I'm going to marry a wonderful man who is a recovering addict and has been clean for over 8 years. Many of the guests are friends of his who are also in recovery, so alcohol at the wedding will be a HUGE no-no.

I know many guests who will be disappointed at the lack of alcohol (let me be honest – I'll be a tad disappointed, too). What can I do to get people on the dance floor and to have fun without the aid of beer? I've been to weddings before that didn't have alcohol and it seemed like people just bailed as soon as they were done eating.

First off, congratulations to your partner for his eight years of sobriety.

Now, in terms of your dry wedding: you're right. Getting people to dance sober can be more of a challenge. Are you attached to dancing at your wedding? Do you want to take on the challenge of encouraging people to do something they may not naturally be inclined to do?

“No” is a perfectly acceptable answer here: There are lots of people who have wonderful, fun receptions without any dancing at all — so if you're only concerned about dancing because you feel like you're required to have it, I would encourage you to explore the option of skipping the dance floor.

The easiest way to do this to restructure the wedding so that it feels perfectly natural to be dry: a brunch wedding or lunch reception, for instance. People will come with less expectations about the format, and less assumptions that they're going to totter away wasted at 2pm.

If you've already got plans for an evening wedding or just reeeeally want a dance floor, I'd say get your guests jacked on caffeine. Could you have a caterer or a friend act as a barrista, serving guests fancy hyper-caffeinated drinks to get them amped and ready to rock?

CRW_0124_JFRAlternately, you could give the dance floor a little structure. No dancing = nothing a hula hoop wouldn't fix? Dance Dance Revolution? Dance floor scavenger hunt?

Most importantly, I'd suggest talking to your fiance about this and tapping into his network of friends who are in recovery. This is a whole community of experts who likely know more than you or I could ever dream about have a blast without alcohol — they may have lots of suggestions for how to get non-drinkers dancing.

Most of all, make sure you're having a great time at your wedding. Your energy will be infectious, and if you're giddy and spinning with joy, your guests will be more likely to follow your lead, sober or not.

Comments on Dancing at a dry wedding

  1. My wedding wasn’t dry, but it was still somewhat difficult to get people to dance. However, we had a band with a dance caller for contra dances (, and people got really into those because they’re told what to do and everyone looks silly together.

    If that’s not your sort of thing, creating a really rockin’ play list of things you like to dance to (oldies, ska, whatevs) and then getting on the dance floor yourself and pulling your friends up with you will get at least some of them dancing.

    Of course, you can always command all of the guests to dance. A friend of mine sent invitations indicating what parts of the wedding were “mandatory” and what parts “optional” (eg. eating: mandatory, crying: optional, etc.)!

    • Hi Cathy!
      I am really interested in finding a contra band/caller for my wedding and have no idea where to start looking! Any suggestions? The wedding is in Boston, MA.


  2. I am always mystified that people seem to feel that couples are obligated to serve alcohol at weddings, and that guests have the right to expect it. It’s a wedding, not happy hour.

    I do drink, but I have never thought that not serving alcohol, in any setting, for any reason, was a decision for which hosts should be made to feel they have to provide an alternative. If you don’t want to serve it, don’t serve it; the people who complain about it are the ones who are out of line. (This goes double when the groom and, presumably, many of the guests are recovering alcoholics.)

    Guests should dance because dancing is fun, not because their usual sense of decorum has been chemically obliterated.

    • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I understand that a lot of weddings have alcohol but ours won’t and I’m tired of getting weird looks when I tell people. Neither my fiance nor myself drink and we don’t want to spend a ton of money on alcohol when we could be saving it or spending it on something more important to us. People don’t need alcohol to have a good time and celebrate the marriage of two people they care about. That’s silly.

  3. This isn’t really constructive, but I had a “dry” evening wedding about 4 years ago and people still brought alcohol in flasks and my then-husband got drunk. It was not cool. I agree with Ariel–at a daytime wedding, the drinking expectation will be down and people will be less likely to bring flasks, I hope.

  4. I love the idea of getting them jacked up on caffeine. I’m a very shy person and getting on a dance floor usually requires darkness and booze for me to muster enough courage. But if I have a lot of energy and there is some great music, I could see myself being unable to hold out 🙂

  5. i am having a dry wedding..simply for the fact this day is special we do not want the drunken drama and we do not want to pay for happy hour…plus drinking and driving….ect ect….its just a no go for us.

    we are having a candy buffet yay sugar and a smoothie bar…and yes our wedding is in the evening…

    people will dance i would not worry…ask them ion the rsvp what songs they might like…

    its your day.


    • Your candy buffet line (yay sugar!) made me LOL. I was actually thinking that caffeine wouldn’t get me on a dance floor, but park some M&Ms in front of me and holy crap, watch out for flying shoes. =)

    • we are having a dry evening reception and a huge candy/non alchy drink bar as well. For all of the same reasons- recovering alcoholics/ driving/ cost…And i know that we are going to have problems with flasks and sneakers… but if they respect us and our decision, they can keep it to themselves!!
      I’m NOT the fun police.. and as long as our guests don’t get my recovering hubby to be to drink, i’m fine with it. at the after party camping area i will probably drink too, but NOT at the family infested reception.. who wants to be a drunken mess on their wedding day?!?

  6. We had no dancing at our wedding.

    We had a “master of ceremonies” who helped our guests stay active and helped them really mingle with each other. One thing he did was conduct a “roast” of sorts by interviewing the guests about the bride and groom and later recounting the results for all of us.

    There was other “entertainment” that kept people engaged and moving: an aerialist, pinatas, a few songs our friends performed.

    I’m certain no one missed the dancing that is expected at a wedding. And although we did have alcohol, we went light. I think that with all the thought that went into keeping our guests active and engaged, we would have had a mighty fine wedding even without the wine.

  7. We had an afternoon wedding, and there was no alcohol. I had no idea that it would be so controversial to not serve liquor! It was unbelievable some of the comments I received. After a while, I just “gently” reminded everyone this was OUR celebration and we would celebrate as we saw fit. A little reminder of how rude it is to expect anything at someone else’s party shut up the rest of the complainers.

    • My partner and I are thinking about a late-fall/early winter wedding and want to opt out of serving alcohol – I’ve been in recovery for 1.5 years and he’s not much a drinker. I’m already dreading my father’s reaction, who was so insistent that my brother have an open bar at his wedding that dad paid for it himself.

      We’re thinking intimate brunch wedding (no booze) and then evening party at a local restaurant, where people can buy their own.

  8. One of the boozeless weddings I went to had a local band playing who played around the area a lot and was friends with the groom. They played their own music (bluegrassy type stuff during a picnic) so those that didn’t want to dance didn’t feel left out, and some new music to watch. There was a no-dancing wedding on here previously with board games, an I thought that was really neat. Maybe the perimeter of your space could have board games or a crafts table or something to keep those people occupied when they look towards the door. They’d be like, ” need to get out of here, oh wait…..Is that a place to make oragami swans?” Or something.

  9. Thanks so much for posting this… I was starting to think I was the only one with a fiance who can’t/doesn’t want to drink. Some of his family are also alcoholics, so we absolutely refuse to hand out an opportunity to turn a nice day into a potential disaster. It’s really hard finding information and suggestions for people who DON’T plan on having booze!

    And Cathy, great idea with the contra dance! I absolutely adore contra, but it’s not my fiance’s thing, sadly… he takes something as simple as a do-si-do and it becomes a major do-si-don’t, complete with major injuries to the head and feet. *so sad*
    I know that other couples have pulled off contra to great effect, however!

    • “he takes something as simple as a do-si-do and it becomes a major do-si-don’t, complete with major injuries to the head and feet. *so sad*”
      LOL!! I’m sorry that this is the case, but at least you said it cutely!! 🙂

  10. I’ve been to weddings without dancing and had a great time–one in particular was outdoors all afternoon and we had games and an evening campfire and no one even noticed the lack of dancing.

    If you really do want yourself & others to get out on the dance floor, how about a little “dance lesson”? If you enjoy swing dancing or tango or some kind of “structured” dancing and you know someone who does it well, maybe have them teach people that dance to a fun song–and then encourage people to switch partners to keep it going?

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