Dry Wedding Tips: Is It Ever Okay to Host an Alcohol-Free Wedding?

Discover what to expect at a dry wedding, and how to cut down on the cost of drinks.

The cost of having alcohol at a wedding is one of the main reasons why couples consider a dry wedding; however, if your only motivation for hosting an alcohol-free wedding is to save money, discover ways to cut down on the cost.

Photo: Tec Petaja

Most couples and wedding guests couldn't imagine a celebration without alcohol and free-flowing libations, but for those with religious or financial objections to serving alcohol at wedding receptions, a "dry" wedding may seem like the best option. However, is it even socially acceptable to not offer alcoholic beverages at a wedding? And if your goal is simply to save money, how do you provide alcohol without breaking the bank?

Lindsay Sims of TOAST Events, which is headquartered in Atlanta, told Inside Weddings that she's planned a number of dry weddings due to couples' religious beliefs, though she wouldn't recommend it otherwise. "If the host is not serving alcohol for reasons other than religion or cultural preferences, I believe it is in poor taste to not serve alcohol," she says. And she isn't alone: a CNN poll of 37,000 people found that just eight percent of respondents said that dry weddings are just fine with them. Three percent agreed that "A dry wedding is a pain, but I'll deal," and the rest agreed that an open bar or even cash bar (one of the worst faux pas a couple can commit) is preferable. Five percent said they wouldn't even attend a dry wedding.

Strawberry Basil Sparkler Mocktail

Photo by Tec Petaja; Floral & Event Design by Amaryllis Floral & Event Design

What Is a Dry Wedding? 

A dry wedding is a choice by the couple to have no alcohol at wedding events. Since many wedding guests will likely expect there to be alcohol at the wedding, it's important to give guests a heads-up beforehand for couples having weddings without alcohol. While wedding planning, it's also important to incorporate other fun aspects – like a photo booth, performers, or a great band that will ensure the dance floor is full – to keep guests engaged and enjoying the revelry throughout the weekend.

How Do You Make a Dry Wedding Fun? 

Although it's certainly possible to throw a fun wedding sans booze, Sims says it's hard to find many advantages. "Couples who decide to host a dry wedding should have realistic expectations that it will likely be harder to motivate people to dance," Sims shares. "They can also expect a shorter reception time and that a higher percentage will depart after the cake cutting." 

Couples hosting dry weddings need to make an effort to excite and energize their guests in other ways. Sims says a great band or entertainment is key, as well as a variety of food and desserts. We've seen couples offer a mocktail drink bar, for example, or even a milkshake bar that will delight both non-drinkers and guests who love a cocktail! 

"Consider a progressive party where treats and snacks are presented throughout the evening. It will give your guests something to look forward to and can really be a chance to personalize your menu," she suggests.

How Much Does It Cost to Have an Open Bar at Your Wedding? 

It can be pricey – though there are ways to cut down the overall cost while ensuring your loved ones have a great time and you maintain a level of modern etiquette. The cost of having alcohol at a wedding is one of the main reasons why couples consider having a dry wedding; however, if your only motivation for hosting an alcohol-free wedding is to save money, Sims offers these ways to cut down on the cost of drinks without eliminating alcohol altogether:

- Look for a venue that allows you to bring in your own alcohol. This offers a tremendous savings and allows you to customize the offerings and price points of what you serve. 

- Stick to beer, wine, and a signature drink, versus an entire open bar. Your loved ones will enjoy sipping your favorite beverages, and you won't have to worry about seeing that bar tab go up and up since you'll likely have a limit to what can be served. 

- Close the bar for the last hour or during the dinner hour (but not both). This can be especially helpful at a venue where the venue's staff manages the bar. These are both times when guests may not be thinking about hitting the bar in general, so it won't raise any concerns or have your guests gossiping about the reasons why the bar is closed. 

- Consider hosting a brunch wedding with a mimosa or Bloody Mary bar. As opposed to a nighttime wedding reception where guests are in party mode, people will consume far less at this hour and will thus help your budget. It's also an emerging trend and will likely gain popularity in 2021 as venues will need to accommodate new weddings and those that were postponed. 

If you're truly committed to hosting an alcohol-free wedding with non-alcoholic beverages, be prepared to splurge on the other elements that make weddings fun, like the music and food – but know that there are ways to offer drinks without breaking the bank!