feel like I oughta make is I don’t think the couple in this instance should feel obligated to explain to anyone WHY they’re having a dry wedding. If they want to explain it, they certainly can, but I don’t think they should feel like they need to sit down with every one of their guests and explain that they’re in recovery. People are going to feel entitled to that information, probably because they assume there’s some juicy gossip behind why the wedding is dry, but you don’t need to provide it to them if you don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable. If they try to argue it with you or anything like that, well, they can, in my humble and mature opinion, suck it. :P

    • Not to digress, but I think I just died a little bit. I LOVE rootbeer; a whole keg of real rootbeer? There are recipes to make it at home? This is an option?! Googling recipes right now!

      • ddayporter

        we tried to make homemade rootbeer once.. it did NOT go well haha. but I’m sure we had no idea what we were doing. a keg of homemade rootbeer made by people who know what they’re doing, sounds amazing.

  • We had a completely alcohol/dancing free 6:00 wedding. This was an extremely hard decision for us and one we didn’t make lightly. Both my husband and I enjoy drinking and most of our family and friends do as well. My parents, on the other hand are fundamentalist Southern Baptist, and I don’t mean they just don’t drink but don’t mind if others do, I mean FUNDAMENTALIST.

    My husband especially, not being raised in this atmosphere, really wanted to have alcohol at our wedding but I just couldn’t. As much as that is changing in our society, the bride’s parents are still assumed host unless you note otherwise. I just couldn’t be ok with making a decision that they would be hurtful to them when most people at the wedding are going to assume it was their decision or part of what they paid for. When we were going to have the reception outside at my grandmothers house, I was fine with people bringing a flask or having a “special” cooler, but when circumstances changed and we ended up having the reception at the church, all that went out the window.

    Yes, guests have expectations and they differ with each region, but I think anyone who has been through the process of planning a wedding now understands that the decisions you make are for many reasons specific to your circumstances. We provided a nice reception for those who came to our wedding because we love them and care about it. For a guest to resent the fact that your choices wouldn’t have been their choices is well…kind of selfish. When it comes down to it, it’s YOUR choice. The guests are there to celebrate with you this important time in your life, not to get wasted.

  • Helen

    I agree with Alyssa and the majority of the commenters: alcohol or not, whatever you choose should be YOUR decision, and you have to own it. Lindi and I didn’t have alcohol at our wedding, not for any one big reason (such as one of us or someone in our family being in recovery), but for several smaller reasons: we couldn’t afford it, it wasn’t really that important to us, and we had to drive just after the reception. We had an afternoon wedding and reception, so I think people were less shocked that we weren’t serving alcohol. Now that I think of it, although some people expressed mild surprise, no one gave us a hard time about it whatsoever. We had a dessert reception with homemade cupcakes, cookies and cake for about 100 people, and we served coffee, hot tea, and punch made with lemonade, sprite and frozen mixed berries (which, let me tell you, was freakin’ DELICIOUS. We made it up for the bridal shower, and liked it so much, made it again for the wedding.) Oh, and there was still dancing!

  • LPC

    In my culture, WASP-y America, nighttime drinking is deeply ingrained. We’re talking a generation of addicts, essentially. Not badly behaving addicts, but addicts nevertheless. If you threw a wedding without alcohol and did not warn some members of my family, they would be beyond uncomfortable. They would be miserable. They would feel betrayed, and embarrassed, probably, if they had to then admit that they had so much difficulty in a night without alcohol. If you tell them it’s a dry wedding, they will behave very well to your face. They may complain and joke about it, but they won’t do it openly. Then, on the day of, they will probably make arrangements to have their glass of gin, or their 1.5 glasses of white wine, in advance. And all will go well.

    Please consider letting people know in advance, if you also come from a drinking culture. We don’t mean to be so brutish, but the stuff is addictive, with all the import of addictions, withdrawal, etc. No need to explain, but on the other hand, if it’s recovery, that will make people behave even better and feel joy rather than deprivation about what you are doing.

    • meg

      Indeed. The end.

    • SO well-put. Yes.

  • I want to thank Alyssa for her advice and Meg for creating this forum where discussions like this can take place! And, since I’m the Court with the story above, I want to tell you about our wedding ceremony and reception that took place earlier this month. When I wrote that email to Meg, I was having a hard time owning our decision for a few reasons. One, I’m not the one in recovery, though I do not drink because it can’t be a part of my now-husband’s life – it’s not going to be a part of mine. Two, most of our family and friends knew about Grant’s treatment and amazing recovery, and they are all supportive, but I was worried about people we invited who we hadn’t talked to in a few years. I’m a big worrier — working on it! — but it was all needless.

    So we talked and talked about it. Grant wanted to have a fishing trip on the Chesapeake the day before the wedding, so on those invitations we were sure to let them know it would a sober celebration. For those who came to the wedding who we hadn’t seen in a few years, I took the time beforehand to talk to my friends and family one-on-one to explain how our lives had changed and why our wedding and reception would be alcohol-free. And I found out again and again why all of these people ARE our friends and would travel to see us be together. They didn’t care that there would be no alcohol, they appreciated that we let them know, but gently let me know that they were coming for the wedding of dear friends and not to get their drink on. Everyone showed up, supported us, cheered us on, and then danced their asses off!

    I absolutely loved our ceremony, where Grant and I wrote our own vows, and had so much fun at the reception. We had a DC vending truck serve Indian food, and I baked all of the desserts (with help from friends and my grandmother). We played our favorite songs from an iPod speaker and talked on a deck overlooking the Chesapeake. Our wedding cake was made out of cheese (because that’s how Grant asked me out – to try a cheese plate with him). We ended the night with our “first dance,” we forgot to fill out the marriage license and had to make the officiant (a friend) come back to the reception after he put his baby to bed, I threw the bouquet to my fabulous maid of honor, and we walked to the Annapolis City Docks and lit hundreds of sparklers together. I felt beautiful in my black and white wedding dress and green shoes, with my handsome husband by my side, overwhelmed with the love surrounding us. I write all this because the absence of alcohol didn’t define the wedding or reception (which is what I feared). Everything else did.

    • OMG, Fojol Bros at your wedding?!? Awesome idea, I love them. I always wondered if they did weddings. I might have to steal that idea in the future! Congrats, this sounds like a lovely wedding.

      • They were great, and we were their first wedding! The food was absolutely delicious, and so was having them serve by the water as the sun set. They were really affordable and worked with us, and, unlike some of the other food trucks in the region, were really responsive.

        Here’s a picture (we didn’t even tell them to do that)!

    • Court, I can’t WAIT to read your wedding graduate post. Seriously, get on that. You rock.

    • crazy– the same thing happened with us and our marriage license! down to the officiant having to be tracked down after he left to put his baby to bed!

    • Alyssa

      In addition to your point of view and experience, there BETTER be a grad post because OMG your dress!!!

    • Jen

      I can NOT wait to read your wedding graduate post.

      So many huge congratulations!

      and p.s. Thank you for asking the question – it clearly opened a much needed discussion.

  • Forgive me if I am repeating something that has already been stated, but there are so many comments already and I have to get ready for work!

    We chose to have just beer, wine and champagne at our wedding reception. I deliberately chose not to have hard liquor at the reception because we didn’t have bartenders and I didn’t want people mixing their own cocktails and over-serving themselves. I was fine with people getting drunk, I just didn’t want alcohol poisoning or blackouts or anything.

    What ended up happening was that a few people who knew we weren’t serving mixed drinks brought their own hard alcohol and mixers. In the end it didn’t bother me, and I even partook of a mixed drink or two. But my point is that if keeping your reception dry is really important to you, that fact really needs to be communicated properly to your guests. I think if you just let people know the wedding is dry without explaining why (or at least expressing that it is important to you that the wedding be dry without explanation) some people will just bring their own secret stash. Maybe I’m being idealistic, but I think that if people know that you don’t want alcohol at your wedding (as opposed to you just aren’t serving alcohol at your wedding), people will respect that. But the responsibility is on you to communicate that.

  • I am really surprised about how controversial this topic has become. APWer’s are now infamous for throwing out “rules” of how weddings are conducted. I would think lack of alcohol would be one of those things that we as a community could get over. After all, regardless of guests’ expectations, isn’t the joining of two people the part that we celebrate on this site. Yes, a rockin wedding is appreciated, but isn’t the celebration of love the most important?

    • meg

      I know, and I’m standing my ground. Complain in private, but not in public (and that includes making people feel guilty on internet forums, achem).

      But I love when posts push our buttons. Clearly we all needed to do some reflecting about what a wedding was about today. And much as I love a drink, a wedding is not about a drink.

      • Push buttons indeed! It’s always good to shake things up and tackle a new aspect of weddings.

      • Amandover

        Yes, I love the buttons pushed. And Meg, just as a fun fact, I’d never heard of punch at a wedding before reading this site, and I think the fact that you think cake & punch are included at a wedding just shows how different people’s expectations are.

  • Other Katelyn

    I have a fairly gut-level “noooo” reaction when someone tells me they’re having a dry wedding, but I would NEVER say it to the couple. (That’s just rude.) I think my reaction comes from some serious work on my part to leave a fairly conservative religious community where drinking of any kind is considered bad form and certainly not something to be included in a sacred celebration of marriage. Most of the dry weddings I’ve been to have been of couples from that tight community, and it’s honestly not the dry part I dread– it’s having to deal with all of my Stuff brought up by that psychological environment, without the liquid courage of tequila shots.

    But see, that’s my Stuff. And I’m not the bride, I’m a guest there to support the couple getting married. It’s selfish and wrong of me to let my Stuff get in the way of what will undoubtedly be a fun and meaningful day for the couple.

  • I haven’t read the rest of the comments yet. But as someone whose fiance loves brewing his own beer (he compares it to long-term baking), yes, we are having alcohol at the reception. Would I expect there to be alcohol at a wedding I went to? Yes, because it’s a cultural norm. Would I EXPECT there to be alcohol at a wedding I went to? No, certainly not.

    Neither of us are big on the PARTAYYY scene so we’re not having dancing. And the wedding’s on a Tuesday night so I’m hoping it’ll keep things quieter. People haven’t complained too much yet.

    I do have an uncle who once started drunkenly hitting on my step-great-aunt. Yeah, gross. But he can embarass himself all he wants. Mean drunks on the other hand? I don’t care what anyone says, those people legitimately frighten me.

  • In the past few months I’ve attended and DJed two friends’ weddings that were dry. Both were the most amazing and memorable weddings I’ve ever been to. My one friend’s wedding was just last Saturday and she chose to go dry because of some family members with alcohol issues. Her solution? Pack the day with tons of activities so nobody even noticed the lack of booze. There was costumed wackiness during the ceremony, an awesome soul food dinner, wedding cake in the shape of a seal, a card table (her family loves slapjack), badminton, a pinata, and the piece de la resistance – a moonbounce! Oh and me and my guy supplied the music and kept a raging dance party going on. We all had a blast and nobody missed having a drink. Also, it was a relief for me as someone who doesn’t really drink for health reasons (a glass of wine once in a blue moon at best). I get really uncomfortable with the pressure to drink at social events and between boozy weddings, work happy hours, going out with friends, etc… sometimes it’s tricky to be the one without a drink in their hand. I look forward to a very low-booze wedding in my future.

  • I’ve been to a dry wedding, where I *knew* it would be dry before hand, and it was a blast. The groom was sober in AA for many years at that point, and I had driven the 12 hours to the wedding with two other sober people. But I *knew* going in not to expect alcohol. It was a ton of fun, as I knew it would be, because some of the most fun I’ve ever had in my life has been with sober people I knew through AA (my ex got sober in AA, which is how I knew these people, but I still drink).

    On the flip side though, one of my cousins got married a few years ago and neglected to include any information in his invitations that his reception would have a cash bar. I know he did it to save money, but if I’d known before hand, I could have budgeted in the money for that. No one told me, and it really did piss me off. Family events are already a little touchy for me to deal with and if I’d simply been told before hand, I could have mentally prepared myself for it.

    I’m not saying ANYONE should bend how they set up their wedding/reception for their guests, but like someone else said, people like to know whats going to happen. Let me know the plan, and I can deal with it, whatever that may be. No alcohol? Thats fine, but I’ll need to prepare myself mentally if my family is going to be there. Outside? In October? Next to a river? Fabulous! But let me know so I know to bring a cover to go over my strappy dress (and yes, this one has happened to me too).

    And honestly, if cousin so and so is a mean drunk and you don’t want alcohol for that sole purpose, all that is is an attempt manipulation. If that person wants to drink at your wedding, they will find a way, as someone else gave an example of.

    • Liz

      more than the budgeting, i just prefer to know so i can have cash on hand. i’m so debit-card-dependent, it’s sick.

    • Absolutely! I think that pretty much anything goes as long as you’re warned/prepared for it. You’re not having alcohol? Cool, just let me know that.
      I too went to a wedding where they had a cash bar and I wasn’t prepared AT ALL. If I had known, I would have brought cash, or even just been prepared. Thankfully my parents were also there so my Dad was periodically bringing my table (seated with my siblings and a few of my cousins!) a bottle of wine.
      No, weddings definitely don’t need alcohol. But like everything else related to weddings, guests will have expectations. I just think you should prepare your guests, maybe with a little blurb on a wedding website or something? I have had friends detail their menus + bar options on their wedding websites. Maybe you could list all of your awesome non-alcoholic options and then just say under it all “this will be a dry wedding” or “we won’t be serving alcohol, but we will be serving…”
      Honestly, if I’m invited to a wedding I expect alcohol to be there. That’s probably not fair but I do. If I know ahead of time I won’t expect it, and it’s all good.


    My husband and I just got married about a month ago (YAY!) and had no alcohol at our wedding. We are both sober and the guest list included many friends who were also in recovery. My husband’s step-family is Muslim so not having alcohol was a no-brainer. The wedding was during the day (which also helps take focus off boozing) and was wonderful. If anyone complained about the lack of alcohol at least it wasn’t to us (which would have been incredibly rude BTW). At the rehearsal dinner hosted by my in-laws, my Uncles got glasses of wine from the bar although alcohol was not served at the meal for anyone else. I was worried that it would offend my in-laws but people seemed not to notice. I think that respect for eachother’s needs and traditions is key here. We did not have alcohol because it would not be appropriate for us and the majority of our guests didn’t drink so it was an easy decision.

  • E. Weaver

    Our wedding and reception were totally alcohol-free. (We had a mostly DIY afternoon wedding in May, with a “finger foods” reception and dancing-for if there is music and dance-inclined folks, there will be dancing!) We had water, fresh homemade lemonade, sweet and unsweet iced tea. We kept it alcohol-free largely for budget reasons (total wedding budget-$5,000)-we simply couldn’t stand to cut our already small (<100 folks) guest list just to serve alcohol. The point of us stretching and DIT and asking people to volunteer to help was that our guests were those who love us, and we wanted to be able to share our getting married with them (vs eloping).

    Not one of the guests or family members said anything negative (that got back to us, at least) at any point about the lack of alcohol…or the DIT/homemade nature of things…or the fact that it clearly *wasn't* a big-fancy-expensive wedding. Perhaps that is because most of our guests know "where we are" in our lives and our general financial situation. But I like to think it's because the important part of the day to them was being involved with the fellowship of the marriage and being part of the community that has long supported us with friendship individually and will continue to support us as a married couple.

    The biggest "repercussion" was probably that we didn't have to worry about people getting home safely. And that we had money for renting speakers to ipod DJ with.

    Do I regret it? Not for a moment. Alcohol vs not was seriously one of those one-time easy wedding planning decisions for us. Sometimes, the nice thing about money is that you either have it, or you don't…and once you've made the decision not to spend money you don't have, you've got a nice firm "bottom line" to back up decisions with.

  • Marina

    We had a dry wedding, simply because my husband doesn’t enjoy drinking and neither of us enjoy hanging out around drunk people. No other reason.

    We had a wedding website that we kind of got a little crazy on, so we had this whole loooong rambly FAQ section, and one of the things was that we wouldn’t be serving alcohol. Here’s the exact wording: “Q: Will there be alcohol at the reception? A: Nope! Both Zack and Marina have more fun without it, and are planning all sorts of good shindigs so you will too.” Simple as that.

    And yes, I got lots of complaints and people trying to change my mind. I appreciate that many people think of weddings as times when they get to party, get a little wild, get a little loose, etc. But our wedding was unusual in many respects–we had a talent show, we had a parade, we had ice cream and fresh blueberries instead of cake, etc etc. Our party wasn’t the kind of party that people expected, but it was still a fun party. It was a good-conversation-party instead of a getting-a-little-wild party, which is exactly the kind of party my husband and I like.

    We also had vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and capsicum-free food options due to a few guests’ allergies and preferences. And believe you me, nobody complained about the food. It was goooooood. Regarding this whole conversation about being a good host–if I was hosting a dinner party for six people, and some of them were vegetarian and some of them were not, I would serve all vegetarian food. It would feel terrible, as a host, to serve some of my guests one kind of food and some of my guests other food. Similarly, if I knew some of my guests at that small party didn’t drink, I wouldn’t serve alcohol, because it would feel exclusionary. To me, if it makes sense for a small party, it makes sense for a large party.

    • kate

      “We had a dry wedding, simply because my husband doesn’t enjoy drinking and neither of us enjoy hanging out around drunk people. No other reason”

      Um yes. After years of doing the whole la music scene thing my finance and I just wanted to have time with our friends and family that didn’t revolve around alcohol. I really like alcohol… I do… but honestly? I usually prefer the people I know and love without it. And that is how we wanted to remember people at our wedding. Selfish? Sure, fine. I figured if Ive invested so much time drinking with these people it wouldn’t kill anybody to grace us with their sober presence for a few hours of their lives.
      Also our wedding was at my parents house waaaay out in the country and I didn’t want to worry about people getting home safely, or jumping off the the roof of the house into the pool (it’s happened). Some of our friends that did break out the flasks in the wee hours also brought tents… and camped out on the back lawn.
      I dont know. There are so many ways to have a wedding… it’s amazing to me what a response this post has received.

  • Erin

    We didn’t have much alcohol at our wedding. We had a bottle of champagne per table for toasting, and we also served hot spiced cider with rum (we had a winter wedding).

    My husband and I both drink socially, but neither of us drinks to excess. We considered our guests (mostly family, and many of them parents would would be bringing children, or cousins too young to drink), and decided that no one would miss the alcohol, and so it wasn’t worth it to us to spend the money and then worry about someone doing something dumb at the reception.

    Looking back, I don’t think it would have changed anything if we had offered wine and beer. A few people would have had some, and that would have been that.

    Maybe if our guests had all been 20somethings who wanted to get wasted and do stupid stuff, it would have been an issue, but for us it simply wasn’t.

    • N

      Agh, a winter wedding with spiked hot apple cider! Love love love.

  • Michele

    Sooooo, am I the only one who thinks the comments on this post read remarkably like a thread on the k.n.o.t?

    Because they kind of do, and I’m not sure why, but it’s really freaking me out.

    • Marina

      Yeeeeah, there’s obviously some emotional stuff going on for people on this topic. I don’t know why this topic and not others, but… yeah. I know what you mean. :)

      • Michele

        Next thing you know, we’re going to be arguing about whether there needs to be a seat for every butt and how many bites per person are necessary at an hors d’ouevres reception.

        Gag me.

        • ElfPuddle

          Or how to disinvite a bridesmaid so that you can invite your sister to be a bridesmaid even though you aren’t really close and she told you no when you asked her before.
          Seriously, I saw that yesterday. (I get kn*t updates for the humor, and to remind me why I’m doing it right.)

    • meg

      Yup. I’m leaving the thread open, because apparently we have some issues to work through in this area. I’m not, however, taking any nonsense. Of course you don’t have to serve alcohol. Of course it’s rude to complain about what you’re being graciously given as a guest. And luckily, my comments are in PINK.

      • Michele

        I think part of what’s going on here is that some people have feelings/opinions on this particular subject that are in conflict with their over-arching values, and in some cases, they KNOW it, and it’s bothering them, because it’s making them feel hypocritical or something. Or maybe it’s just me. ;)

        For example: I don’t actually have a problem with someone opting to have an alcohol free wedding. However, if someone told me they were doing so because they couldn’t afford to serve alcohol, and then turned around and spent $2000 on their wedding dress, I’d probably give ’em the side-eye and (privately) take issue with the idea that they “can’t afford” to serve alcohol, because in truth, they simply chose to allocate their resources in such a way that there was nothing left over for alcohol. And to take it one step further, I’d probably chalk it up to them being more concerned with personal aesthetics than with their guests’ enjoyment, and ultimately think it was pretty lame.

        However. ALL of that is very much in conflict with what I so often espouse when it comes to weddings – that brides and grooms and their families should make the decisions that feel right for them and not get too wrapped up whether or not rather benign choices are going to offend or otherwise put off a few people.

        And it’s bothering me – this conflict between how I WOULD feel in that situation, and how I think/believe/say I’d feel.

        Ultimately, it’s none of my effing business if someone wants to spend $2000 on a dress (or anything else) rather than cocktails for their guests. I guess I’d just rather they put it to me THAT way – just come right out and say that they don’t want to spend money on something they deem extraneous and unnecessary – rather than saying they can’t afford it. You know, OWN it.

        I mean, we ALL do (or did) it – eliminated “wasteful” spending (whatever that meant for us) where we could and just opted out of certain expected expenses, and usually, no one bats an eye. So why am I so conflicted on this ONE particular point?

        I mean, I don’t even drink!

        • Liz

          i think some of us put a lot of effort into being guest-conscious. so we do feel a bit miffed when we don’t feel that’s being reciprocated by other couples. but feeling that way is NOT the same as bitching to them.

          • lolo7835

            “It’s not your business what other people think about you.”

            Seriously-I am making this my mantra for the planning RIGHT NOW.

        • meg

          Well put. Look, I would prefer booze at your wedding, unless there are reasons why not. That said, I have reasonably good manners and will only b*tch about it to David behind closed doors, should I feel the need to b*tch. I also think you should make your own choices and not mind me. As someone told me in the final weeks leading up to my wedding, “It’s not your business what other people think about you.” She was right. I try to keep that in mind all the time these days, and anyone getting married should tattoo it on their arm.

          Besides. I’m an excellent flask sneaker, when needed. And, I’m funny. So I might sneak the bride a flask too, and I could probably make her laugh.

          So, yup. It’s interesting to see theory and reality collide, and it does make you realize, “Sh*t. I’m kind of a hypocritical b*tch, and should shut my mouth about a dry wedding already.” And that’s me speaking for myself, not for you. I would never call you a b*tch.

          • meg

            And I guess my point is, you need to make decisions for your wedding based on what’s right for you and yours, and stop worrying about b*tchy guests. You have to realize, they are guests. If you are generally hospitable, they have to shut up, and they know it.

          • Erin

            Hahaha. Yep. “That said, I have reasonably good manners and will only b*tch about it to David behind closed doors, should I feel the need to b*tch.”

            And the marrying couple are entitled to the reasonable expectation that their guests are grownups, and can get over their b*tching all by themselves. Unless they are not grownups. Case closed.

          • dev

            I think it comes down to this: APWers are opinionated (thank god). And many of us like to expouse our opinions with a glass of wine (or other beverage) in hand. So maybe we’re a little touchy/borderline insistent about it. But at least we’re honest, right?

            It never would have occured to me to have a dry wedding, because in our families and social circles, that’s a big part of how we socialize. But that’s just us. If having a dry wedding seems natural or true to your life, then you should absolutely do it. Chances are your families and friends won’t be shocked.

            And for the record, I’d have no problem going to a dry wedding, and I wouldn’t feel like it was cheap/rude/what-have-you. But I’d probably be trying to round up people to meet me at the bar once the reception was over. :)

          • Marina

            “It’s not your business what other people think about you.”

            Oh my god yes exactly. I would have done so much better if this had been tattooed on my arm.

          • ddayporter

            yes! thanks for reminding me where I first heard that “it’s not your business what other people think about you.” I think you must have mentioned that quote a lonnngggg time ago because I remember taking deep breaths to that thought several times during our engagement – wasn’t really sure if it was a quote from you or some random commenter, but it helped me a lot. maybe it should be another tag line for this site haha.

        • E. Weaver

          For some of us, saying that we can’t afford something truly is owning it. (I know sometimes it’s an excuse too. I’m just gently representing the “not always” part of that crowd.)

          It’s actually kind of hard to ‘fess up to not having money for a huge kick-a$$ party in the world of weddings. People judge you for not wanting to put things on credit, or not taking out a loan, or for setting aside a separate honeymoon budget that’s “safe” from being pilfered for wedding/reception funds. And to us, those financial decisions we made as a couple and as a larger family unit with our parents were about stepping up as a baby family and practicing some of our own values before we got married. They were about doing what we believed, financially. For us, it really was more important to have our friends present too than to have alcohol for an “exclusive few” family members.

          Not a single “expense line” at our wedding cost $2000. Our most expensive items were our catered-by-Mom’s-church-friends food ($1,000) and our taken-by-a-photographer-friend-photos ($800). And those amounts nearly gave me worry fits over our budget. My mother sewed my dress, for under $150 in materials. My shoes were $14 from Payless. A friend did my hair and makeup using the products she and I both use everyday. I (think I) looked great when it all pulled together! That’s probably enough to give you an idea of how things went with us. And there’s folks who plan weddings on less $ than we did.

          I really am not trying to be confrontational, and hope it doesn’t come across that way. I just am hoping to show it’s not always an excuse or a “shunting” of funds. I do also feel that if a person has a few things that really truly matter to them about their wedding/reception, that it’s ok for them to put money preferentially into those things…even if they’re not the things I would choose.

          • Michele

            Points well taken (and you don’t sound confrontational at all. :) ). Some people truly can not afford many of the traditional and/or expected expenses that come with hosting a wedding. Ain’t NOTHING wrong with that – marriage doesn’t have a price tag. We had an itty-bitty budget ourselves, so I can relate. If lack of liquidity is the honest-to-goodness, bonafide truth behind why certain decisions are made, then who am I (or anyone else) to argue or complain or judge? I’d sure as hell prefer to attend a simple, inexpensive, dry wedding than watch someone go into debt over a one day affair.

            It’s when people cite unaffordability (or some seemingly unselfish reason) as being the motivator behind a decision, when the truth is somewhat obviously something else that I start feeling a little judgy, hence my example involving a relatively expensive dress. That one was completely hypothetical, but here is a real world example: Some casual acquaintances of mine spent $7k on their photographer, and served lukewarm Chinese takeout food at their wedding, citing the incredible cost of caterers as the reason.

            Technically, none of my business. But something about that just strikes me as disingenuous and a little selfish. Photography was obviously their number one budget priority, which is no problem in and of itself. But it came at the expense of the comfort and enjoyment of their guests, who were left to eat cold take out. They had plenty of money for food, but they chose to spend it on pictures instead.

            And this is exactly what I was talking about in my post, actually. I SAY that a couple’s budget is theirs and theirs alone and they should not have to explain the decisions that they make. Yet I turn around and judge a couple who has allocated their budget in a way that I object to.

            Aaaaaand…..I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

          • E. Weaver

            Michelle-can’t figure out how to reply directly to you-sorry!

            “marriage doesn’t have a price tag”-AMEN! :-)

            I get what you’re saying, the example of that being a deciding factor on alcohol just kind of hit home for me, since it’s what “made our decision”. We did work hard that our guests were as comfortable as they could be, including “putting up” several friends who couldn’t have made the trip financially themselves in my apartment or staying with our families so they didn’t have to pay hotels.

            And I know what you mean about having some conflict over “it’s their money, they should put it where they want”, and “gosh, that’s really not how I’d spend it”. My example-I know some couples use credit responsibly to help fund their wedding/spread the expense out time-wise…but because of my personal financial opinions, I cringe inside every time people talk about it. And that, as someone said earlier in the comments, is *my* issue, not *theirs*. ;-)

          • meg

            Absolutly right. And I have to say, if we found out friends were not having booze at their wedding because of money (but wished they could afford it), we’d be the friends to nod nicely and say it was totally good they were sticking to their guns…. and then try to figure out how to smuggle in flasks for the whole wedding party, with a huge one for the bride and groom. As a secret present. Shhh!!!

            That’s just us. And everyone should have a few generous trouble maker friends ;)

          • Liz

            haha, meg. that’s EXACTLY what our groomsmen did. smuggled in whiskey and bourbon and even beyond that, kept josh’s glass of champagne brimming the whole time.

          • This is way after the fact but I had to throw this in b/c I didn’t see anyone else do it.
            If a bride has a 7K photographer or a 2K dress, it doesn’t necessarily mean *THEY* allocated the funds that way. It might.
            But it could be they planned their wedding for say, 5K total… and then generous aunt Gertrude or someone else said ‘You know what? I want you to have the dress of your dreams. I’m paying for it. Whatever you want.’ Or they heard they were just going to have cousin Fred take pictures on his digital camera and said ‘No! Pictures are all you have to remember the day! Is money the issue? I’ll pay for it!’

            Seriously, stuff like that happens. Sometimes people don’t say ‘here’s 7K for your wedding’. They say ‘I’ll pay for X’. My parents paid for my older sister’s alcohol, photography, and hotel rooms and that was it. My younger sister’s future mother-in-law told her she’ll pay for all the flowers. So in situations like that, it is possible that one item might have a bigger budget than other areas, not necessarily reflecting the the bride’s chosen allocations. (I.e. she might have thought ‘I’d rather have a fancy catered affair than a 7K photographer, but I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth! At least there was both food and photos!’)

            I’m not saying that’s necessarily the situation, but it’s good to keep in mind.

    • Carbon Girl

      Really? I don’t think we are getting mean. Some people have dissenting opinions but that doesn’t make them mean. Perhaps it is the nature of an advice column. When people ask for advice, they are going to get all kinds of answers including some that they don’t like or some that just doesn’t work for them. In my experience, the knot was always a lot of people asking for advice but then the comment-ers got really petty and then people got really offended, which I don’t think is happening here.

      I have to say this has been eye opening for me. In my circles, I have never seen a dry wedding (yes I have seen champagne only or beer/wine only weddings). I have hardly ever even been to a dry party. It never occurred to me to NOT serve alcohol at our wedding. I honestly thought that only happened for religious reasons. It has been interesting to see how the culture I grew up put these expectations into my head, so that I never even questioned them until now.

      • Michele

        Oh, I don’t think anyone’s being MEAN.

        There are lots of different kind of ladies on APW, and therefore, lots of different kinds of opinions, and I LOVE that.

        But there’s a judginess and a projection of one’s own values on to others in these comments that is not usually found here.

        • At least no one’s used the word “tacky” yet! That’s a major distinguishing factor between this thread and the Kn#t. ;)

          • Michele

            Exactly X a million!

          • Carbon Girl

            So true!

      • Jess

        I take no pleasure in internet snarky-ness. But I do find dissent makes for the most interesting conversations – it has certainly kept me engaged this morning!

      • Yeah, I agree. I don’t think this thread is anything like The Snot. I think people’s dissent has been well-articulated, on both sides. I feel bad that at least one commenter thought she would be judged as “cheap,” because I really truly believe that was no one’s intention.

        • MissT

          I have never commented, but I don’t think I can let this set of postings go by. One of the reasons that I absolutely love APW, and come here as a sanctuary from the abrasive, non-feminist culture that surrounds weddings, is because it is a supportive, non-judgmental community that encourages each individual to respond to the things in their lives in an authentic way that works for them. I needed to hear this message during my wedding planning process (and wish I had found APW sooner) and need to hear it everyday still. Many of these posts are wonderful sharings of the posters individual experiences (yeah!), but some of these posts are not speaking to the issue the questioners ask about how to implement their individual choices to not have alcohol at the wedding. When I read those questions, I immediately feel like Cort and Amanda are not worried about whether they are making the right decisions for themselves or whether society approves/disapproves of or requires alcohol at weddings, but how can the make sure that their guests understand and are prepared to celebrate at their weddings even though for many of the guests alcohol is a common wedding element. I always found it helpful to have a one-on-one conversation with the guest (or mother) who I knew cared on some level about the issue, but also about me. I talked with them not to explain, but to find if there was space for a compromise or a way of translating our decision that would ensure a harmonious and happy experience for everyone. For some of the out of the ordinary things we did (some of it involved luchidor wrestling masks), expectations was everything and talking to the right people in advance, helped us be comfortable that all of our guests would enjoy that experience, because those right people explained it to their peers and got everyone excited and on the same page for something that would otherwise have been unusual (for some of our guests). As for alcohol at our wedding, we only served beer and wine, which was in line with what most of our guests expected. There was one guest who mentioned it at the welcome party (the night before the wedding), but when someone explained that’s all we were serving, all he said was “ok” and enjoyed the evening and the wedding and reception, too. Sorry for the long posting, but this one inspired me to show support for the APW ladies doing their weddings their own ways!

  • Anonymous

    We did not have alcohol at our wedding because I don’t drink, my family is fairly conservative, and I did not want to have to worry about how drunk guests would be getting home. We had an afternoon hors d’oeuvres reception so alcohol would have been somewhat out of place. We didn’t make a big deal out of it so no one else did either. Instead we got soda in vintage-style glass bottles and served it in large galvanized tubs full of ice…it was very colorful and made for some good photographs.
    My husband does drink though and is big into home-brewing so we hosted a “party after the party” for all of our old college friends to come over and test out the latest brews and they all camped out in our yard. We did not spend our wedding night together alone but that’s what the honeymoon (and the rest of our lives) is for…it was great to have all of our friends together at the same time.

    • bensmom

      Oooooh, the vintage soft drinks in galvanized tubs is what we are planning as well — I am so glad to here that it worked out well for someone. I’ve never seen it done, but my fiance is doing the food for a barbque and we thought the vintage soft drinks would be cool, and would keep someone from having to see that tea pitchers stayed full.

      My dad quite literally drank himself to death a few years ago, so alcohol is a charged issue for me. I used to drink, but once I was engaged to someone who does not drink, I put it down too, and have been happier since I made that decision.

      Oddly enough, my mother still drinks, and her social set does as well, often to excess. When I told her that we’d not be having alcohol at the reception, the silence I got was defeaning. But, we are paying for everything ourselves, so I’ve not heard too much complaining about it. My mother’s friends will likely have ice chests in their vehicles anyway, so that they can slip out and refresh their drinkie-poos, and I’ll pretend not to notice :)

      But, this was one of the reasons to choose to do a late afternoon picnic that I expect will wrap up about dark thirty — the lack of alcohol will be much less noticeable than it would for an evening party with dancing.

      Thanks for this discussion — I was going to stick with my plan regardless, but it helps, somehow to know that others have made the same decisions and dealt with the same “stuff” :)

  • I don’t drink so I obviously wouldn’t think twice about a dry wedding (or notice it for that matter).

    That said, I don’t think guests are whiny or rude if they find an issue with a dry reception or cash bar. In our culture, providing alcohol at a big event like a wedding is seen as an act of good hospitality. Whether or not it’s true, a guest might believe that a dry event is the equivalent of the host saying, “your needs aren’t important to me.” The same might be said about a chairless ceremony or mealless reception.

    It would be my hope that the majority of gracious guests would attempt to take a moment to understand the reasons behind the couple’s choices, but I would also expect for a hostess to value that guest’s feelings as well. Dismissing a comment because “it’s rude” won’t do anythig to strengthen any relationships. I would think that asserting (through other gestures) that your guests AND their “needs” are important to you would be the most important goal.

    I think that saying something along the lines of, “I really do wish that I could [provide for your needs/ supply alcohol/ have chairs/ serve a big meal] but [my really good reasons] prevent this from being possible.” The truth might be that you do not want any alcohol at the wedding… but isn’t it the truth that you wish you could fulfill all of their needs?

  • We had a completely alcohol free wedding… mostly for two reasons

    1) we wanted it at a park, and no park would allow it

    2) neither of us are big drinkers anymore and we wanted our wedding to be more low-key vs. crazy party

    3) we were trying to do things super cheaply, and alcohol (and a licensed bartender, a license to serve it, etc.) really adds up

    It went over surprisingly well!! I was really concerned since it is such a standard part of our culture and weddings in general. It’s often a reason people cite, jokingly, to attend a wedding at all, and almost every msg. board out there has people warning against dry weddings and how boring they are. Don’t listen to the downers – it can absolutely work.

    Things that helped
    -we warned people in advance (in a non-judgy, funny way) on the website. Yes, we got two jokey “I’m bringing a flask!” comments, but no real complaints
    -we didn’t have dancing, we had lawn games – and it was a Sunday afternoon, so people would prob. not want to be hungover for work monday, anyway
    -we served homemade lemonade, sugar coke, and IBC rootbeer – i.e. other fun/conversation-piece options besides just water
    -we had tons of kids attending, so parents were unlikely to drink anyway
    -we realized that people loved us and wanted to come to our wedding to see us get married… and if they ONLY wanted to get sh*tfaced, they could skip it… or go to a bar afterward.

    (I think it’s fair to expect some kind of food or appetizers or dessert if the wedding takes place around dinnertime — food is a basic necessity. Alcohol is not…)

  • I think that possibly the answer to these questions and this debate has more to do with creating a sense of community and love and honor between the hosts and the wedding guests than the booze. Wedding guests attending a wedding with the mind-set that they will get something (food/cake/booze) and will be expected to give something (cash/gift), especially when they’re “owed” the food/cake/booze for traveling from out of town sets up a possibility for disappointment. I’m sort of an idealist, but I tend to think that people come to a wedding because they care for the people getting married. And, I do think that the people getting married owe their guests something, but it isn’t material–it is to create time to spend with the people that have chosen to join them in their party. So my advise would be to, if you can, plan some time to hang out with your guests before or after the wedding so that they feel honored for the time they took out of their lives to be with you. I think that when the guests feel “taken care” of in that way, it is hard for them to even contemplate being annoyed about the booze issue.

    • meg

      Amen. Preach it, lady.

  • isn’t it nuts how much people change when you mention a dry night? “WHAT?! NO ALCOHOL!?” your family and friends should understand what the day is all about…not alcohol. great advice.

  • whit

    I was MOH for a sober wedding and it was hands down the best wedding I’ve been to. Not only did I survive giving my MOH speec sober, I danced the night away as well. Best part? No drama, no regrets, just friends and family having a blast.

    • Man, I just love you.

  • Danielle

    Am I serving alcohol at my wedding? Yep. But can I handle not drinking for a wedding? Yep. My college roommate’s wedding was held in her Baptist church with cake and punch and it was a lovely time and just what she wanted.

    I think, overall, it’s all about what the happy couple wants for whatever reason. My father comes from a family that drinks socially and so does my mother. But 30 years ago, my mom refused to serve alcohol at her wedding, since my maternal grandfather was an alcoholic. She would not have had a good day, worrying about when my grandpa would find a drink and whether he would do something horrible on her wedding day. That’s why I empathize with people who decide not to serve alcohol due to other people. It might be even less about making them comfortable (although that’s wonderful too) and making sure that the happy couple can have one less stress during the day.

  • Sandy

    Ahhh, I wish I’d read this or something like it before I spent a year agonizing over whether to serve booze, how to serve booze, how to tell my Mormon family we decided to serve a little booze (champagne toast), how to tell his non-Mormon family that we decided to serve practically no booze (only the champagne toast), whether it would be weird for the bride to drink Martinellis before and during the wedding and Diet Coke at the after party, what to say to our friends coming from all over the country expecting a good time, whether the hotel would think we were cheap, etc., etc. I don’t drink at all for both religious and recovery reasons. My husband drinks socially. We agreed that we wanted everybody to be comfortable at our wedding, though, which, considering all the different people that would be there, meant that we did want to provide a choice between sparkling cider and champagne for the toast and did not want to provide any alcohol beyond that. My concern was that my much younger siblings not see me as a hypocrite — a person who doesn’t drink, but who encourages and pays for others to do so. I also knew my Mormon friends and family would be uncomfortable if there was lots of drinking. My husbands concern was with keeping things low-key and classy. As a former bartender at a hotel banquet hall, he’s seen too many alcohol-induced wedding horror stories. We were both concerned with money. So there were a variety of factors at work in our decision.

    After all that agonizing and what ended up being a fabulous wedding reception, I can say that Alyssa is right. People will have a good time at your dry wedding. They won’t care. They might make comments about your decision and they might joke about it (and those comments might irk or hurt, but it’s important to remember they’re rarely intended to do so), but really, when it comes down to it, they will be happy to be included in your day. We provided a candy buffet, buckets of old-fashioned gourmet sodas, and cupcakes for dessert — people were so hopped up on sugar they danced and socialized even without alcoholic help. My family was happy and so was his. A few of our friends found the bar on the other side of the hotel and bought themselves drinks, but everybody was pleasant and nobody was drunk so we didn’t care.

  • Dream

    I’ve been to a sober wedding and, I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy myself. Not only was it a dry wedding, but the dj only played gospel music so, no dancing. If you’re having a wedding with all of the fun components except for alcohol, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Just don’t get all Footloose and ban dancing!

  • Laura

    While me and my fiance drink, my family’s religion forbids it. To be respectful of my family, we won’t be having alcohol. It has been difficult to see the looks of disappointment on friend’s faces when I tell them and to hear that weddings without booze are boring. There is also an immediate assumption that we are doing it to save money. However, I think the most important part of our wedding is bringing together family, and maintaining a good relationship with my family is the more important.

    We are having a morning ceremony with a brunch reception, partially because it lowers the expectation for booze. You can never please everyone, so you have to make a choice that you can own. Avoiding causing some people you love pain is always going to take precedence over doing something because it is a “norm.”

  • LPC

    Let me just say, as a coda to my earlier comment, you don’t owe anyone a drink. It’s your wedding. It’s your decision how to allocate your budget. It’s your family you are creating, and your family you come from. But socially accepted addictions create a certain touchiness that you can either force to erupt or help manage. I’d personally welcome a dry wedding, since I am always working to keep my own culturally instilled drinking habit within bounds, for health, and for relationship drama-minimization:).

  • Harriet

    I am genuinely stunned by the vehemence of the reactions to this post. My parents are both from working-class Jewish backgrounds, and they just don’t drink, but they have a couple of friends who do, and when they’re over my parents always make sure to have wine or beer in the house. They serve it graciously, without judgments–it’s just not a big deal! We’re having wine and beer at my wedding reception (at my parents house) because my fiance and I like it, our friends like it, my fiance’s family likes it, and some of my family does too. My parents are fine with having alcohol even if they don’t drink it, but if they were bothered by it for any reason, I would get rid of it without apologies. I just don’t understand why people care so much about having it–it’s one celebration that lasts a few hours, and it shouldn’t be such a big deal to go without drinking. What should matter is that the couple and their families make choices they feel comfortable with, whatever those are.

  • Megan

    Alyssa. You’re amazing. The end.

  • Lizzy

    I think this whole discussion really highlights the fact that people can have really strong expectations of what a wedding is *supposed* to be. People can say, “A wedding is supposed to be religious,” “Brides are supposed to have bridesmaids,” “A wedding is supposed to have to booze,” or whatever (and people could just as well expect the opposite of these things), but just because people have an expectation, doesn’t mean you have to meet it.

    Actually, I find as soon as someone tells me I absolutely *have* to do something, I get a really, really strong urge to do just the opposite. It’s the contrarian in me :)

    • Alyssa

      Ooo, “contrarian.”

      I like that, I’m stealing it.

      SO much better than “stubborn b*tch.”

  • Jo

    Ok, I’m going to weigh in, even though I can tell a lot of energy has already gone into the commenting session so far.

    We are adults. So are our guests. In every wedding decision, the people getting married have to make choices that reflect their own wishes and the wishes of the people they are inviting. If the people throwing the wedding weigh the importance of providing for guests’ comfort against their values, their budget, and their personal preferences, and find that alcohol is not worth the “investment,” I think that’s their prerogative. And the fact is that we all might do it differently (maybe?) than someone else. And what I’m hearing Alyssa and Meg say is that we need to teach our guests that if they don’t like it, maybe they would be willing to go through one evening not complaining about it and trying to focus on the rest of the party.

    Which I’m sure we’ve all done, at one time or another. Sure, your preference might be to have the booze, but does that mean it’s not worth going to the wedding and trying to have fun anyway??

  • Michele

    Very different circumstances (and outcomes), but I’m reminded of my own experience in handling alcohol at our wedding: In the weeks leading up to the wedding, as my husband and I were trying to decide what and how much alcohol to purchase, I kept pushing for MORE MORE MORE, citing the fact that our friends are PARTY ANIMALS! I envisioned riots breaking out if the booze stopped flowing, and figured we needed to prepare for the party of the century.

    Then our wedding day rolls around, and everyone does indeed partake of the alcohol – ONLY the beer and signature cocktail though, not a SINGLE bottle of wine was opened; strange. But really, while it was a great party, it was all very tame, and we wound up with a truly ridiculous amount of leftover alcohol. Like, I’m pretty sure there was more LEFT than there was CONSUMED.

    Turns out, once we all hit 30, we mellowed out and I’m afraid none of us can call ourselves ‘party animals’ in good conscience anymore, and I need not have spent so much time worrying about alcohol at all.

  • Marchelle

    Sweet almighty, such hullabaloo.

    Firstly, wise words Alyssa. I’ma enjoy your contributions, I can tell.

    Secondly, what is all this about apologising? ‘I will get drunk tonight’ doesn’t follow after the ‘I do’s last time I checked. LPC made valid points about pre-warning guests that a wedding will be dry, but coming from a culture where alcoholism and sobriety go hand-in-hand with little middle-ground (sweet, sweet T&T), I’m not so sure. I’ve been to weddings with lots of booze & had a miserable time and to others which were teetotal and hardly noticed. The booze is so not the point!

    My disclaimer – we had lots of booze at all our wedding celebrations, because that’s just how we roll, and word is there was even more at the after party, but I am absolutely certain that our celebrations would have been equally spectacular without. Because the focus was on the celebration of our new family. Everything else is just (fun, creative, aesthetically pleasing, community enriching, etc) window dressing.

    • Alyssa

      You’re a smart cookie.

      And why is no one embracing the idea of the after-party?! Is that not done anymore?? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, hang out at the reception and when it’s winding down, sidle up to the hot cousin and invite him to the after-party because he’s from out-of-town and might need “some people his age to hang with.”??

      • Oh man. Let me assure you, it’s done. We had the after party in the hotel restaurant/bar, and then the after-after party in our suite. Yes, we hosted a crapton of people in our room until 5 a.m. the night of our wedding. It was fan-effing-tastic. (And yes, there was booze.)

        In fact, almost all of the weddings that I’ve been to have had some sort of post-wedding gathering. It’s where you can all get out of your fancy clothes and take all of the bobby pins out of your hair.

  • Caro

    At my mom’s wedding, where both the bride and groom, and about 1/3 of the guests were in recovery, they served alcohol (beer and wine). It made me more uncomfortable than not serving alcohol would have. Yes, it’s not all about the bride and groom, but it should reflect them. Serving alcohol with so many people who don’t drink because they have had problems with it is not how I would have gone. I’m sure a few people would have missed it if there had been no alcohol, but I don’t think they would have made a fuss. Everyone there knew mom and stepdad are in recovery, and supported them in that.
    I agree you probably have to tell people that there won’t be alcohol served (particularly when they mention getting drunk), but I wouldn’t make a big deal of it.
    First of all, it’s your choice. And to the woman who’s fiance is in recovery, if someone is uncomfortable partying without alcohol for one night, and would rather have their booze than help support your fiance’s sobriety, then honestly, it’s probably not someone you want supporting your marriage.

  • Chantal

    As someone who has been dry at 2 weddings, I can confirm that there was a lot of whining, pouting, and fit throwing. And then I got over myself. The first wedding was for my only sister and she chose to go that route because my (not so) recovering alcoholic father was to attend and she wanted to avoid all the akwardness that would have inevitably occured as a result of free booze. The second wedding happened to be of our dear friend, Alyssa. While she did have booze at her wedding, I was 5 months pregnant and so it was a dry wedding for me at least. Both weddings were fabulous and filled with so much love and happiness, that I didn’t miss the alcohol at either. And as Alyssa can tell you, I am not one to shy away from my spirit friends. Once people (babies) get over the intial shock of having their beer (bottles) taken away, they re-focus and move on. And then something funny happens; they act like adults and respect your choices regarding your wedding.

    • Alyssa

      She’s not kidding, folks. This is coming from the lady who I know will be at my bedside, right after I have a baby, with a bottle of good beer. And if I object, she’ll smack me in the back of my head and yell, “Pump ‘n Dump, you pansy!”

      • ddayporter

        Meg can we get a BAHAHAHA button next to that Exactly? I think we’re going to need it with Alyssa having this column…

  • Sarah

    And to this, I started this comment 5 hours ago (ah, work getting in the way of my reading/commenting!) … now I’m just adding to a long list. Oh well!

    We had a dry wedding. Our reasoning was two-fold: 1. his parents (and several of their closest friends) are ultra conservative. Alcohol is a dirty word to them. And 2. Several members of my family don’t know their limits. As our wedding was at 11am, I didn’t need anyone getting stupid-drunk, or offended, before having a full meal.

    The only time it was mentioned to his parents was to assure them (after a snarky comment from his father) that no, we would not be having alcohol. Several other people pushed back a bit, because “what is a wedding without alcohol?” (Ahem. The same thing a wedding WITHOUT alcohol is. A celebration of love. Period.) But most people just let it go. When we were asked we’d give our reasons for our decision (it tended to shut people up when they had solid reasons in front of them) and that was that.

    A close friend and my maid of honor each approached me about bringing a flask. I said sure, and for that matter, could they hold mine as well? Those that brought it with them were well behaved, and kept it out of sight. Everyone was happy. And other than a few rouge cousins, no one complained about the lack of alcohol. I guess they didn’t see it as a lack. They saw what we DID provide for them, and were thankful for it.

    And “I’m flasking my own wedding” very much became a catch-phrase among a select group.

    So to sum it up … our decisions were made because of, and for, other people. That reasoning didn’t diminish ANYTHING. It was right for us, and those guests that didn’t agree took care of themselves. Easy! I wish all the decisions had been as easy!

  • I have to admit, I consider providing guests with something alcoholic to drink to be just as crucial a part of hospitality as providing them with something good to eat. I understand that that’s completely a result of the culture I was raised in – not even necessarily “Northeast” but my particular subculture within the Northeast. My family drinks, quite a bit. My fiance’s family, though he is from generally the same area of the country, does not drink much. If they were invited to a dry wedding, they’d probably have a lovely time and maybe not notice the lack of alcohol. That would not be the case with my family. Between the lack of alcohol, and their surprise at the lack of alcohol, it would have the potential to ruin the evening.

    If there were a good reason – someone’s sobriety, for example – they’d understand, and, being prepared, would probably enjoy themselves. That, in the second scenario above, the bride and groom have chosen to have a dry celebration for what doesn’t seem like a “good reason” to me suggests that they’re probably from a family or a culture, like my fiance’s, that doesn’t see alcohol as being as integral to a party as my family does. Honestly, I think that anyone can even conceive of having a wedding (or almost any party) without alcohol for anything less than life-threatening reasons – the thought would have never entered my head – probably has a family/cultural background where it won’t matter too much. It’s probably nice to let them know, as many people do expect alcohol at a wedding.

    I may get some flack for this, but:

    Honestly, having a dry wedding without “warning” people ahead of time feels a little like pulling a bait and switch. Of course, the reason for a wedding, and for going to a wedding, is to celebrate a couple and their love. But that’s not the only reason people go to weddings, and the people at a given wedding are probably from a variety of backgrounds, with a variety of beliefs about marriage, a variety of faiths, a variety of relationships with the couple, and a variety of reasons for being there. Imagine: I send out invitations to a Christmas celebration, to people of a variety of faiths, cultures, and backgrounds. Everyone shows up, and I begin the evening with readings of the Nativity Gospels. Then we sing some religious hymns, pray a rosary, and have some quiet time to meditate on the mystery of the Incarnation. If anyone grumbles, I inform them that the reason for Christmas is the birth of Christ, of course, and surely they didn’t come to a CHRISTmas party just for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, candy canes, and eggnog? Even people of different faiths should be able to understand that, as a Catholic, Christmas is one of the holiest seasons of the year for me, and surely I can be a good hostess without providing them with all of the external trappings that aren’t important to me!

    It’s not about OWING people Rudolph and candy canes, nor is about OWING people alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with the party described above, and there’s nothing wrong with a dry wedding. But going against expectations can, frankly, be rude. If people expect a Christmas party to be a rockin’ bash, inviting them to a prayer service without telling them that that’s what this this celebration entails is misleading, even if they AGREE that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” If people expect – as they do, in many but not all cultures – that a wedding will include alcohol, to invite them to a dry wedding without letting them know that that’s what they’re getting can be just as misleading – even to people who wholeheartedly agree that the reason for a wedding is to celebrate the love of two people and not to get drunk and dance.

    • meg

      Right, but that’s been covered. Let people know what they are in for, but don’t feel like you have to take rude nonsense without an eybrow raise.

  • Diane

    I come from France and a dry wedding would be really hard to imagine here. There are very usually at least one champagne and 2 or 3 different wines during most weddings, and they are as important as the food for most guests (each wine is supposed to match one dish, and woe to you if it doesn’t ). I guess in case of addiction issues people would understand though, but still probably be grumpy. But then, French weddings last all night long so it’s not possible for guests to escape and do a post wedding bar trip.

    • meg

      Well, I think it should go without saying that this would be a totally different discussion in Europe. And by totally different discussion, I mean we wouldn’t be having it. Which I appreciate. I, um, rather enjoy the European approach to wine. So, to be clear, this post is aimed at an American (or otherwise non-European) audance.

  • Lizzybug

    Coming out of my shell to comment. I’ve been reading for about 8 months now…

    I, too, am surprised over the controversy surrounding the dry wedding. I come from a wedding culture in Chicago where alcohol at a wedding is expected. And, I’d like to reiterate that regardless of whether it’s expected in your community or not, it just doesn’t matter. Wedding cakes are expected, father-daughter dances are expected, DJ’s are expected. If an engaged couple would like to have a dry wedding, or no wedding cake, or no dancing, or whatever, then they should do it because having Any. Other. Wedding. would be inauthentic, to them. And this community should be fostering and supporting brides (and partners and grooms!) who are trying to plan their weddings authentically.

    I’ve been invited to weddings that were dry. And you know what? The most fun weddings that I’ve been to are the ones that were clearly planned with authenticity in mind. The “look” that we talk about on wedding graduates’ faces? That look doesn’t come from trying to meet others’ expectations. It comes from planning and executing a wedding that is a true representation of the couple. I’d rather be at one wedding planned with the care, attention and love of the couple getting married than five hundred weddings where the couples are just going through the motions and providing what’s expected.

    I know it’s hard not to want to judge a couple based on their decisions to leave this or that out of their wedding. This is coming from a person who loves to to have drinks, while celebrating. But if the need for a dry wedding is coming from an authentic place, then the guests will feel that authenticity and they are not going to miss the alcohol, whether or not they “prepare” the guests for the absence of alcohol is irrelevant. As is often said on APW, “Haters gonna hate.” And they will. But your wedding will still be awesome as long as it is a true reflection of you and your partner.

    • LPC

      Except that no one has a managed addiction to father-daughter dances or wedding cakes. Even managed addictions cause discomfort when disrupted.

  • I read this book by Christopher Kennedy Lawford and his struggles with addiction (Symptoms of Withdrawal), and some of these comments remind me of his famous family’s reaction to his recovery. They were so glad he wasn’t getting arrested anymore or putting his or other lives in danger, but — and this is one of the more memorable parts of the book for me — his mom would tell him she didn’t understand why he couldn’t make the margaritas anymore.

    Regardless of what you expect at a wedding (and why does anyone expect more than the beginning of a marriage to occur at a wedding???), shouldn’t the health of the people you are there to celebrate with come first and foremost?

    I’m writing all this because I’m coming to terms with my own judgey-ness in this journey. When Grant first went to treatment, I didn’t understand what it would mean for our lives. I was a big drinker and now it’s not a part of my life. (And when that part of my life left, so did some drama and I have less regrets.) But this is just our story. Now, especially in regards to weddings since we just went through one, I hope I can hear about something “different” or that I wouldn’t expect at a wedding, and process it internally before I react. This couple, who are my friends, want to do X that surprises me? Huh, they are my friends, and cared enough to invite me, and I bet (since they are smart, funny, kind people) they probably have a good reason.

    I would also like to add that Grant’s brother is getting married in June, and we do not expect at all that there will not be alcohol. That’s their celebration, and we will be there to see them tie the knot and be joyous, and if anything gets crazy at the reception, we can leave. If they decided to not have alcohol, we’d support that, too.

  • I recently attended a wedding where the bride is VERY religious and there was some question as to whether alcohol would be served. And the honest truth is, my friends and I complained a bit and discussed amongst ourselves how bummed we’d be if it was a dry wedding, but not for ONE SECOND did we consider

    a) saying something to the bride or groom
    b) not going to celebrate the marriage of two of our best friends.

    It ended up being a moot point, because it was SO not dry, but if it had been we would still have been there cheering them on. Because friendship is not about beer. And neither are weddings.

    • meg

      aMEN. You and me both Chan, you and me both.

  • I’m a little late to the comments but I did want to throw something out here. In August, I planned a dry wedding on a Saturday night in Northern NJ- yes, the very mecca of 5-hour open bar weddings. The couple chose the dry route for religious reasons. Honestly, I don’t know what they told their guests beforehand. What I can say is I didn’t hear one person complain & I saw a packed dance floor throughout the evening. The Bride & Groom knew how to have a fabulous time without alcohol & their guests followed their example.

    I have planned & attended other dry weddings in southern California for many reasons (religion, alcoholism) with mixed reactions. Some went off without a hitch or complaints. Other times I’ve heard grumbles, seen flasks, watched the bridal party march in & out of the reception to an alcohol-stocked car in the parking lot, etc. But I’ve heard complaints about other things at open bar weddings too. Open bar does not equal no complaints. If only every wedding guest could read Meg’s advice about being a gracious guest.

    Whatever your decision regarding alcohol (or anything else), make your decision, stick with it & have a FUN wedding!

    • “Open bar does not equal no complaints.”

      This is wise. If guests are determined to complain, then no amount of booze, letterpress invitations, three course dinners, fancy white dresses, or passed appetizers will please them. The most we can do is be thoughtful and communicative about our choices and authentic to our relationships.

  • Emily

    We had alcohol at our wedding, and you know what? I didn’t really want it. It fell in to that dreaded “huge conflict” zone where my even suggesting having only wine and beer was majorly offensive to my father. “How CHEAP of us! Why would we put our guests THROUGH that if they want a GIN AND TONIC they should have one!” was the approximate reaction to even just slightly lowering the alcohol level. Interestingly, I did win (and I HATE having to say “win”) the vegetarian reception debate, which was similarly viewed as unthinkable, cheap, rude, and inhospitable : and turned out to be delicious, appreciated, and enjoyed by everyone (aside from those people grumbling as they left, but I don’t know about them, so it’s ok).
    How did the alcohol-y reception go? Well, based on the number of extraordinarily tanked people after the reception (not too many) okay. But one drunk younger sister made out with a boy on the dance floor, while both his and my entire family watched, (hilarious!), and one wayyy underage younger sister and co. were super drunk, and they were far more on the obnoxious side of the drunk-scale (never underestimate the wily-ness of younger siblings, and their willingness to steal other people’s unattended drinks). Dealing with drunk younger sisters is not on my list of favorite memories from the wedding, but happened nonetheless.
    Moral of my story is, I think it’s ridiculous to worry about things seeming “cheap”, and if people are used to having steak and beer every night for dinner, or cocktails and chicken at every wedding… you never know, they might welcome the change. And if you have alcohol, beware of the inevitable incredibly/embarrassingly drunk guests.

  • carly

    I’ve read through all the comments – but there are, um, a lot of them. So forgive me if this has already been said, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s absolutely fine to have a dry reception for ANY reason: cost, religious/moral, personal preference, etc. Yes, I had alcohol at my wedding (beer, wine, and warm apple cider that guests had the option of spiking with Jim Beam), and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Seriously, that first glass of wine on the lawn after the ceremony? HEAVEN.

    And truth be told, I’d probably be a little disappointed if I went to a wedding that didn’t serve alcohol – disappointed, yes, but not insulted. You know what I do find insulting? A cash freakin’ bar. These are your GUESTS. You wouldn’t ask someone to “pay up” if you offered them a drink in your home, so why in the world would you charge them at your wedding? It kind of makes sense if you offer beer and wine and have a cash bar for those who might want a cocktail, but for a cash bar to be the only option is just… impolite.

    So: Dry wedding – absolutely. Charging guests for drinks – yuck.

  • Serato

    Our wedding events were dry, not-even-close to dry & limited bar. (Three events as per Indian/Muslim wedding traditions)

    My husband and I drink, maybe not much but we do have our annual trip to the Niagara on the Lake wineries and all those bottles seem to come home with us… but I digress. When we planned our wedding it was almost easy when it came to alcohol, given the fact that his parents are muslim and their friends abstain completely and my father is 10 years sober (yay!) – we made the choice to serve or not, and stood our ground.

    Night1 was a traditional Muslim Holud and as such we served no alcohol, there wasn’t even after dinner coffee – only tea. Our Night2 was the Wedding & first Reception, we had a full bar for those who wanted right up to the premium stuff. We also ensured there were some really great options for those who wouldn’t toast with alcohol. Afternoon3 was our second Reception where we had any drink option for only 2 hours.

    With all the fraught feelings we had about hosting events where people could (OMG) drink alcohol or (OMG) there was nothing to drink, I learned very valuable lessons;

    1. Even our hard drinking friends didn’t say a WORD about there being no alcohol present!
    2. My in-laws were happy that we had “no-alcohol” tables and options, why isn’t this a given for every event?
    3. Those hard partying friends totally noticed that we’d picked the same good stuff we serve at home for the wedding, we had some knowing nods and clinks of respect for having good Scotch.
    4. A bridal bouquet is just the right size to hide a glass of champagne behind, specifically during photos ;)
    5. The wedding day(s) were just like my normal life, sometimes we drink & sometimes we don’t – but no matter any day can be a dance party!

  • Rachel

    Someone up there said “why punish everyone for one person’s sake?”

    Punishment? Really?

    Not providing booze for you turns the wedding reception into a punishment? That’s pretty sad. Of all the hours there are to drink besides those 4 or 5.

  • We had a morning wedding with breakfast/brunch, and while we did have champagne available for toasts and mimosas, frankly, people were surprised it was there, and we ended up returning most of it. I think we would have been fine skipping the whole thing. But I do LOVE the idea of affirming the work that someone has done in being sober…

    Good luck! Also, awesome post!

  • Amanda

    Thanks to Meg for Team Practical, and now also to Alyssa for Ask TP Fridays. I’m the Amanda that submitted the second question. I submitted to Meg in mid-July, 2 months before our wedding, and well past our invitation mailing and no-alcohol decision making.

    My indecision wasn’t with respect to how to own the decision – we were happy with our decision, and frankly, I was glad it was one less item on my to-figure-out-and-coordinate list! – it was whether or not to talk about it when the subject was brought up by others. Clearly, I wasn’t advertising our dry wedding, for the same reasons I wasn’t advertising that there wouldn’t be a garter toss, flowergirl, or other “traditions” that some people may have expected. Weddings these days come in all shapes and sizes, so I didn’t feel the need to tell people what they would/would not be enjoying at ours, with the exception of listing a dinner time (so they at least knew they would be fed dinner), because that would be an exhausting list.

    Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful suggestions on how to answer questions about alcohol not being served, and how to gently mention it to those I think might actually take offense to our actions.

    Our wedding was September 25th, and although we stuck to mostly our guns with serving no alcohol, we did have a champagne toast, providing each table with one bottle of champagne (the brand & label my parents served at their wedding). We did not receive a single negative comment about the lack of alcohol (at least not to our faces), and people danced the night away without it. Some of the guests brought flasks and others drank beer out in the parking lot; those who did so we expected such behaviour from. All in all, our reception was a totally successful, fun, wonderful evening without anyone getting out of control or drunk & mean.

    My MOH (my twin sister, so yes — I do, and did, put her needs and feelings above other guests’) appreciated the no alcohol sentiment. My now-husband & I didn’t miss the alcohol at all, and in fact likely wouldn’t have even drank much, considering the whirlwind of activities and my lack of consumption of *any* beverage all night!

    The advice to own your decisions – whatever those may be, and for whatever reasons – is spot on. Confidence is key, and those who cannot respect your decisions may have issues of their own to deal with. In the end, my “issue” turn out to be a total non-issue for us. We might have been lucky in that aspect, but I hope that others who choose dry (or mostly-dry) weddings don’t encounter any negative attitudes. Your guests are there to celebrate you & your love, and should be happy to celebrate in the manner provided.

    • Alyssa

      I’m so glad you and Court both wrote in because, as you can tell, it’s obviously something that needed to be discussed!

      I’m also REALLY glad everything worked out for you guys, because that’s absolutely the most important thing.

    • Ah – your wedding & reception sound divine.

  • I think the decision should be based… first and foremst…. on the preferences of the bride and groom. We have all sorts of guests with special dietary needs (from vegetarians to people with high blood pressure to recovering alcoholics to not-so- recovered alcoholics). We will cater to their needs of course but we will not change what we eat or drink or do because my sister- in-law is morally opposed to eating meat or because my father is a recovering alcoholic. Also, my fiance has high blood pressure and cannot eat salt. Even though its his (our wedding) we won’t expect guests to forgo salt. I want all the guests to be comfortable and happy… and that we all can drink and eat and do what we need/want/enjoy. And alcohol is every where. If someone can’t abstain because alcohol is being served in their presence, they will have a relapse sooner than later. That being said, its your wedding. You know yourselves and your family… If you think you can have fun and enjoy yourself without alcohol, go for it! It’s cheaper anyway.

  • Clare

    Can I just say that it’s a peculiarly American thing to serve spirits for free, or have a cash bar? In Australia every wedding I’ve ever been to has beer, wine, champagne and naught else. I can’t envisage a wedding where you can have whatever spirit you want! We are quite excited about serving G&Ts as a ‘cocktail’ at our wedding. Tres unusual and classy :P

  • Jess

    I had beer and wine at our wedding, and I heard grumbles from people barely legal that there was no booze. I agree that those who only come to your wedding for free liquor are not the opinions you should worry about.

  • Angel

    I apologize, I haven’t read the 250-or-so comments that are before me. I read the first 40 or so, then decided to skip to the end & post and catch up on things tomorrow.

    I’m actually Really surprised this is such a big deal. I’ve pretty much grown up in the Bible Belt, in conservative Christian circles, and of the many many weddings I’ve been to only 2 have had alcohol, and those were both out-of-state. It’s just normal here, at least among my friends & relations, to have a punch-and-cake(and probably cheese & crackers & fruit) reception. Alcohol simply isn’t done.

    Most of these dry weddings were absolutely fantastic and we all got wild & crazy out on the dance floor in the middle of the church gym. Maybe not as wild & crazy as we could have, but the alcohol really wasn’t missed or an issue at all, but then it’s normal here. There was only one wedding reception (held at an extremely conservative church) where there was no dancing – and I will admit that some friends & I complained among ourselves when we discovered this, and there was a lot of awkwardly standing around, but then we pulled out our cameras and started taking crazy-random pictures of everyone and having a blast anyway. You don’t need booze to enjoy yourself, you don’t even need dancing we discovered. They are nice to have, but a good time can still be had without them.

    Anyways, those are just my two-cents. Whenever I get around to having a wedding, I mught have a good bubbly for toasting with, but I’ll probably just go with Sparkling Grape Juice to avoid the family drama that would be inherent in the decision to have alcohol(due to my mom’s family’s ugly history with booze – it was a touchy subject when I went to a bar with friends on my 21st just to taste stuff).

    Sorry, that turned out to be really long.

  • My fella and I just got married a couple of weekends ago, and it was a dry wedding. I have some things to say about that, but first I want to say that before outing someone’s sobriety in a wedding program, I hope it’s understood that you should be certain that person is not really owning the “anonymous” part of “alcoholics anonymous” (if they are a Friend of Bill, that is). Obviously Court’s husband would be involved in that decision, but if it’s another member of your family or wedding party, for crying out loud, make sure to talk about it. My father has been in recovery for 20 years and I can remember a time quite distinctly when in high school we were asked to make family trees that detailed the health issues in our direct line. I marked down the heart disease, the manic depression, the Multiple Sclerosis, the leukemia…but my dad asked me to remove the alcoholism from beneath his tree branch. I very much respected his wish, because it’s up to the person with the problem who knows and who doesn’t know. Now, things are different (hence me even mentioning it here), but he rocked the anonymity thing for a good long while. So while I do think that it’s awesome to support your friends in recovery, I also think it’s a good idea to discuss with them whether or not they really want to be formally called out as the reason for the nondrinking season, as it were.

    Now, as for the wedding, I’m a nondrinker (see: father in recovery and my own choices to avoid alcohol as a result), but my husband isn’t. He’s a good-glass-of-scotch or nice-local-beer kind of guy, but our friends know that I don’t drink and they know that our parties are generally not ragers. Folks do occasionally bring a bottle of wine or a couple of beers to share, but it’s not particularly common. When the subject of our wedding came up, it was remarkable: Only the people on the periphery (people we weren’t planning to invite — coworkers and old acquaintances who weren’t CLOSE friends and such) who were aghast at the no-booze thing. Our choice to have no alcohol was made based on several factors: 1) I don’t drink and I hate being around wasted people (reminds me too much of pre-recovery time); 2) Booze is expensive; 3) I love my Papa more than life and I wanted him to be happy and comfortable at my reception (note: he also celebrated the marriage, as he’s an Episcopal priest); We wanted a daytime wedding and letting the liquor fly at 2pm seemed…not in line with our lifestyle.

    Ultimately we chose a summer camp as our wedding venue, and though this camp DOES allow alcohol on premises…we might’ve also fudged things on our wedding website and said that alcohol was not allowed and we’d be kicked out if someone snuck any in. I absolutely believe that managing guests’ expectations is the sign of a very good host, which is why we were QUITE clear with our friends what they could expect from the weekend. That included telling them what meals would be like in the dining hall, showing them pictures of their accommodations, telling them to leave their fancy shoes at home, and giving them an idea of what the reception would entail (lunch, dancing, photo booth, cake). At the end of the weekend, one of the guests fell all over herself thanking me for how well we prepared her for the weekend; it made it easier to relax and have fun, since she knew what to expect.

    So, yes, I think it’s VERY important to let your guests know, but not just about booze — I think you should let them know in general about what to expect from your event. Whether that’s what they should wear or what they should bring or whether or not they’ll have enough to eat, that information will make them happy. I’ll be honest: We did have one guest who grumped to another friend of ours about the lack of booze (prior to the wedding) and how she wasn’t sure she’d be able to emotionally handle the event without lubrication. He was very clear with her that she shouldn’t sneak in a flask and that he’d be there to keep her from wiggin (she’s…neurotic). And he was, and she was fine. I’m pleased to report that HOT DAMN was there a lot of dancing at that lunchtime reception. Forty people, not a drop of booze, an iPod as the DJ, and that dance floor was BUMPIN till we had to break to change into our jeans for dinner.

    Oh, and for the record, we’re Manhattanites — the “Northeastern standard” can suck it.

  • i’m writing this an anon, not because I want to say something I won’t own, but because of the touchy-ness of this subject (and a great post by the way…)

    my father has been in recovery for almost 1 year now, and he has had some slip ups. He’s been in a bad way since I was in high-school, and while it got really not-great there for awhile, he’s on the up and up, of which I am very hopefully and very thankful (and very much taking it one-day-at-a-time, and all that other 12 step goodness). but, as a recently engaged person (who looked at venues for the first time today, and is pretty excited about this whole process), I’ve already thought about alcohol at my wedding. And I will be serving it, but only beer and wine, no hard stuff. For a couple reasons: 1) family history. ’nuff said, naturally? 2) our friends aren’t heavy drinkers, but i do not want “shots!” said anywhere near me on this particular day 3) i like a good glass of wine or a nice local microbrew and 4) it’s super expensive and on our list, photo-booth comes before hard alcohol, so there we be.

    but what i got from this post – and what i’ve received from this entire site and all you wise, if sometimes disagreeing women – is that I can own this, and, even if people disagree with it, it will be okay as long as my future husband and i are on the same page. if i don’t want to get married in a church, people are going to have a problem with it. but i own that. if i don’t want or do want alcohol at my wedding, people are going to have a problem with it. but i own that. if my mom wants pink centerpieces instead of red, well, i don’t care enough to own that so she can have it. this is how i’m keeping my sanity. people – even people we love very much – might not agree with every choice we make in our weddings. but isn’t that the same with life? part of being an adult is realizing that you love them, they love you, and you aren’t going to see eye to eye on this, and it’s totally ok. no one said it was easy, but it’s pretty freaking liberating…

  • april

    Oy. I just got done reading all the comments. *whew* And now my brain is tired but I’ll say this: I’ve been to plenty of dry weddings, and they were just fine and I enjoyed myself. No, they were not a rollicking free-for-all with crazed people but a nice, fine time. Then again, I’ve also been to top-shelf open bar weddings that were – SURPRISE – drier in spirit than yesterday’s toast. Huh. Imagine that. Which totally proves alcohol isn’t the end-all-be-all for the rockin’ wedding reception. I love having a cocktail, but wouldn’t be mortified if one wasn’t around for a few hours.

    My hubby and I chose to have to have a hosted premium bar at our wedding. It just felt like the right thing to do for our crowd. We have some people that drink only wine; others that hate wine. Some drink only beer, but several hate beer. Some hate champagne. Some only drink rum. So we opted for a bar with a little bit of everything and everyone had something and some had more, and like three people got crazy with the Patron shots and damn – let me tell ya: those pictures are priceless and so is the video! ;)

    Yes, I worried about people getting sloshed at our wedding. Thank science we had the wedding at a hotel – most stayed the night. But at one point, I just had to let it all go and trust that my guests would be responsible drunks. Or, you know – have responsible friends to chip in for their cab ride or give them a safe corner of a sofa to sleep it off.

    As to what a guest is “owed” at a wedding… well, I’ve thought about it and it comes to this: chair, beverage (of any sort) and confections (be they cake or otherwise). Because I’ll take the pudding and a fruit punch over rubber chicken and watery cocktail any day. ‘Nuff said.

  • emmyjane

    We had beer and wine at our dinner reception. We briefly contemplated a full bar, but it was way too expensive and I didn’t want anybody getting too drunk. Early in the reception, two of our guests walked down the street to a liquor store and got light beer and gin for their table. Apparently they didn’t like our (amazingly delicious) selections (Oberon and Two Hearted Ale from Bell’s and a varied selection of delicious white and red wines chosen carefully by yours truly) selections. My reaction was something like, “really? You can’t enjoy yourself for 3 hours without the particular type of alcohol you prefer? You can’t just eat and talk and dance with us?” It is not a big deal, but it did feel like an insult at the time.

    I didn’t drink at all at my reception. Several people thought I must be pregnant (why else would someone possibly not drink?) but I was just busy having a fantastic time with my guests and dancing with their children to my indie rock playlist.

    Best of luck to everyone struggling with these decisions. Whatever you choose will be wonderful!

  • Shawna

    I got married about one month ago and had an alcohol free event. And it rocked.

    We got married at a state park because state and city owned outdoor locations are super cheap, while private ones charge a TON for weddings. Plus, it had cabins, and all the guests came and stayed for the weekend and we got to hang out with them a whole lot longer. Anyway, we both drink, but it’s not something that’s important to us, and we have a few family members who might have taken it too far, so avoiding that was just fine with us.

    Yes, we chose to tell people about the no alcohol beforehand. Some people we just said “the park doesn’t allow it”. Others we told about the particular family members we were worried about. There was some whining, but it was minimal, and for the most part, people didn’t argue back— they respected the decision.

    We had the ceremony at 11am, then cake and punch, then people went swimming and hung out together all afternoon, then we had a pigroast and potluck for dinner (and dancing). People loved it and afterwards several people told me they had no idea that a party could be so fun without alcohol. So, I think it went pretty well.

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  • A few weeks ago I attended the wedding of two dear friends. The bride is deeply religious and there was some question as to whether it would be dry or not. And here’s the truth: my friends and I all bitched about it a little bit and came up with plans about how we would cope with *gasp* being liquor free ALL DAY! But at no point did we think for even one second about saying anything to the bride or groom or about attending the wedding with anything but joy for them in our hearts.

    Because friendships are not about beer. And neither are weddings.

  • We don’t drink. And neither do our families and the majority of our friends. Serving alcohol at anything is never a question, we just don’t. Nobody missed it. Everybody had a good time. I always have to wonder that if you need alcohol to have a good time, are you really having fun?

  • I’d just like to say thanks to Alyssa, really enjoyed her first post! Her matter-of-factness and the conversation that followed has inspired me in another area of my life… I’ve been wrestling with the decision to get out or stay in the military. As it happens, I’ve recently gotten married (thankfully a friend introduced me to APW as I was planning, still love to read it every day), which is changing the way I imagine my (our) life from here on out. Not sure if the military fits me anymore. Anyway, after this post and seeing the way all of these fabulous women make tough choices and no apologies, I realized I have nothing to apologize for, either. I can make this tough career decision, and it will be fine because it’s MINE, and anyone who judges can go to h*ll. So thanks all :-) Appreciate the conversation, as always.

    • Alyssa

      As an Army brat, I love this. And I apprecaite that this post helped, but I know the answer was in you all along and even if you hadn’t read this post, something else would have kickstarted it. Good luck!!

  • Lissy

    My fiancee and I are also choosing to have an alcohol free wedding. It’s simple for us because we are both underage (in the United States) and many members of our bridal party are. My fiancee already hates the fact that he is underage here (he grew up in Canada and has been back every summer since) and I, while I don’t hate it as much, really resent is as I’ve been to, for extended periods of time, countries where I could drink legally. If we served alcohol, both of us (or at least me to be honest – I don’t know about him as much but I suspect) would resent being at my own party where other people could drink and I couldn’t. Because from having been in Canada and in South Korea where I could drink, to come back to the US where I can’t feels really shackling. So that’s why we’re choosing to have a dry wedding and we’re owning it. And actually, because we’re underage, most people don’t expect us to have alcohol at the wedding anyways Some people are actually relieved at this fact. But I don’t know how his friends who are flying in from Canada feel/will feel, because they’re coming into a country where it isn’t legal for them to do something they normally would do.

    But I feel like not getting a ticket for drinking underage and not resenting people who can drink at my wedding is a pretty good reason for having a dry wedding.

  • A-L

    We’re getting married in 35 days and we’ll be having a dry Sunday evening wedding, with dancing. My fiance is a recovering alcoholic, and there’s a lot of alcoholism in his family. Some of the guests know that there are alcohol issues, but we haven’t been broadcasting it as I don’t think we should publicize other people’s private business.

    My side of the family is a bunch of social drinkers, but we can easily have fun and make fools of ourselves on the dance floor without alcohol. Most weddings, I can’t even remember if there was alcohol or not (I was surprised to learn that a wedding where I was a bridesmaid had been dry…I never even noticed and still had a blast).

    Our wedding reception is at the church, so there probably won’t be too many raised eyebrows at having a dry wedding at that location. Our rehearsal dinner will have alcohol available (it’s part of the package) but it’s bowling and we scheduled it to end at 7:00. So hopefully there won’t be too heavy of any drinking, and it ends early enough for people to get smashed elsewhere.

    My family moved around a lot while I was growing up and we’ve lived in the northeast, the west, and the south (where I’m getting married) and I went to college in the midwest. All of this means that we don’t hold to any regional expectations and just do what we want. Hallelujah!

  • We had alcohol at our wedding (and a lot of it, too!) and yeah, as a guest I would strongly prefer alcohol to be served, ’cause hey, I’m the sort who spikes her morning coffee if she can get away with it.

    But it’s rude, very rude, to complain if something is not there if that something is totally “icing on the cake” and not “really really necessary” (necessary = weather-appropriate venue, accommodations for the limitations of elderly guests, thank you cards, refreshments appropriate to the time of day and advance notice if you are, for example, having a reception at dinnertime but only serving cake and punch, and enough refreshments for everyone). Alcohol doesn’t make the “necessary” and I’d definitely reconsider my opinion – for the worse – of someone who complained about it not being there.

    Would I be just as happy for the couple at a dry wedding? OF COURSE. I’d definitely still go. Would I have as much fun? Honestly? Probably not.

    But that’s OK…I can have fun later.

    Would I think it kind of lame for a couple to spend $5,000 on attire and flowers and $0 on alcohol unless there were some sort of backstory/reason for it? Yeah. As a guest, alcohol is just a better addition to the party than flowers.

    Would I complain about it? Absolutely not.

  • Danielle

    I would want to know before hand. I think there is an extreme difference between light alcohol and none at all.

    Although I appreciate others who have chosen to go into recovery, I have not, and still like to have a drink to have a good time. I would probably grab one on my way there.

    I don’t know, I think it may be your wedding blah blah blah, but unless it is cost prohibitive, which I think is a fine reason for no booze, I think someone in your family’s medical condition and food allergies is a lame reason to punish all of your other guests.

  • Laura

    We had a lightly alcoholic wedding–iced tea and lemonade at “cocktail” hour, and waiters circulating with wine at dinner. That’s it. We also had no dancing. Primarily because my husband and I aren’t particularly into alcohol and dancing, so we didn’t want those to be big parts of our wedding (or big parts of our budget). There were other, secondary concerns, such as relatives who don’t know when to stop or when to relinquish the car keys, but really, it was about our personal preferences.

    And I realize that this probably sounds like the world’s most boring wedding to a lot of people out there. Here’s what we did that meant that pretty much everyone had a fantastic time:

    1. There’s the concern that people have traveled hundreds of miles to be there. Or, in our case, thousands of miles and literally around the world. Which actually struck us as all the _more_ reason not to have loud music. There were only two people we invited who didn’t know anyone else at the wedding–everyone else was part of a network of friends. People reunited who hadn’t seen each other for years, and we were right in assuming that they would simply enjoy time spent reconnecting, and not shouting over the music. (And those two friends who didn’t know anyone else? They managed just fine. We purposely seated them with people who we knew were friendly and had similar interests, and the next thing we know, they’re all leaving to hang out together after the reception. There’s a reason these are all people we’ve chosen to be friends with.) You know, this might lead into thoughts of the implications of inviting only people who you’re really excited to see there, and skipping those who are coworkers and acquaintances and parents’ friends etc. invited out of obligation….

    2. We had a really lovely location, and lucked out with good weather–the sun came out after a week of rain. Sipping iced tea on a warm day while strolling beautifully cultivated gardens seemed to provide plenty of pleasure at the cocktail hour.

    3. For 2/3 of the going rate of a DJ, we hired an unbelievable talent string quartet for cocktail hour and dinner. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but everyone had to admit that they were really good, and it certainly didn’t feel like anything was missing. After their two hours were up, we just switched to classical CDs.

    4. Make sure everyone knows they can still get up a move around, even without a dance floor! I’m not sure why people–including myself–feel that at some weddings they’re supposed to stick at their assigned table and just wait for something to happen to them. Get up and mingle! (Again, the lack of throbbing music made this a lot easier.)

    Everyone who talked to me said what a nice time they were having, how it was one of the nicest weddings they’d ever been to, etc. But then again, they would say that to the bride. So let’s look at the “voting with the feet,” shall we? The only people who left within an hour of the cake cutting were those who had a four hour drive ahead of them. Nearly everyone else stayed well past the time we had booked the venue, and had imagined they would be heading out. I’ll take that as a compliment.

  • Natalie

    I find the assumption there will be alcohol served to be very interesting.

    I was raised Southern Baptist, and all of the weddings I experienced growing up had no alcohol OR dancing. (Baptists don’t dance! Well, aren’t supposed to anyway ) It was all about eating food and talking to the other people there. No activities planned, other than the usual cutting the cake and bouquet toss. I had never heard of the first dance, the bridal party dance, the money dance, etc.

    It wasn’t until college* that I realized weddings had dancing and drinking involved. I moved from north Louisiana to south Louisiana, and it’s a whole different world down here! Weddings are much bigger affairs here, I think due in part because of the culture and lots and lots of Catholics.

    I’m not engaged quite yet, but when it comes I have no problem with my guests eating, drinking, and boogying down!

    *-with the exception of my cousin’s Methodist wedding when I was like 10. I thought it was soooo odd people danced. And my dad started acting real funny, so I had a sneaking suspicion he was a weee bit tipsy. :)

  • Karima Moon

    This is a very late reply to this post but I think you might find my perspective interesting. I was married in June of 2008 and had a dry wedding. It was really important to me as a recovering alcoholic to not have alcohol at my wedding. It was my special day and I didn’t want it to turn into a drunken debauchery (which I have seen at many weddings). I also had numerous recovering alcoholics (my beloved friends) at the wedding and I thought it would be more pleasant for all of us. I was saved from having to make the decision though by the fact that the location of our wedding did not allow alcohol (Church property). This was a relief to me.

    Three years later I STILL regret not having alcohol. Isn’t that interesting? Even just a glass of champagne (which I was told at a later time we could have if we wanted to). We chose to have sparkling apple cider for toasts instead. I have three more years of recovery under my belt and I now think that my guests (mostly my husband’s friends and family) would have had more fun if there had been alcohol. I have pictures of some of them looking very bored. On the other hand, I know that my family and most of my friends (the ones in recovery) had a wonderful time. I had a WONDERFUL time but it was my day and I know that it can be boring at other people’s weddings. The regret (embarrassment) is so strong that I find myself, like tonight, googling “sober weddings” so that I can read what others have to say on the topic in the hope that I feel less regret. I fear that certain people look back at my wedding as having been boring.

    Perhaps I would feel less like this if we had included something about it being a dry reception on the invitation (we didn’t) and if we had focused more on how to make people’s drink experience more interesting during the reception (as it was they had pop, coffee, tea, cocoa and sparkling cider).

    This may also have something to do with the fact that most people have some regrets about their weddings after the fact. I have a whole list of other things that I would do differently IF I could do it over again. But I will tell you, it frustrates me to no end that I still think with embarrassment on that night. :( On the flip side, when I think of MY experience of the night, I have only good memories. It was only in retrospect that I developed regrets.

  • Corinna

    I was thinking about this last night! My Step Father is in recovery, as is his son. My Step Mother is a nasty drunk, especially when I am getting attention. I don’t want anyone getting out of hand or having an embarassing moment, like has happened at most weddings I have attended. We plan on having an afterparty as well so those who feel cheated can go drink. We are renting out a floor of a bar and the owner is giving us happy hour prices.

    I have a family who is Irish and French, who greatly enjoys a drink. I was thinking about doing drink tickets. Any thoughts on that O-Great-Cyberworld? Maybe have like 5 drink tickets per person, to keep underage drinking down, not give alcohol to those who won’t need it and manage the idea of “Open Bar” a little. I don’t want to have a sober wedding, and if we offer only champagne, I believe we will be grumbled at. I think 5 drinks is pretty generous, especially for a 4 hour long party.

  • librobot

    We aren’t having booze at our April wedding because we wanted to use the church as our reception venue (because it fits our budget) and they don’t allow it. We are having an afternoon dessert and coffee/tea/punch reception, with some board games. I figured that people would enjoy themselves and then go home. Now after reading all these posts, I’m starting to think that everyone is going to sit through the reception harboring ill will towards us, and then go home and complain about it behind my back. Great.

  • Librobot,

    You’re not alone in this. I read this thread and ALL the comments late one night a couple of weeks ago and then spent several weeks fretting that our wedding reception was going to be awful and people would not have fun and that I was the worst host ever. That’s the opposite, I think, of what APW is about. So I don’t quite understand the comments in this thread, and I want to affirm to all who read that it is *more.than.okay* to have a dry wedding if that’s what you damn well want to — no matter what the reasons are.

    We are having a dry reception for a combination of reasons stemming from the fact that it will be an open-church wedding (read: huge numbers of people). My fiance & I are both pastors (albeit pastors who enjoy a bit of scotch before bed!), and it is very important to us to invite the congregations we serve to be witnesses to the covenant we make with each other, since we understand the wedding covenant to be a way in which we will live out our baptismal covenants. But what to do when you have 400+ church people attending the wedding and we can’t afford to pay for alcohol, meals, and dancing for all of those but it is important to us that they all be there to worship with us? And what to do when our mainline Protestant denomination does not allow alcohol on church property, which is where we want to have the reception?

    We are going to have a larger rehearsal dinner (50-70 people) the night before for out-of-town guests at a Mexican restaurant where we will imbibe lots of margaritas. But the day of will be simple—-and wonderfully us.

    But the comments in this thread really shook me up for a number of weeks, worrying about folks not having a good time. I am so grateful for the post I just read about how the goal is not to make everyone who attends happy: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/06/the-devil-is-not-in-the-details/ I am stapling THAT one to my fridge and promising myself not to get caught up in the wedding-expectations game.

  • Amanda

    Guests are invited to a wedding with two choices. Go or don’t go. If it’s going to cost more than what you want to spend traveling there, or if you don’t want to go so far, or are going to be upset if there is no alcohol, don’t go! It’s an esy decision to make, attending/not attending. I don’t know why everyone has to make everything so dramatic these days. The afternoon wedding with an after party for people who want to go out drinking seems like a good idea.