In our boozy world, alcohol and celebration tend to go hand in hand.
So how do you stay sober at a wedding or party and still have fun with everyone else?
For many people, the idea of not drinking at these events feels so daunting, they decide to put their alcohol-free goals on hold.
But there’s a big problem with that approach.
I know (from personal experience!) that months can slip by as you wait for all the weddings, BBQs and summer parties to come and go. There’s always something on the horizon.
I hope today’s blog inspires you to take action and stick with sobriety, no matter how busy your social calendar is!
How to stay sober at a wedding (and still have fun)
Go all in
This is really important: if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to give it 100%. Don’t ‘wait and see’ how you feel when you get there, or ‘try to be good’. All that’ll happen is that you’ll agonise over whether or not to drink, before eventually giving in. A ‘maybe’ is nearly always a yes. None of these other tips will help you, unless you make a firm decision that you’re not going to drink!
The chances are that at some point during the wedding, you’ll be offered a glass of something alcoholic to toast the happy couple. By anticipating this now, you can plan how you’ll handle it. Personally, I like to keep things really simple. I’ll say something like, “I’d love a drink – what alcohol-free options do you have?”
I don’t apologise for requesting something different. There are many reasons why someone may choose not to drink, so you are entitled to be catered for. I nearly always find there is a tray of alcohol-free drinks nearby, you just can’t always spot it immediately. If you have to order a drink, be specific about what you want. If you’d like your drink to be served in a champagne flute, say so.
You might also want to consider what you’ll say to people if they ask why you’re not drinking. It’s actually none of their business, but it can be handy to have a response prepared. (I have some ideas here.)
Understand that alcohol does not equal fun, joy or celebration
If you’ve ever been to a party where you’ve drunk loads, but you still haven’t felt happy, you’ll know that alcohol isn’t the secret to having a great time. Culturally, we’re so trained to associate booze with celebration, we tend to forget you can have one without the other.
We gloss over the fact that drunk people can cry and be upset, argue and even get into fights. Some drinkers fall asleep or withdraw and become spaced out and distant. There’s a very high chance they’ll miss the special, memorable moments of the day.
When you choose to stay sober at a wedding, you free up more space for happiness and joy. Last year one of my Getting Unstuck students discovered this for herself when she got married, alcohol-free.
Emily said: “Being sober at your own wedding is AWESOME! I danced, I sang, I actually ate dinner. Best of all, I was 100% present for the entire night and remember every unforgettable moment. I even drove us back to the hotel. It wasn’t just the most meaningful weekend of my life, but also, truly, the most fun. I am so glad I got my shit together for this.” (You can see Emily’s lovely wedding pic here).
Welcome the highs and the lows
In her TED talk, Brene Brown says “You cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb [hard feelings], we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness.” We need the harder, challenging experiences in order to truly appreciate the good moments. We’re not supposed to numb our way through life – we’re meant to feel those ups and downs.
When you’re sober, you probably will be more aware of your own insecurities and awkwardness. But it’s worth it, because the highs are going to be higher.
It feels great when you catch yourself having fun and laughing hard, and you know it’s because you’re genuinely having a good time – your emotions are real and haven’t been chemically altered in any way.
Nothing beats being able to show up fully for the people you care about, to support them and remember all of their special day.
A few quick points:
– Remember what the day is really about. It’s not about you or what’s in your glass, it’s about celebrating a relationship.
– So many things will affect your enjoyment of the day: who you know there, how you feel, the atmosphere, the music, your outfit… none of that has anything to do with what you’re drinking.
– Keep your glass full. The easiest way to turn down an alcoholic drink is to already be clutching a full glass.
– If you’re trying not to draw attention, fizzy water or tonic water with lemon is a good option.
– Take breaks. Weddings can be long, all day events. Sneak off for a walk or some time to yourself whenever you need to.
– Bad experiences can be good experiences. If you’re bored, that is actually useful information. Don’t you want to know what you do and don’t enjoy?
– Celebrate yourself afterwards. Build in some time to rest, recover and decompress. You deserve it.
Thanks Kate! I’m going to 2 weddings this summer which will be a test. But I have already been to a few parties recently and am feeling confident – they went far better than I thought they would! 2 months AF for me.
I’m pleased to hear you surprised yourself! Congratulations on your 2 months Liv 🙂
That’s wonderful Liv…good for you! I’m just beginning my AF life. I’m excited and a little afraid at the same time, but I think that’s normal. I have a real difficult time handling “failure” and I DO NOT want to fail at this. I need some tips on handling my “triggers”, like the inevitable “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” thing….any tips from anyone would be appreciated, I’m so thankful to have found this blog because I know I’m not alone in this struggle and the advice from Kate and others will help me tremendously. I also know God wants this for me and I’m trusting He’ll bring me through this. He’s the one that led me here to begin my journey. Keep going Liv…you’re doing great!
Hi Deborah, well done for getting started! If you’d like some extra support, I’d be happy to help you through this – you’re bound to have tons of questions that come up as you progress along this journey. The best way for us to work together would be via my 6 week coaching programme. The next class starts soon, so it could be good timing for you. Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
In the meantime, I suggest you work your way through my blog archives here – I’ve written a lot of blogs over the years and they will definitely help get you started! 🙂
Thank you Kate! I’m on the waiting list for your six week course and really looking forward to it. I definitely will check out out your information. I’m already getting your emails and enjoy your blog. Thank you for making yourself available!
I have been to weddings both as a drinker and as an almost 16 month sober person and I must say I prefer the weddings I went to as a non-drinker. No one noticed if I was or wasn’t drinking or seemed to care and I had a fun time sans alcohol. I bonded deeper with my fiancé, was able to really feel the love of the couple getting married on their special day, and enjoy and remember all of the conversations I had. I was able to stay as long or as short as I pleased and could drive myself home at any time I wanted. I will be getting married in a little over a year and look forward to being a sober bride. I wouldn’t be getting married without sobriety and my maid of honor is sober too and always has been (just a lifestyle choice she prefers). Trust me, it’s not that scary and once you have one sober wedding under your belt, the easier the next one will be!
What an inspiring post! Congratulations on your 16 months Lo. I hope you enjoy a wonderful wedding day 🙂
And have an exit plan so you can leave when things gets messy, as they usually do. Why would you stay for the drunken fights, throwing people in the pool, bridesmaid disappearing with the hot waiter, weird Uncle Bill talking politics… etc etc? Maybe that’s just my family. Ha ha
Happy and alcohol free from the chaos,
Ha ha – I don’t think it’s just your family! It is great to be able to leave when you want… and walk away knowing you were there for the good parts and skipped the messy / weird bits!
Thank you Kate, absolutely.
A special event is special in its own right, alcohol is completely unnecessary.
I’ve been to weddings where I’ve ended up either vomiting, crying, making a prat of myself at the disco, falling out with my partner, or all of the above, and I love knowing that being alcohol free now means that I never have to feel that way again ever.
You nailed it here – a special event is special because, doh, it’s special! You don’t need any drug for that 🙂
These comments are very inspiring and supportive, I am on a mission to kick my nasty habit of drinking and whilst I have no wedding invites just yet I do have various events that I would usually drink at so the tips are very helpful, I had my first night out at a comedy club last week as a non drinker and had a great time… I am right at the beginning of my journey but very dedicated to making some truly positive changes and enjoying life without the hangover!
Live comedy is one of my favourite things ever. I filmed a short video on this topic a while back that might resonate with you Julie: https://thesoberschool.com/how-to-have-fun-without-drinking/
Hi All, I have just been given medication by my doctor and cannot drink with them so I have been forced to give up alcohol. I have been completely dry for 12 days now and am really proud of myself. I do not have any physical issues with being alcohol free but was feeling a bit ‘punished’ at first to not have the choice. I am looking forward to the weight-loss on the scales that I may have from not having them empty calories. Just thought I would share with you all.. and hope I can keep as positive as I am feeling just now. Thank you x
Well done on your 12 days Mary 🙂
Thanks Kate! I’m 5 days into my sober journey and this blog is very timely! It’s my birthday on the weekend and my husband has organised some lovely time away away. This would normally entail lots of red wine and hangovers! Not this time. I absolutely determined that I will not drink (whatever he decides) and I’ll enjoy every moment of my birthday
Wishing you a very happy birthday for the weekend. Staying alcohol-free will be a great gift to give yourself 🙂
I did it!! I have had the very best birthday weekend away completely AF :). We arrived at our beautiful destination late Friday afternoon and I was completely torn about whether to drink or not. My husband had brought along bottles of Chardonnay and Shiraz and I was internally negotiating with myself for the last hour of the journey, just one glass of each, it can’t hurt, it IS my birthday weekend. I actually got to the point of pouring a glass when I thought of your advice Kate to play it forward! How would I honestly feel if I took that first sip? Would I have a better time? Would I stop at 1 glass? and the answer to all those questions was DON’T DO IT! I gave the glass to my husband and fixed myself a pomegranate and tonic which I enjoyed immensely. The rest of the weekend was easy and I enjoyed (and remembered!!) every single second of it. Thank you Kate for the inspiration on your website, it definitely helped me stay on track! xxxx
I’m so pleased to hear this! Well done Michelle – you did brilliantly! Congratulations 🙂
Hi I’m a graduate of Kate’s April ‘19 class Just had my first family wedding AF .I danced all day and spoke to so many people really enjoyed it and I did all the driving two trips back and forth . Nobody questioned why I wasn’t drinking they were all glad to have a lift home .Thanks Kate 57days sober .
I’m so pleased to hear this Ann – what a win! It’s brilliant to see you doing so well. Congratulations on your 57 days! ❤️
Thank you :)I am actually excited to celebrate a birthday that I will be able to remember!! I have bought a bottle of Seedlip Citrus and will take plenty of diet tonic and limes and I’m set! I will let you know how it goes xx
Happy to have inspired you! Have fun Michelle 🙂
I am sober 22 days. And number 4 on this list is totally true. I went out with friends the other night and surprised myself by having an amazing, fun night without alcohol. I laughed so hard and truly felt joy for the first time in a long time. Like you’ve said before..when you numb yourself you blur out the lows but you also blur out the highs. I had forgotten what true joy feels like. AND. I didn’t have to spend one moment all evening worrying about looking sloppy or losing my cell phone, my handbag, my sunglasses…over tipping…under tipping…tripping while walking to the ladies room…all that stupid nonsense. I was totally in control and yet, joyful and happy and present. What a gift this sober life is!!!
That’s brilliant, well done Anna!
Thank you for your blog and you tube videos of encouragement! I’m three months sober and feel like a new person! All of these “sober firsts” like attending a wedding and traveling alcohol-free have really woken me up to how much fun I have been missing in my life. Please keep up the good and positive work you are doing!