Whether it be for religious purposes, the age of the newlyweds, the time of day, the parents wishes, or any other reason, many people have dry weddings. What is a dry wedding? Put simply, no alcohol allowed.
In the hundreds of weddings I have done, very few have been dry weddings. Before we get too far in, I want to stress that while we are discussing weddings, this one important tip pertains to any event you are planning that is alcohol free and (primarily) over 21. I've seen dry weddings and events where guests left within 30 minutes of finishing dinner. I have also seen alcohol free events where they didn't want the party to end. There was one main difference between the two. It wasn't the guests, or the location, or the food that made the difference. It wasn't love that was the secret ingredient. it was something you may not have considered, and I am not only about to tell you what, but why, and how you can have your own extremely successful dry event.
I'm sensing a theme
Treat your dry wedding or event as a theme event. Just as you would tell everyone your party was a Mardi Gras themed, or Alice in Wonderland themed, or a Disney themed event, you want to put it right up front in big bold letters "You Are Invited to our Dry Wedding". If you are from a family that has them all the time, you may not think there is a need. In fact, many people would like to ignore it in the invite all together so as not to draw attention to it. If you have thought enough about the planning of this event to take the deliberate step of removing alcohol from the menu, you want to let everyone know. This advice goes for vegetarian events as well.
This isn't about anything other than managing expectations. Think about the last time you went to a public breakfast without coffee. What? That has never happened to you? Me neither thank goodness! OK, let's say you just started Paleo or Atkins and you find out the free breakfast at your hotel only has cereal, muffins, bananas and Bagels. Yikes! The same applies to a dry wedding. Without knowing ahead of time, the look on the faces of the guests is unmistakable. If you expect it you can prepare for it, and if you are prepared for it, you may not love it, but you will not be uncomfortable, and if you prepare well, you just may enjoy it
A lifestyle choice
You may be all about the alcohol free or meat free lifestyle, your guests may not live their lives the same way. Putting the exclusion right up front gives them the opportunity to put themselves in your world ahead of time, and they will. I have had many friends who would refuse a drink in preparation for a dry wedding or event. Thanks to Facebook I have seen people engage in many social and physical experiments. From a whole 30 diet to an alcohol free holiday season, to meatless Mondays or meatless Fridays, they are either introduced to the concept by a friend, or they were invited to an event they were attempting to prepare for.
This is important; If you are having the alcohol free or meat free event to promote a social cause, the guests do not need to know this. If you want to be successful in your quest to change the world one guest at a time, it's best not to tell them. Your guests can and will do things specifically to prepare for your event. Let them enjoy the journey judgement and expectation free. They just may enjoy it, and if they do, you will have a new convert, and a new thing to connect over with an old friend or long lost family member.
A dry run
If you want to experiment before committing, start with the bridal shower, or the Jack & Jill, or other pre-wedding event. Start with smaller events leading up to your decision, or up until you get the invitations ready to go. Put the words dry or alcohol free in the invite and see what happens. I think you will find your guests surprisingly receptive.
There is one downside to all of this, but it is no different than other themed events. You will have a handful of guest who begrudgingly go along. Rest assured, the energy level of those who really love and support you will easily overcome them. In fact, many guests will end up surprising themselves by how much they enjoy it. This is not a downside though. The downside, if you want to call it that, is fewer guests. Why would fewer people not be a downside? There are at least 2 excellent reasons;
1. Reduced event expenses
2. Every guest who really wants to be there will be there.
When your guests want to be there in spite of the perceived restrictions, they will also want to celebrate and enjoy the moment with you. With the right entertainment, this will be a huge advantage.
What is the right entertainment?
When I say the right entertainment, here is what I mean. An event without alcohol will require more interaction. with alcohol, guests are a lot more willing to follow impulses. Without alcohol, guests need a little encouragement. Note I didn't say a lot. Your DJ, entertainer, MC, or planner needs to know how and when to use interaction and encouragement to get the party started without over doing it.
There is an important step here that is key to making this work. It's what I call the non-obligatory interactive. Have you ever been to a restaurant with word finds and puzzles on the place-mats? Then you have experienced the non-obligatory interactive. This is something placed at every table for your guests to do if they want to. Mad-Libs are a great example of this. Then collect them, and use them for an activity such as a roast.
My last piece of advice comes from Lindsay Sims of TOAST Events, which is headquartered in Atlanta GA via Inside Weddings. Keep treats coming throughout the night. The same impulses that get excited that another drink is coming work equally well when a special treat is coming. Random light, fancy, passed hors d'oeuvres throughout the evening will help break things up and keep the guests wondering what's next. She also brings up another related topic I will address in my next post. The do's and don't of saving money on alcohol while making sure your guests are taken care of. If you are concerned about the toast, sparkling cider is a common and tasty replacement for champagne, and for your guests you can have a signature Mocktail. For even more great Sober Wedding tips The Knot has some great ideas!
Thanks for reading! If you have had a really good, or bad experience with a dry or meat free or other event with unique parameters, drop me a note. I would love to hear your story! By the same token, I would love to help you prepare your dry wedding or event! Drop me a note at [email protected] or call/text me at 207.450.4960 any time. Chat soon...