There are so many good reasons to opt for a wedding that ditches the booze. For one thing, a sober wedding is more affordable; for another, it’s increasingly hip as the healthier, preferred choice among “sober curious” millennials and mocktail enthusiasts. In fact, a survey in 2019 by Nielsen found a majority of millennials—66 percent—want to lower their alcohol consumption.
How a Sober Wedding Is a Healthy Choice for Many Americans
A dry wedding is also a healthy choice for roughly one in 10 people (ages 18 and over) who are in recovery from an alcohol or drug problem. (Read more about alcoholism and alcohol treatment at FHE Health.) 22 million Americans count themselves in this demographic, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) “2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health” has reported.
Then there are the brides and grooms who have family members with active drug and alcohol addictions. They’re not alone. Many Americans are in the same boat:
- More than one in ten children reportedly have an alcoholic parent.
- One in five adults grew up with an alcoholic relative, a May 2019 alert by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry stated.
- Roughly 67 million Americans reported they were binge drinking during the last month, in the SAMHSA survey; another roughly 17 million Americans reported they were drinking heavily during the last month. Many or most of these same people have families who care about them.
In this context, a dry reception can be the best way to prevent the danger and embarrassment of Aunt Thelma tripping and falling down the ballroom stairs—or sliding off the banister with a nosedive.
But seriously, whatever the reason(s) for a dry wedding and however convincing they may be, many people end up settling on the open bar anyway. Usually, it’s because they can’t imagine how a dry wedding could be anything but a dull wedding—but I can say from experience, having recently hosted a sober wedding, that it’s too bad they’re missing out on the fun.
How I Discovered a Sober Wedding Can Be So Much Fun
Actually, a sober wedding can be great fun! (Of course, exactly how that looks will differ. There’s no one formula.) But if the bride and groom make a point to have fun, then their guests will have fun.
It’s also not necessary to go overboard with other plans to replace the open bar. These alternative forms of entertainment may be great for some couples who want to provide their guests with an especially memorable, distinctive time for their guests. But if a sense of guilt or worry over not providing an open bar is triggering the impulse to be extravagant in other ways, with elaborate, expensive, and stress-inducing plans for entertainment, these extras really aren’t necessary for a wedding to be fun.
In our case, we made some simple, alcohol-free changes and substitutes. Our reception was held at a resort, near a pool, so we arranged for arriving guests to be greeted outside on the pool deck (as opposed to at a bar). There was no alcohol on the pool deck, so guests could grab a glass of lemonade or ice water—and, as a way to break the ice, we had a station that gave out sunglasses and favors.
At the dinner reception, we opted to have everyone at the table served with sparkling cider instead of champagne. (There was also a bar that people could go to if they chose.)
Like most wedding receptions, ours included dancing. It’s a great way to have fun and party without needing to be drunk. That said because it’s not uncommon for people to think they need a little “liquid courage” before they dance, I went out of my way to engage our guests and pull them onto the dance floor. There were many times throughout the night when the dance floor was full. We even had a Conga line.
Since we got married at a resort and many of our guests were from out of town, we also hosted a sober brunch the next day. Instead of cocktails, we offered a wide variety of juices.
More Sober Wedding Planning Tips
The most important thing to remember when planning a sober wedding is to have fun. When guests can see that the bride and groom are having a good—if not better!—time without alcohol, they’ll be able to relax and follow suit. Here are some other suggestions to ensure a sober wedding is as fun as possible:
- Let guests know in advance that it’s a sober wedding. If guests show up expecting an open bar and unlimited booze, they’re going to be disappointed. Guests will be more apt to enjoy themselves when they know what to expect.
- Consider the venue and/or timing or both. For instance, we arranged for reception guests to be greeted on the pool deck because it offered a friendly, laid-back, and alcohol-free ambiance. Another good sober venue might be a state park or beach. In terms of times of day, some couples choose to host the reception at lunch or late morning, since people are going to be less in the mood to drink then.
- Plan alternative entertainment. The open bar is the entertainment at so many wedding receptions. In the absence of a bar—contests, raffles, arcade games, or maybe even a stand-up comedian as MC can get people laughing and having fun.
- Go all out on a very interesting mocktail menu. For couples that have the budget, an interesting and elaborate menu of mocktails to try can be its own form of entertainment for guests. Like a wine tasting—only without the wine and better—this reception can give guests who don’t know each other something to gab about as they sample the menu and maybe even vote on their favorite mocktail.
There are a host of ways to pull off a sober wedding that’s outrageously fun. The options are virtually limitless. It starts with the two people getting married having the time of their lives.
This article was provided by the director of a program for people in rehab aftercare, Molly Lauroesch.