Expectations & Etiquette For Hosting Or Attending A Dry Wedding

Did you receive your first-ever ‘dry wedding’ invitation in the mail? Planning a wedding without alcohol and worried the party won’t be fun? Dry weddings are a tricky subject but luckily we’re here to help…

Plenty of good reasons exist for throwing a dry wedding. It could be a lack of budget or a sober bride, groom or guests. Maybe a religious wedding that doesn’t allow alcohol. In our books, it’s your wedding, any reason is a good reason and you don’t have to justify it.

Photo by Emily Wren Photo

That being said, there’s a bit of etiquette involved in letting guests know the wedding bar will be ‘mocktails only’. Informing your guests properly and finding other ways to amp up the party will keep the dry wedding aspect of your wedding a non-factor.

Our friends at Be Inspired PR have rounded up their team of planners & wedding pros to dish on etiquette & expectations for both attending guests & the couple planning the dry wedding. We’re sharing loads of helpful advice to help you feel totally a-okay with your decision to ditch alcohol at your wedding. Below find classy ways to tell your guests about the lack of booze & fancy ways to upgrade those signature wedding mocktails.

Photo by Claire Eliza

If you’re a guest who’s never been to a dry wedding before, we have advice for you, too! Learn what to expect and what’s acceptable behavior at your loved one’s wedding. For instance, meeting friends at a bar before or after? Totally cool! Bringing a flask filled with vodka to the wedding? Sorry, not classy.

Here is our etiquette for hosting & expectations for attending a dry wedding…

Make sure your guests aren’t surprised.

“Dry weddings can be incredibly fun and amazing and in order to have both of those elements at a dry wedding, there are a couple of things to remember. Set those expectations EARLY and be INFORMATIVE! Guests are often disappointed arriving at a dry wedding because they were never informed. You can solve this by doing a few things. 1) Include the info on a details card in each guest’s invitation suite. 2) Have it written out under the “info” tab on your wedding website! 3) Create a “Welcome to our Dry Wedding” Sign to display in the reception space where you can actually create specialty signature mocktails to be served for guests to enjoy!” – Naomi Bennett, Bowties & Bouquets

Don’t feel obligated to justify your decision.

“Remember that you don’t need to explain yourself. There are several reasons why you may choose to have a dry wedding, and while you should definitely inform your guests to make sure their expectations are set upfront, a simple line on the invitations and/or wedding website stating that it will be a dry wedding is all that’s necessary. This is your wedding day, so you don’t owe anyone an explanation about any of the choices you make! You wouldn’t provide reasoning for why you chose garden roses over peonies for your floral arrangements, so don’t feel obligated to provide background details over this decision either.” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

Photo by Deco Tartelette

Give your guests a variety of non-alcoholic choices.

“One of the best things about having a bar at a wedding is that the guests feel like they have a choice – whether it’s selecting one of your signature cocktails, their favorite mixed drink, or a glass of wine, guests like to be able to choose their preferred way to celebrate with you. A dry wedding should be no different! Consider still setting up a “bar” for your wedding reception, but nix the alcohol and stick to offering a variety of options to still let guests choose their favorite! Fresh pressed juices, kombucha, non-alcoholic ciders, lemonades, sparkling waters, curated sodas, iced teas…the list goes on and on! Offer up additional mix-ins, house-made syrups and garnishes the same way you would with a regular bar and guests will be so busy enjoying their passionfruit iced tea with fresh berries or guava lemonade with a citrus twist that they won’t even remember everything is alcohol-free!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

Make those mocktails fancy!

“Don’t overlook presentation! A Moscow mule is iconic only because of the signature copper mug it’s served in – it’s part of the drink experience! Treat your guests to specialty glassware and don’t skimp on handmade garnishes or carved ice cubes. Non-alcoholic beverages does not have to equal plastic cups!” – AJ Williams, Founder & Creative Director, AJ Events

Hire fun beverage cart vendors.

“Get creative! There are still lots of ways to make it an interactive and fun experience for your guests. Maybe something like an old-fashioned soda bar, a boba cart, or fun make your own Italian soda station. Guests will love it and not miss the alcohol!” – Sarah Kuhlberg, Creative Director, Colette’s Catering

Focus on other fun party aspects.

“Dry weddings are a bit tricky, as many guests expect to come to a wedding, imbibe and let loose. No alcohol? No problem. Plan for some fun mocktails and stock the bar with options to keep everyone happy. Alternatives from drinks, to treats to activities, will keep guests distracted enough that they will be less likely to miss it.” – Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss + Co-Founder Rock Paper Coin

Consider a spliff bar!

“If you’re opposed to alcohol at your wedding but a-okay with cannabis, consider setting up a spliff bar. We styled an entire shoot around this incredible Barbari spliff bar where guests could roll their own joints mixed with various beautifully scented botanicals. The inspiration also included a variety of other (legal) cannabis wedding ideas like THC chocolate favors, a cannabis-laced wedding cake, calming CBD tinctures & even vases that double as bongs (wait until you see how beautiful they are!)” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings

Rethink your wedding-day timeline.

“Dry weddings can be so enjoyable but shouldn’t automatically be planned with the same timeframes as a wedding with a full bar. First of all, a dry wedding should end a bit earlier. We find guests leave earlier, around 9 or 10 pm. Second, offer enough other creative and delicious options that they won’t even remember there is no alcohol! Our ideas are an ice cream bar, an Italian ice truck, refreshing spa water, a coffee bar with all the fixings and even think about doing a non-alcoholic specialty mocktail everyone can enjoy!” – Valarie Falvey, Kirkbrides

Go wild with your dinner menu.

“I love a good tipple, it’s true. But do you know what wows me more? An incredible meal! Worry less about the lack of alcohol and spoil your guests to an incredible, thoughtful meal with wild desserts akin to a trip through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Your guests will remember the wedding meal of their life, not the lack of boozy drinks.” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings

Hire entertainment.

“If you are hosting a dry wedding, think of a way to focus more on entertainment. Whether it’s anything from getting an amazing cover band to an unexpected aerialist, give your wedding a wow factor where your guests will forget about the wedding being an alcohol-free wedding. Maybe even consider some fun interactive mocktails.” – Weddings by Susan Dunne

Photo by Toma Dolejsi

It’s okay to set a different vibe.

“Don’t feel the need to emulate a typical, raging boozed-out party without alcohol if that’s not ‘you’. I’ve worked with numerous couples who aren’t the party type that planned weddings with ‘introvert-friendly vibes’.

One real-life example: an adventurous campout wedding with a weekend of hiking, swimming, camping & cozy evenings by the campfire with ultimate chill vibes. Another couple of mine threw a swanky city wedding renting out a stunning mansion venue for their ceremony followed by an evening of seated entertainment in a ballroom. (Think royalty watching theater in their own palace, it was amazing!)” – Claire Eliza, Editor-in-Chief of Bridal Musings

Add an FAQ to your wedding website.

“Having a dry wedding is perfectly acceptable and fine. If you do choose to go that route, let your guests know by adding the information to the FAQ page of your wedding website. It’s helpful information for people to plan especially in regards to driving situations if the wedding is dry or not. To make things more exciting for guests, provide fun and delicious mocktails or flavored waters or fun flavored lemonades. It provides a fun twist on drinks without the alcohol.” – Kari Dirksen, CEO + Lead Planner, Feathered Arrow Events

For guests: Yes to after-parties, no to flasks.

“This is not to stop you from meeting up with friends prior for a few drinks, but avoid bringing flasks or bottles in your car to imbibe during the event. This is just rude and disrespectful. So, couples choose to have a dry wedding because of budget, others because of family situations (i.e., recovered or non-recovered alcoholics who are family members), and so on. So, respect the decision and if you would like to get drinks before or after the big event feel free.” – Nora Sheils, Founder Bridal Bliss + Co-Founder Rock Paper Coin

Photo by Deco Tartelette

For more expert advice on all your trickiest wedding conundrums, visit our Planning section.

These tips were gathered by Be Inspired PR, a PR + Social Media Agency for wedding, wellness & lifestyle clients. With over 10+ years of experience, we’re here to take our clients to the next level! Find oodles of stylish wedding inspiration on their Instagram & Pinterest.

Feature Image: Deco Tartelette