Barring Drinks: Is it OK to not serve alcohol at a wedding?

Q: My daughter will be getting engaged any day now — her boyfriend has just showed me the ring.  We have been talking about the wedding for the last couple of months but have not discussed anything in detail.  Is it OK to not have drinks at a wedding?  My husband and I both enjoy drinking socially along with most of our friends and family.  However, the groom is a born again Christian and does not want excessive alcohol at the wedding.  Is having just beer and wine adequate?



A: It’s perfectly acceptable to have a non-alcohol wedding.  It’s also fine to limit alcoholic beverages to beer and wine.  The decision whether or not to attend a wedding shouldn’t be based on the refreshments served.  If you are hosting the wedding (i.e. paying the expenses), it is ultimately your decision whether or not to serve alcohol.  However, it would be thoughtful for you, your husband, your daughter, and her fiancé to discuss the situation and, hopefully, reach a compromise.


  1. David

    The groom should be allowed to make all the decisions regarding the wedding and the reception, as it is clear he wishes the guests to celebrate and enjoy themselves according to his religious beliefs. I might note in the invitations that alcohol will be limited in selection, quantity, and perhaps, consumption allowances, in order to facilitate a happy day for the groom.

  2. ann

    I have just retired from being the administrator for a subsidized housing project — the residents of the project gave me a going away party and a group card with an enclosure. I would like to send something back to the housing project in appreciation of their generosity. Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you–

    • Elizabeth

      A nice thank you note that could be displayed in the office would be perfect. Nothing else is required or expected.

  3. Jody

    I disagree with David and agree with the EPI advice. The groom shouldn’t automatically be allowed to have *all* the decisions regarding the wedding and reception. A compromise is the best solution. What does your daughter (the bride) think? My reading is that the groom not wanting “excessive alcohol” doesn’t mean that he’s banning it altogether. If he’s willing to go along with only beer and wine (and even that in limited quantities) that would be perfectly acceptable. There’s no need to advertise the type of refreshments on the invitation.

  4. Heather

    I was raised in central Alabama, and nearly our entire community was Southern Baptist. It never occurred to me until adulthood that in the US, most weddings have both alcohol and dancing! Of course, there were many members of the community who did drink socially, but I can’t imagine that they were offended when they arrived at a wedding reception and were given juice and soda.

  5. Becky

    Ditto the comment about it being a group decision (bride, groom and whomever may be contributing $ – though respecting others’ issues and traditions). There may be some good options for compromise without advertising the absence of or limited alcohol (which to me would be a no, no) The timing and location of the wedding reception can easily set the tone for imbibing. Morning to early afternoon (2?) wedding/reception could greatly curtail consumption (or even any vague expectation), if it was even offered. A lovely brunch could be served with or without mimosas. A reception at the Church also would send a clear message to guests as only a few denominations even allow alcohol on the property. You may also want to have an informal ‘after the reception reception’ if it is an early affair, to continue the celebration with close friends and family (minus bride and groom of course). Most awkward would be to have early evening or evening wedding with band or other dancing music. Yes, you can have a good time dancing the night away without alcohol, but structuring the event that way does send a message to guests for reasonable expectations of adult beverages. Unless the majority of the guests do not drink, it could be a real waste of money. I had a friend that tried it due to family pressures and the majority of guests were gone within 30 minutes (though my mother raised me right and I stayed until the couple left).

  6. Jo

    Sure, it’s fine…it all depends on the individual and what he or she wants.

    Also, it may depend on your culture…for example, I am Polish, as are many folks in my immediate area. I have never attended a single event, even a shower or baptism, let alone something as major as a wedding, where there wasn’t an open bar, AND bottles of vodka placed on the center of every table! To some, it may seem excessive; but in my culture, this stems from a long history of hospitality, i.e. offering your guests lots of food and all they can drink means that you are generous and happy to have them with you. To NOT have it, although some 21st century people now do so, for reasons including everything from health to religion to financial, tends to make some of our people, particularly the older generation, look at you as “cheap” or “non-welcoming.” YMMV, of course, but if I were to marry – I’m not, but hope to one day still – I would pretty much HAVE to have open bar, even though I have a serious health condition and am not able to drink at all myself.

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