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Advice for Newly-Sober Wedding Guests and Officiants

Published Thursday, Nov. 30th, 2023

Photo (cropped): Amanda Vick / Unsplash

If you just quit drinking and have been asked to attend or officiate a wedding, read this advice



Weddings are known for being boozy affairs – toasts during the ceremony, open bar and specialty drinks at the reception, and drunk relatives just waiting for the chance to corner you with a long winded, whiskey-scented story. 


They can feel like a minefield for newly-sober soon-to-be-weds, wedding guests, wedding officiants, and other vendors. 


Folks who have recently decided to stop drinking might choose to skip the soggiest of these events for a while, depending on what feels right. It’s ok to turn down an invitation or vendor request that makes you feel uneasy; just send a heartfelt gift and schedule a time to celebrate one-on-one instead. (Trust us, those who get it, will really get it.)


But if you’re ready to get back out into the wedding fray and flex your new sobriety skills, put on your best party clothes and go for it! Sober wedding experiences are SO much fun, and not just because you remember them better…



Newlyweds on the wedding day drinking cups of coffee to stay sober at their ceremony

Photo: bedya / iStock

This advice works for sober soon-to-be-weds, wedding guests, and wedding vendors -- anyone who finds themselves new to not drinking at a wedding ceremony!




Here are a few simple tips for non-drinking wedding guests, couples, and wedding officiants, to help you enjoy your first few sober weddings.


1. Get plenty of rest and eat good meal ahead of time


A good night’s sleep and a delicious snack will help keep you grounded no matter what the day throws at you. Honestly, this is good advice for everyone – drinking or not!  



2. Keep a non-alcoholic beverage handy


Keep a drink in your hand – a safe one. A bottle of water, a soda water or Red Bull, a glass of ginger ale with lime, pineapple juice, coffee, tea, or whatever else sounds good to you. This way, you’ll already have something better in hand when Aunt Erma tries to pass you that glass of wine, and you won’t have that awkward feeling of not knowing what to do with your hands!


Some non-drinkers prefer to order festive mocktails. Mocktails can be a delicious alternative, just check the recipe (not all mocktails are alcohol-free, go figure), and keep an eye on your glass so you don’t grab the wrong one from a crowded table by accident. Many bars also stock non-alcoholic or alcohol-free beer these days, just check the label (most non-alcoholic beers contain some alcohol). 


And if someone offers you a drink? Try this:


“'No thanks, I’ve had enough' is a phrase EVERYONE, drinking or not will understand, without raising ‘suspicion’ or drawing attention to your new sobriety,” a sober wedding vendor in California tells us. “It’s honest and real. Regardless of how long you’ve been sober.”



Close up photo of water glasses with daisies

Photo: Camille Brodard / Unsplash

Keep a non-alcoholic drink close by to ward off 'helpful' relatives and servers



3. Bring a supportive or non-drinking date 


If you’re attending as a guest, bring along a supportive or non-drinking friend to keep you company. As the party rolls on, and things get especially soggy around you, it’s comforting to have a date who’s on the same page.


If you’re there as a wedding officiant or another type of vendor, check in with a supportive friend by phone or text when you need to. Send silly selfies, ask for on-the-spot advice as needed, make plans with them for a post-ceremony coffee date, and remember that you’re not on your own: someone has your back!



4. Be helpful – give yourself a ‘job’ or task to do


If you’re officiating (or DJing, or catering, etcetera), this one will be easier. Focus on the job at hand and how you can help the wedding couple have the best possible day. Stay busy, do the best job you can, and call it a day well done. 


If you’re attending the wedding as a guest or attendant, take your mind off the open bar by giving yourself a ‘job’ to focus on. For example, task yourself with taking lots of great photos for the couple, help keep track of kids or pets, bring a glass of water to a wilted bridesmaid, or strike up conversations with other guests to ensure everyone feels included and welcomed. 


Working a wedding as a new nondrinker can be a chance to look at the positives, too:


“Working events as a newly sober bartender,” a vendor tells us, “I began looking at the behavior of those drinking not as something I was missing but a glaring reminder of how I didn’t want to be anymore.”  


Related: Attention Officiants: 4 things you might forget the day of the wedding (and what to do about it)


A sober wedding officiant performs an outdoor wedding in front of a beautiful green forest, the two brides stand on either side of him, smiling as he reads the ceremony script

Photo: martinedoucet / iStock

Focus on a task or job, and how you can help make the day the best possible experience for the newlyweds. 



5. Take a break and recharge


Take a break whenever possible if you start to feel uneasy. You might call or text a non-drinking friend or support person, step outdoors for a minute or two for some fresh air, reset with a quick one minute meditation or breathing exercise, or just head to the bathroom for a quiet moment alone. 


Related: Meditation for Ministers: Align Your Chakras for Wedding Season (and Beyond)



6. Have an exit plan


It can be hard to know when to call it a night if you’re used to being the life of the party (or, at least, used to being the last one to leave the party). So here’s some good general guidance for guests and vendors: If you start to feel tired, cranky, or uneasy, it’s ok to leave, no matter what time it is. Most professional officiants leave shortly after the ceremony is over and the documents are signed; it’s totally acceptable. Finish the job you were hired to do, give your love to the newlyweds, and call it a day! 



7. Have fun! 


Most people won’t notice (or care) that you’re not drinking, so don’t stress about it. (And if they do? That’s not your problem.) For most people, weddings are about love and commitment – not how much excitement they can get into during the afterparty. Enjoy this special occasion for the magical moment it is, make memories, laugh with your loved ones, take lots of pictures, and go easy on yourself. Remember that you don’t have to be the ‘perfect’ guest, DJ, mother-of-the-bride, or wedding officiant ever, you just have to be yourself. 


Enjoy it! 


Bride, groom, officiant, and friends raise a glass in a toast around the table outdoors during a wedding reception

Photo: Caiaimage/Tom Merton / iStock

Remember that you don’t have to be the ‘perfect’ guest, wedding officiant, or vendor, you just have to be yourself. So raise a glass of soda water or sparkling cider, and enjoy the occasion!




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Wedding anxiety isn’t just something couples deal with. Wedding officiants can feel it too! Read the full article here. 



Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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