How to Plan a Dry Wedding + Tips

Planning a dry wedding might seem challenging—but it doesn't have to be! Expert wedding planners share their tips for planning a fun, memorable, alcohol-free wedding.

By Laura Hensley

Groom holding two glasses of sparkling cider with bride in background for a dry wedding
Photo by Jason Briscoe

Alcohol and weddings often go hand in hand, but that doesn’t mean they have to! It’s your wedding, your rules. Whatever your reasoning, if you don’t want to offer alcoholic drinks during cocktail hour, nobody will twist your arm!

That said, there are a few things to consider when planning a dry party (of any kind, honestly).

So, we spoke to two expert wedding planners and got their advice on how to go booze-free on your big day. Here are their easy tips on how to plan a dry wedding without any added stress or worry.

What is a dry wedding?

A dry wedding is a wedding without alcoholic beverages of any kind. People have dry weddings for lots of reasons, but most often, it’s because the bride and groom simply don’t want drinking on their special day. As a matter of respect, guests should accept the dry wedding rule with grace.

Why have a dry wedding?

Why not have a dry wedding? It’s your wedding day, so you can do things exactly how you and your partner want them — no questions asked. But alcohol is one of those tricky things where questions likely will be asked, you just don’t have to answer them.

Just because alcohol is typically a part of weddings doesn’t mean there’s a rule that it has to be. Maybe you and your partner are in recovery, don’t drink for religious or personal reasons, or simply want to have a booze-free affair. Open bars are expensive, after all. Whatever your reason, know it’s perfectly perfect to have a dry wedding.

How to have a dry wedding

So, how do you have a dry wedding? It’s a little bit more complicated than just removing alcohol from the equation, but not by much! Here’s what to do ahead of time if you’re planning a dry wedding.

Inform your guests you’re having a dry wedding.

Some guests choose to stay sober at weddings regardless of whether or not alcohol is available. Still, if alcohol won’t be served at your celebration at all, you should let everyone know.

Jessica Lisi, a Toronto-based wedding planner, says couples should tell guests on their wedding invitation and/or through their wedding website that the event will be dry. You don’t need to offer an explanation for your decision, and if people probe, you can tell them as much or as little as you’d like. It’s your day, and you are calling the shots (or lack thereof).

“On the opposite side, if you’re a guest and would like the couple to know you require alcohol-free [drinks] for religious or personal reasons, this should be documented when you RSVP,” Lisi adds.

Consider your venue and timing.

When it comes to selecting a venue, you might want to consider a location where alcohol isn’t permitted or you need a special permit to serve it. These can include public spaces like parks, beaches, or gardens. Some religious weddings may be hosted at venues that don’t allow alcohol, either.

Expert Advice: Explore, compare and book wedding venues right on Zola’s Venue Marketplace!

Also, think about timing. If you want a dry wedding, you may be inclined to have a morning ceremony and brunch or lunchtime reception. Guests are less likely to notice a lack of booze during the day than in the evening and would happily reach for coffee over a cocktail at 11 a.m.

Weekday or Sunday ceremonies are also great options for sober weddings, as folks are not as inclined to want to get wild when they have work the next day.

Encourage people to party in other ways.

Let’s face it: Alcohol loosens people’s inhibitions and acts as a social lubricant. After guests have a few cocktails, the dance floor seems to go from empty to crowded. But partying doesn’t need to equal alcohol, Lisi says.

  • Hire great entertainment. The wedding planner points out that if you have a fantastic band or DJ, guests will always get in the mood to move.
  • Break the ice. If you’re worried people will be socially anxious or uncomfortable, put some icebreaker games on tables so guests can get to know each other in between courses. You may also want to have games after dinner or play trivia.
  • Incorporate customs. Depending on your culture or religious background, there are also traditions that get people laughing and moving, too. Cultural dances, songs, or customs can foster interaction.
  • Set up stations. Lastly, you may want to think about fun things like photo booths or other pop-up activations throughout the night. These can include raffles, a pool or foosball table, or even carnival-style games.

Embrace mocktails!

If you’re having a dry wedding, create a non-alcoholic signature drink for cocktail hour. A super tasty beverage will please guests’ tastebuds with or without booze. You can also have a list of alcohol-free drinks clearly listed at the bar for guests to choose from throughout dinner, too.

Lauren Grech, the co-founder and CEO of New York-based LLG Events, says infused water stations are also a great way to keep guests hydrated while looking elegant. She says couples can offer sparkling water or juice in place of champagne so guests always have something to toast with.

Don’t underestimate the power of mocktails, either. Almost any alcoholic drink can be made booze-free, Grech says, including summertime classics like Pina Coladas and Sex on the Beach. If you’re having a daytime wedding, high tea or fancy espresso-based drinks are great choices.

The options are really endless: You can do a kombucha station, a cold-pressed juice bar, or even a hot chocolate station in the winter. At one event Grech planned in Bora Bora, she helped a couple set up a smoothie bar. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Offer limited alcohol options.

If you want guests to have the option of drinking at your wedding should they desire, there are several ways to make that happen — but don’t feel like you have to.

A mostly or partially sober wedding may be a happy middle ground between your desires and those of your guests.

  • Keep it to cash. If finances are the main reason you want to stay clear of booze, you can have a cash bar or allow guests to bring their own alcohol. If that’s the route you want to take, it’s good form to let guests know early on. Make this clear on your wedding website and on invites.
  • Limit the supply. If you don’t want to go totally alcohol-free but still want to rein in the drinking, you can limit the amount of alcohol that is being served, Grech says. “Anytime that a couple is worried about their guests drinking too much, we say just serve champagne or wine during cocktail hour and then start serving hard liquor after dinner.”.
  • Consider your bar times. Lisi says another option is to have an open bar during cocktail hour, then shut the bar down entirely during dinner. She suggests having a cash bar then available during the after-party. “This way, your guests will have had some alcohol during cocktails but will have had food afterward, and then it’s up to them if they’d like to purchase more alcohol or not,” recommends Lisi.

Dry Wedding FAQ

Can I bring my own alcohol to a dry wedding?

Honestly, no. If a couple is having a dry wedding, it's because they don’t want alcohol there in any form. Find ways to have fun without the booze. You might surprise yourself, and you’ll definitely feel better in the morning than if you had imbibed.

Do dry weddings still have bars?

Some dry weddings still have bars offering up soft drinks and mocktails, and others don’t. It’s entirely up to the couple. It’s still good form to offer guests a variety of beverages, whether the wedding is dry or not.

Why would someone throw a dry wedding?

There are so many reasons someone might want to have a dry or alcohol-free wedding. Perhaps they have a complicated relationship with alcohol, or someone in their family does. Maybe their religion prohibits consuming alcohol, or maybe they’re just trying to save money. (Alcohol is expensive, after all!) They might just not like drinking. Whatever their reasoning, it’s nobody’s business but theirs.

What is a “no host bar”?

Some weddings might have a no-host bar, which is essentially a cash bar. Meaning guests can enjoy alcohol, but they just have to pay for it themselves. If you see this wording on a wedding invitation instead of “open bar,” be sure to bring cash — and enough to tip!

Final thoughts from our dry wedding experts

At the end of the day, both Lisi and Grech stress that you must do what’s right for you and your partner. Don’t feel pressured to serve alcohol if you don’t want to, and don’t worry about what others will think. Booze or no booze, your wedding is meant to reflect your desires, and it’s a day you’ll want to remember forever. If you let guests know beforehand on your invitations and wedding website, you’ll set expectations and have a great day.

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