Weddings are a time to celebrate and let loose, but between cocktail hour, drinks with dinner and sometimes an open bar, it’s not hard for guests to overindulge. “In the past at one wedding, a guest was very intoxicated and he actually tried to fight with another guest,” said Alana Klein, a wedding planner at Toronto’s Swoon Events. “I tried to talk to him for a minute and just said, ‘Look, you're at a wedding…’ but he just wouldn't calm down. So in the end, we ordered him a cab and put him in it and sent him off.”

Thankfully, Klein says, situations like these are rare and most guests don’t try to fight with others. In fact, the majority of guests are on good behavior. Still, wedding guests drinking too much happens and can definitely be a problem—and one couples like to avoid.

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How To Prevent Guests From Drinking Too Much

First things first: you don’t need to have an open bar at your wedding if you don’t want to. It’s also perfectly OK to buy a limited amount of alcohol or have a dry wedding altogether. Some guests even opt to stay sober.

If you are serving booze at your wedding, though, there are simple tricks to help prevent guests from drinking too much.

  • No shots. Klein says that some couples decide early on that shots won’t be served at their wedding, and make this rule known to staff. “All of the bartenders will be aware before the wedding starts that they're not allowed to give out shots,” Klein said. “Another way is to say no to double drinks.”
  • Consider alcohol type. Some couples only serve wine, beer, and nonalcoholic drinks during cocktail hour, while others opt for champagne.
  • Close the bar. It’s not uncommon to shut down bar service during dinner, meaning guests can only enjoy table wine while they eat. (Plus between food and a slower flow of alcohol, dinner is a good time for guests to sober up if they’ve already had one too many.)
  • Stay hydrated. It’s also important to have water available at all times. Make sure the bar has water jugs set up so guests don’t have to wait in line, and ensure serving staff are always topping up glasses.

Lastly, decide when you want the bar to shut down for good. Some venues have time limits on open bars, but you can work with a wedding planner or venue to determine what hours work best for you. It’s not always a good idea to have cocktails available until 2 a.m.

Give a head’s up to the staff.

If you have a friend or family member who is known to end up intoxicated at events, you might want to talk to them before your wedding. It’s perfectly OK to tell your cousin or best friend that while you love them, you want to make sure they don’t take things too far. Let them know you want them to enjoy and have a good time, but won’t appreciate it if they end up sick in the bathroom.

You can also give the heads-up to your venue’s security or wedding planner if you want them to keep an eye on someone.

“I had one wedding last summer where the bride did warn me beforehand,” Klein said. “She said, ‘You know my uncle sometimes takes it too far with the drinking… and if you need to kick him out, I give you permission to do that.’”

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How To Deal With Drunk Wedding Guests

Even with all your best intentions, it’s impossible to control everyone.

  • Send them home. If a guest looks like they need to be in bed and not lifting up your grandma on the dance floor, it may be time to send them home. “At one wedding I did the best man's girlfriend had way too much to drink during cocktail hour, and I found her slumped in a chair in the lobby during dinner, throwing up all over herself,” Klein said. “In the end, the best man did end up having to leave with her to take her home.”
  • Lean on the staff. Klein says it’s usually up to security and on-site wedding staff to handle wasted guests. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of a bride or groom to monitor people’s alcohol consumption or tell someone to leave.
  • Trust your bartenders. They should also exercise their judgment and cut-off guests if they’re too inebriated. Couples can stress to bar staff that they’d prefer people to be cut off than overserved.

“Discretion is a big thing for me,” Klein said. “If there is something going on that I don't necessarily have to alert the bride and groom to and we can deal with ourselves, then that's usually the way I like to go.”

Schedule transportation.

It’s important to remember, however, that whether a guest has four drinks or fourteen, it’s never a good idea for them to drive home.

Prevent any incidents by having the number of a local cab company handy for folks, and make sure transportation is available. A drunk guest sleeping at their table is always better than them behind the wheel.