The joys of being alcohol free at a wedding

May 19, 2023

Weddings and champagne are inextricably linked in our culture

My daughter got married last month. It was a wonderful, happy day. Actually, a wonderful, happy weekend, as we kicked it off on the Friday evening and then people came back for a barbecue and games on the Sunday. It was a fantastic love-filled three days, and I am so thrilled that I enjoyed it all and can remember every moment of it.  Alcohol didn’t steal one single minute from me.

But the thing that surprised me was how many people expected me to toast the newly-weds with a glass or two of champagne. Even though I have been alcohol free for over five years, have given up my job in order to coach people who are addicted to alcohol, and have been very public about the fact that I used to struggle with alcohol, I still had people suggesting that I should drink alcohol to mark the occasion. Why? Why would I toast my daughter’s future happiness with the stuff that has brought me so much unhappiness? To me the question made no sense at all.

The people who were asking me this weren’t trying to make me feel awkward – they were genuinely curious about how I was going to align my choice to be alcohol free with the societal norms for a wedding. In our western culture, we celebrate happy events by drinking a glass or two of fizz. And this applies not just to weddings, but to christenings, engagements, exam success, moving to a new house, a significant birthday, our team winning the cup. It really doesn’t matter what the happy occasion is, we celebrate with alcohol. It’s just what we do. And raising a glass in a toast is part of the ritual of wishing the newly-weds every possible happiness in their life together.


The tradition of alcohol at weddings goes back a long way.

After all, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but to me the true miracle is when we can happily swap wine for water, hence the name of my business. But the point is that alcohol’s role in celebrations is long-standing and tends to get very little scrutiny.

 But I’d like to suggest a few reasons why we might NOT want to drink at a wedding:

  • Alcohol impairs our memory – a wedding is a special day, so why not remember it all?

  • Alcohol impairs our physical co-ordination so we bump into people and things, and risk tripping over our own feet on the dancefloor

  • Alcohol impairs our judgement so we are more likely to say or do something inappropriate or to take offence where none was meant

  • Alcohol makes us sad, and we can become weepy

  • It can also lead to aggression and violence

  • Hangovers are horrible


It is entirely possible to have a really brilliant time without drinking any alcohol.

I absolutely love dancing and I don’t think anyone at the wedding danced more than me. And I had a great time singing sober karaoke the next day with my son-in-law (though I suspect that Neil Diamond’s version of Sweet Caroline is a tiny bit better than ours was!) But it’s not just me, there are entire countries and cultures that can have a brilliant time without a drop of alcohol. Indian weddings can be really lavish affairs, lasting 3 or 4 days, and there’s not a drop of alcohol to lubricate events. And although I’ve never been to a wedding in a Moslem country, a Moroccan friend showed me photos of her (entirely alcohol-free) wedding, and it looked like so much fun.


We are conditioned to think that we need alcohol to have a good time.

The alcohol industry plays a big part in this, with marketing that builds a subliminal association between alcohol and social success.  Another factor is the lasting effect of the ‘ladette’ culture of the 1990’s, which encouraged women to out-party men. And of course association of alcohol being essential to having a good time is perpetuated by memes like the one above.

One of my favourite sayings is attributed to Henry Ford. It goes like this:

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right”

Our attitude, what we say to ourselves, and the language we use, can make all the difference. If we go to a wedding, or any other event, saying to ourselves that we are going to try not to drink, just that word try means that we are already entertaining the idea of failure. Trying is not the same as succeeding. When we use the word try it is usually in relation to something we feel we should do rather than something we really want to do… I’m going to try to lose weight. I’m going to try not to eat cake. I’m going to try to go to the gym more often. When we say ‘I’m going to try not to drink’, we are actually focussed on what we feel we are missing out on. Our focus is on deprivation.


Focussing on positive emotions is incredibly effective when it comes to finding freedom from alcohol

The opposite of an attitude of deprivation might sound something like this: ‘I’m excited about being alcohol-free at the wedding. I’m thrilled to have been invited and I’m looking forward to remembering every detail, to being able to drive home and to waking up the next morning feeling great’. This embodies two key elements which are massively helpful to everyone who is trying to find freedom from alcohol – curiosity and gratitude.


Curiosity and gratitude really are key components to finding freedom from alcohol.

And they can be cultivated and become a habit.

 Curiosity is about being open to possibilities and opportunities. We don’t know what being alcohol-free at a wedding will be like until we have tried it. And true curiosity involves not making up our mind ahead of time, instead remaining open to the possibility that our preconceptions were wrong.

 Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way thing to do. Just write down three things e very day that you are grateful for. You’ll quickly notice more things to be grateful for as you go about your daily life.


What if you can’t even imagine not drinking at a wedding?

I hear you! That was me not so long ago. The first thing I’d say is please don’t beat yourself up about it. Alcohol is addictive to anyone who drinks enough of it, and becoming dependent or addicted to it doesn’t mean that you are in any way flawed. You are perfect. It’s the alcohol that is the problem. The second thing is that it is entirely possible to overcome this problem and lead a truly happy life. Just get in touch and book a free and confidential Discovery Call so that we can talk about how I might be able to help you.


If you have got this far, chances are that you are concerned that you may have a problem with alcohol. Let's talk - you have absolutely nothing to lose and so much to gain!



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