Do you feel pressured to serve alcohol at your wedding because you’re afraid that, without it, your guests won’t have a good time? Take a moment to think about what that implies. Remember, your friends and family are gathering to witness and celebrate the life you’re creating with your loved one. If all they wanted was a drink, they could order one at their neighborhood dive bar. In your haste to create a lively party, don’t forget the real meaning behind the event. Your marriage, along with how you choose to celebrate it, is up to you.
Why Go Dry?
Your reasons for wanting a dry wedding are your own. Many couples choose to forgo liquor because of religious reasons. Some want to avoid creating discomfort for recovering alcoholics. Others don’t want the responsibility of sending tipsy guests home after late-night celebrations. Still others forgo an expensive bar because they’d rather spend their wedding budget elsewhere (perhaps inviting more guests). Additionally, some venues have restrictions on what drinks can be served, such as requiring you to hire a licensed bartender. Church receptions often need to be dry, but it’s also common for public parks and beaches to limit hard alcohol–or to require expensive permits to serve any alcohol at all. Hosting a dry wedding can simplify things and cut through all the hassle.
Alcohol is a great social lubricator, but you don’t always want your guests to feel too uninhibited. If you’re worried that your brother’s new girlfriend may start giving lap dances in front of Grandma, or that your estranged parents somehow find their way to the same table, restricting the alcohol consumption of the party could be the defining factor in whether everyone keeps their cool. Like arguing about politics and discussing the younger generation’s choice of haircuts, hard drinks are sometimes best kept away from the dinner table.
The key to hosting a successful dry wedding reception is setting clear expectations. Be sure to include wording on your invitations to the tune of, “The reception will be alcohol-free.” That way, guests who absolutely can’t stand the thought of going sober can make arrangements to convene at a bar or club afterward.
A Colorful and Varied Menu
Saving money on all that alcohol means you’ll have extra room in your budget for making your food and drink exceptional. Spice up your servings with fun extras like good night stations or gourmet ice buffets.
One elegant way to provide your guests with an intriguing selection of bites is to serve food tapas-style, with small plates of goodies ranging from savory to sweet. If you tantalize your guests’ taste buds with a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and flavors, and they may not even notice that their beverage menu is lacking anything.
Serve Interesting Drinks
Just because your drinks aren’t alcoholic, it doesn’t mean they have to be boring. In fact, a “dry” beverage selection can be even more exciting than the average (and ho-hum) selection of beer, wine, and soda. In the months leading up to your reception, have fun sampling exotic options such as spicy ginger beer, cardamom-vanilla bean milkshakes, whole green coconuts, and tropical fruit juice blends.
What about the champagne toast? If you’re forgoing champagne, you can easily substitute glasses of sparkling punch. But skip the “virgin” versions of alcoholic drinks, such as sparkling grape juice or non-alcoholic beer; after all, you’re not merely a runner-up. Your reception should shine brightly on its own and not even tempt a comparison. Serve bold, unique drinks like tropical fruit smoothies or Italian soda with exotic flavored syrups. It will take guests’ minds away from what a champagne toast “ought” to be, and center their attention where it should be, instead: on your delectable and remarkable choice of beverage.
One tried-and-true substitute for getting your crowd tipsy is getting them jacked up on caffeine instead. Serving gourmet coffee and tea will give guests the courage and energy they need to pack a dance floor even without the help of a stiff drink.
Getting your guests up and dancing can be a challenge when there’s no booze to dull their inhibitions. There are two approaches: On the one hand, you can skip the dance floor altogether. Dancing isn’t an obligation, and if you suspect your guests would prefer to chat quietly and catch up on old times, it’s only polite to allow them to remain within their comfort zone. On the other hand, you may feel that a wedding just isn’t festive without a packed and jubilant dance floor. Luckily, there are a number of options that don’t involve alcohol that can still get your guests into a celebratory mood.
The number one way to encourage your guests to get out of their seats is to host entertainment that encourages physical participation. This can take the form of group games, which is a must for any group of mixed social circles. After a few games of Twister, musical chairs, a scavenger hunt, or a hula-hoop-off, your guests will have no problem finding things to say to their table neighbors. Design games with your guests’ physical abilities in mind; while a three-legged race or a Limbo pole is fine for the younger set, your grandparents may feel more included if there are low-energy alternatives like “pin the topper on the wedding cake.” (Hint: Use a photo, not the actual cake.)
Most people who are reluctant to dance hold back because they don’t want to feel out-of-place. You can include even self-proclaimed “terrible dancers” if you arrange group dances with impossible-to-miss dance steps. Contra dancing is a great example. A dance caller stands at the front and calls out the steps of the dance as they happen, so there’s no chance to forget a move. The more uncoordinated a dancer is, the more fun he or she will have–and everyone is guaranteed to look silly together. Paired with high-energy fiddle music, the dance will tempt even your most stodgy relatives.
Above all, your dry wedding should feel natural. Instead of calling attention to your celebration’s lack of booze, create a setting where alcohol would feel out-of-place. Dry receptions are perfect for morning weddings and weeknight celebrations. Serve brunch or high noon tea, and your guests will already have their hands full of all the delicious food and beverages they can hold.
The bottom line is: have fun. If your guests see you having a fantastic time at your reception, they will adopt the same energy, regardless of what drinks you serve. Best of all? You’re guaranteed not to start your first day of married life with a hangover.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.