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How to Stay Sober at a Wedding

Sobriety experts and therapists weigh in on how to stay sober at a wedding—no matter who you are, why you’re sober, or what wedding you’re attending

By Deanna deBara

guests at a wedding
Photo by Ash Carr Photography

Between cocktail hour, champagne toasts, and open bars, weddings have a reputation as being alcohol-fueled celebrations. No matter how booze-infused a wedding might be, though, it’s a near certainty that not everyone at the wedding is partaking in the drinking. There are a variety of reasons why you might be sober at a wedding. Maybe you’re in the early stages of pregnancy. Maybe you’re in recovery. Maybe you’re doing a dry month or training for a marathon or just have to get up early the next morning. Whatever your reason, here are some expert tips for how to be sober at your next wedding.

Get yourself a (non-alcoholic) drink.

If you don’t have a drink in your hand, someone at the wedding (whether that’s a server or another guest) is going to offer you one. So, if you’re being sober at a wedding, take it upon yourself, head to the bar, and get yourself a non-alcoholic drink.

“Play it safe and get yourself a drink when you arrive. Just having something in your hand will relieve much of the anxiety over being asked about not drinking,” says Emily Eckstein, PsyD, MFT of Beach House Treatment Center in Malibu, CA.

If you don’t want people to ask why you’re not drinking, just order a drink that could pass for a cocktail. “There are multiple options like apple juice, cranberry juice, and sparkling water that look to be a cocktail with a twist of lime and deter nosey wedding guests,” says Eckstein.

INLINE LindsayKingPhotography 1080x720 Selam&Emmanuel Photo Credit // Lindsay King Photography

Don’t feel the need to explain yourself.

If you do have to field questions about your drinking, don’t worry—you’re not obligated to answer. “The truth is, no one is owed an alibi as to why you aren’t drinking, and for the most part I’ve found that people don’t tend to ask that unless they themselves are big drinkers,” says Lauren O’Connell, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

If someone asks you if you’d like a beer, cocktail, or a glass of wine, “99% of the time you can say ‘no thanks’ and in my experience, people don’t push” says Eckstein. “But if you really don’t want to attract attention you could say ‘maybe later’ or ‘actually, I would love some water right now, I’m so thirsty.’

If someone asks you flat out why you’re not drinking, don’t feel the need to get into too many personal details or to respond at all. Something as simple as “I don’t feel like it, thanks” or “early morning tomorrow!” is perfectly fine. Frankly, it’s none of their business why you’re not drinking—and again, you are in no way obliged to tell them.

Loop in the servers.

If the wedding you’re attending has a sit-down dinner, there may be servers filling up wine glasses or passing out champagne for the toast. If you can, catch them before they fill up your drink and request something non-alcoholic instead. “Kindly let them know you’ve had enough to drink and to take it away and bring you some water or coffee,” says Eckstein.

If you don’t catch them in time—and they pour you a drink—don’t worry about it too much. One un-drunken glass of wine or champagne is certainly not a tragedy. But if you’re concerned about waste, feel free to pass the drink off to someone else at your table. “If you’re with a friend or partner who knows you’re not drinking, but they drink, offer it to them,” says O’Connell.

If you’re committed to staying sober and the drink on the table feels like a temptation, feel free to remove yourself from the situation (and ask a friend or the server to get rid of the drink while you’re gone). “If you are newly sober and trying not to drink but want to drink, remember, you can always go to the bathroom or look for an appetizer instead of drinking,” says O’Connell.

Bring a sobriety buddy.

You might not be drinking, but chances are, a lot of the other wedding guests will. As the night wears on (and people get more intoxicated), it can start to wear on you. If you can, bring a sober date or friend with you to the wedding. Not only can they help hold you accountable for staying sober throughout the wedding, but they will also be someone to talk to and have fun with when the wedding is winding down and the other guests have had a few (or a lot) too many.

INLINE GabbyChapinPhotography 1080x720 Alicia&Mathew Photo Credit // Gabby Chapin Photography

Need to leave? No worries.

If at any point during the wedding you feel uncomfortable or your sobriety is in jeopardy (especially if you’re in recovery), the best thing you can do is just leave. People come and go at weddings all the time. Not everyone stays until the end, so if you need to leave early to take care of yourself, don’t worry about it.

And if you are worried about wedding etiquette and being polite, there’s a solution. “As soon as you arrive at the wedding, be sure to greet and say hello to all of the people you know, and thank and congratulate the couple,” says Eckstein. “That way if you have to leave early or quickly, you can sneak out and no one will likely even notice!”

Being sober at a wedding is totally possible—no matter who you are, why you’re sober, or what wedding you’re attending. Take these tips and go have a good time at the wedding!

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