I Had a Dry Wedding – Here’s How It Went and How We Feel About It Years Later

published Jun 26, 2017
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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

My now-husband and I learned we had a lot in common when we first met, from mutual friends to a creepy knowledge of an obscure horror movie to the fact that he actually knew my brother from a random sports-card club they were in together during the eighth grade. One more thing we had in common? Neither of us drank alcohol, or had any plans to.

My husband had been drunk before, and just decided he didn’t like it. I had never tried alcohol in my life, aside from a tiny taste of Champagne when my sister was born. Neither of us came from immediate families with substance abuse problems, or religious objections to alcohol. We just didn’t like the idea of being out of control, and weren’t drawn to the culture that surrounded drinking.

Our non-drinking ways had never felt like that big of a deal. I’ve been to bachelorette parties, and while I don’t know that I would recommend singing a karaoke version of a certain Divinyls song with a group of women when you’re the only sober one, I still had fun and was happy to be the designated driver. I’ve gone to many concerts and had my hands marked with a black X because I never feel the need to prove to the bouncer that I’m older than 21. I’m also not too proud to order a virgin piña colada on a cruise ship.

Planning a Dry Wedding

So when my husband and I started planning our wedding, it seemed logical to keep the reception dry. It felt more authentic to who we were, and it would help bring costs down. We were trying to keep our wedding as humble as possible, while still accommodating all the family and friends we wanted to invite. We ended up renting a small space where my husband’s grandparents had hosted their 50th wedding anniversary, ordering catering from a local BBQ joint, and having homemade Funfetti cupcakes made by my husband’s aunts.

My mother was particularly disappointed not to have a Champagne toast. She’s always loved ritual and tradition, and the idea of toasting the New Year, or the birth of a baby, or a wedding with a flute of Champagne was something very special to her. “Can’t it be special with sparkling cider?” I asked. (For the record, I love sparkling cider, whether as a substitute for alcohol or not.)

My boss at the time gave me a bottle of Champagne every year for Christmas. At best, the gesture seemed well-meaning if oblivious, given that he knew I didn’t drink. At worst, it often felt pointed, as he was one of the only people in my life to ever openly disapprove of my choice to abstain from alcohol. Every year, I re-gifted the bottle.

He was appalled at the idea of a wedding with no alcohol, and he offered to pay for the open bar himself. It certainly would’ve solved the cost problem. But again, it felt less like a generous offer of assistance and more of a way to assert his values over us, and he had a habit of calling in debts he felt he was owed after making such offers. My groom and I declined.

Looking Back on Our Big Day

Recently, though, we were reflecting back on our wedding and asking ourselves what we would’ve done differently. My husband surprised me by saying that he wished we had served alcohol, after all. Eight years later, he was saying we should’ve had a bar if it would’ve made our guests have a better time.

I don’t regret our dry wedding, but I do see his point. It’s easier to consider the option now that we’re older and not quite as desperately broke, or as rigid in those values. There’s a narrative around weddings that it’s your special day, particularly for brides, but of course it’s a day for your families and friends to celebrate as well. Perhaps our choice was a selfish one.

There can also be a narrative around wedding receptions and what sort of party they have to be, with drinking and dancing and gimmicky traditions. My husband and I both agreed that, while we’d been to other people’s more classic weddings and had fun, we didn’t feel like the traditional route was authentic for us. I didn’t want to throw my bouquet, or have a garter taken off of me.

In the end, our wedding definitely wasn’t the party of the century. It started in the late afternoon and was over before the time we needed to clear out of the rented space. But it was quirky and low-key and very us. Which, at least at that time, meant that it was dry.

Have you been to a dry wedding before? Yay or nay?