Open thread: Is it disrespectful to sneak alcohol into a dry wedding?

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Is it ok to sneak booze into a dry wedding?

Recently I went to a cousin's wedding. She used to party but has recently stopped drinking, and her wedding was dry — punch and water were the only beverages served. I respect her decision to throw the reception she wanted, however, my brother and I wanted to drink something with a little burn. Is it terrible to leave a wedding in a park, go to the liquor store nearby, and sneak back in with our well-hidden brown bag? Nobody noticed we were drinking anything other than the Sunday school punch they were serving. Was that tacky and disrespectful for my brother and I to do?

The short answer is yes, it is disrespectful to sneak alcohol into dry wedding. The longer answer is still yes — but maybe not for the reasons you think.

It's up to you to decide whether you want to respect the wishes of the host of an event you're attending, even if you don't agree with them and could get away with breaking the rules.

Of course you can sneak booze into a dry wedding. Personally, I think most events are better with a flask. As long as you're discreet and don't get obviously inebriated, of course you can get away with it. As long as no one knows, no one's really hurt by your actions.

… But does it feel good?

To me, this question is bigger than alcohol. (Which is a pretty big issue, when you toss in religion and addiction.) Let's say we're talking about a vegan wedding… are you going to sneak some cold-cuts in your purse? Assuming no one smells you, you could probably get away with it (but ew?). Let's say I'm planning an unplugged wedding, and you take a picture with your cell phone without me knowing… that doesn't hurt me. I don't know, I don't care, and meh, whatever!

But do you feel right with yourself for having done that? Ultimately it doesn't matter what the couple or even the internet thinks… how do you feel about YOURSELF?

Based on the fact that you're writing to a wedding blog asking for absolution, my guess is you don't feel great about the decision. While of course it's nice to respect other people's wishes because it's, well, respectful… you're the one who gets to sit with the feelings afterward.

Did it hurt the bride that you brought booze? If you were discreet, probably not. Does it matter if the internet thinks you're “tacky?” Meh, probably not.

… But does it feel good TO YOU to wonder if you were disrespectful? Nope, that feeling sucks. Doubt and regret will follow you around like a farting dog, nipping at your heels and making embarrassing noises and smelling like cold-cuts in your purse at a vegan wedding.

Living your life with integrity is something you do not because it's “tacky” not to or because you might get caught. (I'm here to tell you that the internet thinks everything is tacky.) Living your life with integrity is something you do because you're the one who has to live with the feels when you don't.

I don't know about you, but feeling disappointed in myself is way worse than spending a wedding sober.

Then again, I'm the one who traveled across the country cohosting alternative wedding expos with a flask in hand at all times, so I'm clearly pro-flask. I'm just even more for feeling good about your decisions.

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Comments on Open thread: Is it disrespectful to sneak alcohol into a dry wedding?

  1. We chose to have a dry wedding reception so I wouldn’t have to see my dad drunk and manic. He has a long history of doing terrible things when drinking, and I had hoped to avoid some of that behavior at my wedding. Unfortunately, he and a few of our out of town guests decided to leave the reception and bring drinks back. It made me feel pretty shitty to know my guests, and especially my dad, couldn’t find a way to enjoy and celebrate the day with us without getting trashed. My husband and I chose to abstain from drinks ourselves- something we both enjoy- to prevent this from happening. It sucks to know that choice was made in vain.

    • I wouldn’t say it was in vain. You have the comfort of knowing you didn’t facilitate his drinking. In fact, I would say you went out of your way to help him. You can feel good about that! But ultimately you can’t control what he does — only how you react.

        • My Mom got fall down drunk at our wedding; this after asking, pleading, begging, threatening, etc. her to please slow her roll and not make a fool of herself and respect me enough not to drink to the point of being plastered. She did it anyways and fell down the bus stairs, rolled around on the ground with her dress above her head, etc. An alcoholic is an alcoholic… nothing will change them. I admire you for taking it to the level of having a dry wedding. But, I truly believe that had I done that, my Mom would have done the same thing as your Dad did. Just know you are not alone in your disappointment and hurt. ((hugs))

  2. Sorry, sweetie, but if you have to ask if it’s disrespectful, then it probably is. There are a bajillion reasons why a couple may choose their dry venue or to have a dry wedding, and none of them are so you’re “gonna have a bad time” (said in South Park ski instructor voice). Our venue is a junior college campus that doesn’t allow alcohol or smoking, so my wedding is ipso facto a dry wedding even though my fiance and I hardly teetotalers. The sentimental value of my venue (it’s where my parents met and got married AND where my fiance and I met) wayyyy overshadowed the need to have alcohol at the wedding, and most people understand this. My fiance and I are socially anxious people who sometimes drink to loosen up at parties–we understand why people like alcohol at social gatherings, believe you me!–but it hurts our feelings when we tell someone that our wedding will be dry* and they say it won’t be fun/they won’t come, even in jest, because it implies that their relationship to alcohol is stronger than their relationship to us. THAT’S why it’s disrespectful.

    *Typical dry-wedding policy seems to be “don’t ask, don’t tell” and no one will miss the alcohol, but when my parents got married at this venue, the venue’s alcohol/smoking policy was different, so we tell people who went to their wedding so they don’t get kicked out for smoking in the woods/taking swigs from a flask and claim that no one warned them.

  3. There’s tacky and there is rude. Sneaking things in is the latter.

    Also, if the bride/groom has very specific reasons for wanting a dry wedding, especially if they once had a problem but is now trying to fly straight, you’re being sort of a jerk. Unless you’re just drinking vodka, someone is going to smell it. I could kinda see if they were just saving money by not having alcohol, but if they are actively trying to not drink you’re being disrespectful. That’s not ‘offbeat’, it’s just plain rude.

    • Why on earth do people believe that vodka doesn’t smell? Its alcohol, just like any other alcohol, and yes, if you drink vodka, people smell it, just the same as they smell rye or rum. And yes, sneaking alcohol of any kind into a dry wedding reception is rude, tacky and just plain wrong.

  4. It’s a couple hours of your life — is it so crucial to have booze at every social event that you MUST sneak it in? I’m a fan of social drinking, & there are places where I might sneak booze in, but usually to avoid paying exorbitant prices for someone else’s booze or to have my specific choice of booze instead of the booze being served, not bec. someone specifically asked me not to drink.

  5. I have been on both sides of this question. My old roommates and I created intricate duct tape flask garters to smuggle rum into a friends dry wedding. I once snuck out of my sisters wedding reception to enjoy some trunk wine with my aunts.

    Fast forward several years later and my husband has just graduated from an intensive recovery program. I can imagine that if we were getting married now that we’d have a dry wedding so that we could get married in the safest supportive environment possible. And for us, right now in our lives, that is a sober.

    I used to think, and declare loudly, that people who had dry weddings hated fun. How clearly I was wrong. I still like a good cold beer, flask of rum, or glass of trunk wine, but I learned that respecting people’s safe places is more important. Also, fun is fun, regardless of whether it is boozy fun or sober fun.

  6. One thing to bear in mind with sneaking your own booze into anywhere, regardless of disrespecting your hosts wishes, you may be jeopardising that venue. People try to bring in their own drinks to the place I work even though it has an alcohol license. If you’re caught doing this and the council/authorities see the venue as being complicit in this or view the venue to be breaching the terms of their license, you may be putting the venue at risk.

    Not a problem for you, but could be a problem for anyone else using the venue after you if all of a sudden they can no longer serve alcohol or have their terms of service severely restricted, or indeed it gets shut down as it has been known to happen round here.

    Its a little selfish to only think of your own buzz

    • Or the entire wedding reception could be ended and everybody kicked out..right the middle of the party.

      Because of you…

    • THIS. My husband and I got married and hosted our reception at a very special location (a summer camp in the mountains overlooking a lake … ahhhh…) There was sunshine, delicious food, coffee, cake, punch, but because of liability insurance costs, they do not allow alcohol on the premises. If one of my guests had smuggled in a flask and there had been any sort of incident the venue AND my new family would be in serious financial and legal trouble. Don’t be THAT DUMMY.

  7. There is a much bigger reason for not sneaking alcohol into a reception. Most venues (and the law) requires all alcoholic beverages be served by a certified Bartender. If the inspector happens to stop in and find alcohol of any kind at an event without bartenders, the facility can be fined and banned from serving alcohol at future events. In addition, parking lots fall into open container laws. So your sneaking sip or two can have legal ramifications of which you have no idea. Respect the hosts and enjoy the party they provide. Go out to a bar afterwards.

    • I was thinking the same thing. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a wedding reception where someone didn’t ‘sneak’ in some kind of alcohol. If you are being discreet I wouldn’t care if it happened at my wedding (same with sneaking in cold cuts if that’s what you really want to do).
      But also, the LW mentioned a ‘park’. I know that a lot of public parks in my state have very weird rules about alcohol. In my city it’s technically illegal to walk around on public property with an open container. Just keep that sort of thing in mind if you are going to partake.

    • This! My wedding is in a dry city, so it’s actually illegal for us to have a bar at our wedding. As I mentioned in another comment, my venue is a dry college campus (students there are college freshmen and sophomores, so it’s presumed they’re under the American legal drinking age of 21), so sneaking in a flask is considered to be facilitating underage drinking, even if you’re 21 or over, even if “college students drink anyway,” even if blah blah blah excuses. Someone getting arrested at my wedding would DEFINITELY bring out the bridezilla in me!

    • Ha! We pretty much wrote the same thing.

      Bartenders have a duty of care not to serve anyone who is intoxicated (in the UK at least, and they are individually responsible for this, not the establishment they work for). If you’re helping yourself, who is keeping an eye on your intake and wellbeing? What if you’re taken ill and nobody has figured out you’ve been drinking? There’s potentially a lot more consequences beyond being tacky

      • Here in the states the venue and the bartender will be responsible. And here is the worst of it. If someone is drinking at your wedding and later involved in an automobile accident they caused, the injured party can sue you because the drinking happened at your event. Sucks, but that is our legal system.

  8. I went to a dry wedding that was pretty tame (no music, no dancing, venue had to be cleaned up and vacated by 11pm). It was doubly painful because the front part of the venue was a beautiful century-old oak bar, with 20 or more (empty) taps and shelf upon shelf of.. nothing. Between the church ceremony and the reception, we were left to our own devices for an hour and a half.

    I went with my bf’s family to a little patio nearby and we had a couple of glasses of wine before heading back to the reception. I’m so glad we did – I find weddings where I’m the “plus one” to be anxiety-ridden, and while I’m certainly not a big drinker, it did help take the edge off.

    I completely understand weddings where religious or addiction reasons means booze is off the table. And I would never get stinking drunk at a wedding like that, or pre-drink to excess because it would likely be embarrassing for everyone and I wouldn’t want to steal focus. That being said, weddings where these reasons are not present and not even a glass of wine or a champagne toast is provided get a little eyebrow raise from me. Weddings are inherently awkward – quick! throw a party that your highschool girlfriend, grandmother, priest and coworker can all enjoy!- and a little social lubricant can make things nicer for the folks who travelled all this way to come celebrate you.

    • I don’t think the bride or groom are obligated to explain why they don’t have alcohol at their wedding. Sure, they might explain why, because alcohol at weddings is such an ingrained American cultural norm, but they might not want to disclose if their reasons are that one of them is in recovery or that they have alcoholic family members. Why go to a wedding to look for things to raise an eyebrow at? Enjoy the free food and party!

    • Does this feel different to anyone else? Sneaking alcohol into a party that is supposed to be dry feels disrespectful to me, as does leaving a reception to get booze and coming back, but taking a break that has been scheduled into the wedding to go get a drink doesn’t. I think it’s the differentiation between “host’s space, time and vision” and “my time.” When you accept an invitation you accept the host’s vision for that space and time, and on your own time you can do whatever you want.

      • I agree, popping out during a scheduled time for a cheeky drink is much, much different than sneaking in booze or coming back hammered.

  9. I’m afraid I’m going to have to agree that this is pretty rude and disrespectful. In fact, I’m actually pretty offended just thinking about it, even though I drink and we are having alcohol at our reception. If I had a dry wedding and found out that someone did this, I would just be so hurt at the implication that someone I made room for in my budget and seat limit cares more about getting drunk than about my comfort at my own wedding. It would make me feel like they weren’t really happy to celebrate my marriage and didn’t care about me. If you’re really not close enough to the couple to give up alcohol/meat/whatever for a few hours out of respect for them, do everyone a favor and RSVP no.

    • I do agree, except…not every person who would prefer a drink at a wedding or party “cares more about getting drunk”, as most don’t want to get drunk. They just want a drink. It’s still not on you to provide that, but the distinction is important. “I want a drink” =/= I want to get drunk”.

      • I agree that having a drink doesn’t make you a drunk, but I think the implication was that being unable to go a few hours drink-free is very odd.

        People expect alcohol at a wedding, but if it were another dry event for the same period of time, such as a kids birthday party, they’d be fine. I’m not against drinking, but I’d be really offended if someone drank at my dry wedding. I just don’t understand why it’s THAT big of a deal to not have booze, you know?

        • There are plenty of reasons why someone would want a dry wedding (or any type of event): religious & personal beliefs, attendees in recovery, legal or venue restrictions, wanting to mitigate risk of people getting intoxicated.

          Anyone who sees an issue with not being able to drink for a few hours likely has some serious problems. As a previous commenter said, if you can’t go without alcohol for a few hours or disagree with having a dry event then the only respectful thing to do is send regrets and not attend.

        • It’s more like as I said below: I don’t need a few drinks to go a few hours. Most people don’t. Most people who want alcohol at parties and weddings don’t.

          But for me, a party (including a wedding reception) is something whose recipe includes alcohol. It just does. Without it it’s…well I guess it’s still a party but something fundamental about it has been changed.

          But really my issue is that you used the word “drunk” when it’s not accurate. We do not all want to get drunk just because we’d like a drink.

          And actually, yeah, it is hard for me at parties without a drink or two (never more than three spaced out). I’m that weird combination of extroverted but socially awkward, so without a little Dutch courage I feel weird socializing in large groups. Doesn’t make me a drunk.

      • Kit is correct. If someone just enjoys alcohol without getting drunk, there’s no reason they can’t wait a while until after the wedding. It strikes me as bizarre or problematic to be so insistent on drinking at that specific event where it’s not permitted that someone is willing to sneak it in. Especially since most reasons someone could have for not serving alcohol (religious objections, addiction recovery, legal issues with the venue) are pretty serious.

        • That’s not what was said though. She said:

          “I would just be so hurt at the implication that someone I made room for in my budget and seat limit cares more about getting drunk than about my comfort at my own wedding”

          – the very small issue I’m bringing up is the assumption that “wants a drink” = “wants to get drunk”. That’s all.

          I actually agree with the rest of the post, but that sort of false dichotomy (“people who don’t care about drinking” vs. “people who just want to get drunk”) is worth calling out.

          • As someone who has worked at many venues with both wet and dry weddings, my experience has been that someone who sneaks in alcohol doesn’t want just one or two drinks. They end up being drunk.

            I think you are making a mountain out of the molehill however. The original poster would probably be just as upset at someone who only wanted a drink or two compared to someone who wanted to get drunk.

  10. Yeaaaah, let’s talk about how their wedding was in a park. Alcohol was probably forbidden by the city. People get away with it, but you did risk getting yelled by a city official at or a fine–possibly, the fine could’ve gone to your cousin for “allowing” alcohol at their event.
    There’s always a reason that people hosting a party make the choices that they do, and choosing to subvert those choices says, “Your party isn’t good enough for me.” And maybe nobody will notice, but probably you’re not half as slick as you think you are. ^_^* At least I always notice when people are secret drinking or toking.

    • Yep. We’re looking at doing our rehearsal dinner in a park and the city will shut down the whole event if someone has alcohol. I would have liked to offer beer or something to our guests, but we can’t. And I would be pretty pissed if our rehearsal dinner–let alone a wedding!–got shut down because someone just had to have alcohol.

      (I, too, look askance at people who claim that weddings are only fun if there’s drinking. It’s like, I’m glad you have so much faith in my ability to host a fun get-together sober.)

      • Getting married in August, having our ceremony at one park in town & the reception at a different park about 6 blocks away. The reason – the ordinances are different at the parks. The ceremony site doesn’t allow alcohol, but the other park does. Due to the fact that we want to have a toast using our favorite Bourbon, having everything at the ceremony site did not fit into our plans. Although not being able to make the toast with our favorite adult beverage, wasn’t a deal breaker, our day would be great either way.

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