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.

Lovesick Brooklyn 2015

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

  1. I don’t disagree with the comments above at all – I’m on board with it being disrespectful (EVEN if you actually feel fine, and don’t feel bad about yourself, for wanting to do it or deciding to do it – it’s still disrespectful).

    But, I’ve seen a few comments equating ‘wanting to drink’ with ‘wanting to get drunk’ and that’s, well, it’s neither accurate nor precise.

    I’ll admit it: I usually want to drink at dry weddings. I won’t do so (I might do so before or after though), but I want to, and yes, I do feel the dryness dulls the enjoyment a little bit. The happiness for the couple? No – that’s still out in force. But the party itself? I don’t need alcohol to have fun almost all of the time (i.e. if I’m not at a party) but parties, to me, are specifically events whose recipe for fun includes alcohol. I’ll still “enjoy the party”, but perhaps a bit less than I would have with some wine. And that’s OK – someone else’s wedding is not about me, so it doesn’t matter.

    But I do feel a lot of people want to not only make their own decisions for their own weddings (which – cool!) but also want every guest to be totally overjoyed at each decision (which honestly just ain’t gonna happen – and that’s also OK), and are mortally wounded when they hear that actually, not every guest is thrilled with every decision, rather than just shrugging and being all “so what? can’t please ’em all” about it.

    If a guest isn’t thrilled at the dryness of your wedding…well, so what? Can’t please ’em all. But it’s unrealistic to be hurt that they are anything other than thrilled. They can still be thrilled for your marriage and yet not thrilled at the lack of adult beverages.

    I STILL won’t drink…but honestly, I’ll want to. I don’t feel bad about that. And it does not mean that I “want to get drunk” or “care more about getting trashed”. That’s just not correct. Most people who want a drink or two won’t get drunk. I never get trashed anymore, it feels too gross.

    So please, I implore the commentariat, don’t equate “some people prefer to drink at a wedding” with “some people just want to get drunk at a wedding”. It is just not true.

    • I was scrolling down to say the exact same thing, but I definitely couldn’t have said it better than you did here! Just because someone wants to have a drink at a wedding does not mean that that person cares more about drinking than about the couple. If they did, they probably wouldn’t be at the wedding at all. Like you said, they “can still be thrilled for your marriage and yet not thrilled at the lack of adult beverages.”

      I think it is a very controversial decision (in some circles) not to have alcohol at a wedding. I also think it’s really mean to tell someone you won’t attend their wedding if they don’t serve alcohol, and it’s disrespectful to sneak it in. But to pretend that it’s not a controversial decision, or to be crushed to find out that someone is upset that you’re not serving alcohol…well, I think that’s on you to deal with.

      This is one of those decisions were you have to stand firm and say, “No. Nope. This is what’s right for me, and it’s not my job to make everyone else 100% happy at my wedding. It’s only my job to try to make myself happy. I can’t please everyone.” And then when you find out that people are disappointed, you have to find a way to cope with that on your own.

      • Honestly, I think it’s silly that it’s “controversial.” There are dozens of other social events that one would go to without being majorly bummed if there wasn’t alcohol. Barbeques. Birthday parties. Lunch with friends. A symposium. Even a bridal shower. Might a beer be nice at those things? Sure. But is anyone going to threaten to not come, or gripe about it, or judge the host, if alcohol isn’t offered? I doubt it. Why are weddings so much more fraught re: the alcohol thing? Why is that considered an integral part of the experience, especially given the range of weddings we see now?

        You can want a drink, but if you say anything about how tacky a dry wedding is, or you sneak alcohol in against the couple’s wishes, or you threaten not to come, that very clearly sends the message that your alcohol consumption is more important than that couple’s wishes or the party they’ve painstakingly crafted for you.

        • Actually, I really prefer alcohol at barbecues, and if it’s not provided I will quite likely either opt out or bring my own. And I don’t think that’s rude or unfair, either.

          Also, I disagree that a wedding is a party “crafted for you”. It’s not. It’s crafted for THEM. Which is fine, of course, but let’s all acknowledge that the party is for the couple, shall we?

          • Eh. The couple may get the gifts, but let’s be real: We’re spending a ton of money to host an enjoyable party for all these people who have come from near and far (mostly far) to see us. Wedding etiquette issues like this one almost exclusively cater to the guest experience, not the couple’s experience. Anyone who’s planning a wedding knows the demands and requests that come from other people and has made compromises on their original vision. So no, I’d say the whole point of weddings (that is, non-elopement weddings) is to put on a show for other people. Weddings have little bearing on the actual marriage.

            Also, while I don’t think it’s “rude or unfair” for you to opt out of a dry barbeque, it’s my opinion that it’s a silly reason to decline. I feel that going and spending time with loved ones, even if you’re sober, would still be more fun than staying at home.

        • I agree that it’s poor manners to sneer openly at the lack of alcohol or call it “tacky”.

          Along those lines though, it is also probably not the best idea for the couple to go fishing for validation (and yes, this does happen). If you are having a dry wedding, fine. I will still come, I won’t drink, and I won’t say a word about it unless directly asked (and possibly not even then). I will absolutely have a drink perhaps before or after, but that doesn’t concern you.

          If, however, I’m cornered and asked what I think of the dry wedding and if I think it’ll be less fun than a wedding where the wine flows freely…

          …well, the honest answer to that is “yes, I do think it’ll be a bit less fun”.

          What was the old nugget? Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to. You know your guests would mostly prefer alcohol be served, so if you choose not to, it’s probably best not to ask them what they think of that.

          The vast majority won’t be so rude as to say something about it unless you solicit their opinions.

        • Actually I would be bummed not to have alcohol at ALL of those events. Even at a symposium I’d likely have a drink with lunch if it were on the weekend, and I would DEFINITELY wxpect to drink at a baby shower. And I guess that’s part of that for me. I’ve already given you a gift, and most of my weekend (provided that I’m not also traveling). I would never not go to a dry wedding just because it’s dry (though I might skip a baby shower for that reason), and I *probably* wouldn’t sneak in a flask, but you can’t expect me to have zero feelings about the absence of alcohol. It’s a little disappointing is all. I won’t judge you for your dry wedding, and you shouldn’t judge me for my mild disappointment.

          • You would skip a baby shower if there was no alcohol. You do realize a pregnant woman can’t drink?

  2. Our venue doesn’t allow hard liquor, so we are fully hosting beer and wine for our guests. However, we have mentioned to a few people the venues’ rule, and they’ve made jokes about sneaking in a flask. This says 2 things to me; a) even though my fiancé and I are providing you unlimited beer and wine, you feel you can’t have a good time without hard liquor, and b) you don’t care whether we get in trouble with our venue and lose our deposit. I think it’s rude, simple as that.

  3. I think for myself, its the fact that the decision to have a dry wedding was probably influenced by people being in recovery from addiction that moves the decision to sneak in alcohol from, a basic ‘you should respect the extremely reasonable request from the person who has invited you to share their day’ into ‘you probably need to take some time on your own to think about whether you are currently thinking about the ways your actions effect others, or if you are currently extremely self involved, because you were willing to cause potential harm/relapse/trauma in order to have a drink.’

    I don’t want to make assumptions about your drinking levels, because I don’t have any info about that, but I wonder what your personal relationship is with alcohol and with addiction and recovery. Whether for yourself or people close to you. The fact that you wrote in shows you are questioning your decision, I feel like this is a good time for some self reflection.

  4. I think the simplest answer is:

    Do you want to support and honor your friend/relative and their day or would you rather be selfish?

    Because, bottom line, it is selfish to introduce an element into someone else’s day that they are uncomfortable having there. How about you bring a guest even though there’s no +1? There are a million examples to be made. [The vegan example is damn perfection.] Honestly, if you anticipate that the wedding will be so boring that you can’t make it through sober and present, don’t go. Or meet up with people afterwards for an after-party of your own making (and expense).

  5. I’m on board with the “yes, it’s disrespectful.” I completely understand wanting to have a drink or two at a social event. It acts as a social lubricant and might make the conversation flow better among people who don’t know each other all that well. It gives you something to do with your hands. It gives you an excuse to get away from an awkward conversations “Oh! I need to refresh my drink!” But it’s not necessary!
    Whether a wedding is fun for me or not does not depend on the presence or consumption of alcohol. Especially since finding out about a medical condition which makes it risky for me to drink alcohol at all. We’re having alcohol at our wedding, but if we weren’t, and I found out that someone had snuck it in or cut out early to go to a bar I would be hurt. Hurt that they obviously didn’t care enough about me to respect my wishes for my wedding day. Hurt that drinking was more important than celebrating my marriage.

    • Really? You would be hurt if someone left early so they could take care of their own needs without disrespectfully bringing alcohol into a dry wedding?

      • I think “needs” is a little strong. They’re not cutting out early to go home and take their insulin shot.

      • You’re at my wedding/event because I like your company and want you to be there, so, barring illness or bodily functions, if you peace out without telling me, even if you come back, that’s still rude.

        This isn’t that much different from going out to get McDonald’s because you don’t like the food served at the wedding. If you’re vegan and there’s no vegan options at the wedding, that’s not your fault, that’s on the host if you told them your dietary restriction(s). But if you discover that they’re serving chicken and what you really want is a hamburger, that’s not a “need” and it’s rude to go get one.

  6. I think that for me, this burns down to respecting the space that someone has created, and finding ways to meet your own needs around that.

    I take part in events at my local Salvation Army hall, and the ‘no drinking’ rule is a big deal to them, so it would feel wrong and disrespectful to me to take alcohol into the building.
    I feel like it’s the same deal when someone creates a one-off event that imposes certain rules: if it’s someone’s intention to create a space that allows x but not y, I feel that intention should be honoured while you are actually within that space.

    At the same time, I am a big believer in the importance of alcohol as part of social ritual. I rarely drink on my own, but sharing a drink with friends is an important social experience for me in situations where such a thing would normally be expected, and I would feel the loss if I was at a wedding where that didn’t happen.
    And that really doesn’t have anything to do with needing alcohol to have a good time, or wanting to get drunk. It’s more that alcohol is a part of my mental picture of ‘things you find at a wedding reception’, so I’d notice it not being there.
    (I’m guessing that weddings without dancing also have a certain number of guests going ‘no dancing? meh’, even if there are bunches of other things to do. You have to work hard to get past the expectations.)

    Instead of trying to sneak in the ‘missing elements’, though, I feel that a more positive way of dealing with that would be to think of ways to fill the niche *outside* the venue space.
    If the wedding is dry, maybe it would be possible to arrange a meet-up with drinks some time around the wedding (after hours? the night before?), so you have that time with your friends/family separate from the wedding?
    If the wedding is vegan, and you’re a big meat eater, perhaps you could aim to have a really good cooked breakfast beforehand?

    Unless you’re genuinely stranded in the middle of nowhere with no free time to yourself for the whole day, there are probably ways to tick all (or most) of your personal boxes in a way that enhances the day, without any need for sneaking.

  7. I think some of the comments about the LW are needlessly harsh, and some of them make unfair assumptions about LW. It’s clear that LW does NOT think that what they did was okay, and in that way, Ariel’s advice is spot-on. But to assume LW has a drinking problem, or to outright call LW an “asshole,” is totally unfair and unnecessary. It also ignores a pretty basic truth: like it or not, people sometimes bring alcohol to dry weddings. (Every episode of every wedding show I have ever seen in which a dry wedding was featured filmed multiple — not one, but multiple — people sneaking alcohol into the wedding.)

    And at the end of the day, I would be willing to bet that some of those people don’t even see what they’re doing as being all that bad — not because they’re assholes or drunks or whatever, but because it doesn’t seem like that much of a violation to them. And trying to teach people why it is bad by calling them “assholes” is not productive.

    I’m not condoning LW’s behavior, especially in light of the fact that LW was clearly uncomfortable with it, but LW is not evil.

    • Agreed. Friends, our comment policy still applies here — you can get your point across (strongly, even) without calling someone an asshole.

  8. From a wedding vendor perspective not only is it disrespectful but it can jeopardize the couple’s day and any vendor’s associated with the alcohol’s livelihood.

    Sometime dry weddings are dry for other reasons besides moral opinions…$$$$. Alcohol service is expensive and for good reason. The liability alone for a vendor to offer this service can be outrageous in some states which is why this service can come with a high price causing couples to nix the idea. There are ways to reduce this cost provided there aren’t restrictions from the venue causing a couple to utilize the required vendors.

    Alcohol liability ultimately will fall on the host of the party(typically one of the couple) and if a couple does not choose to obtain a single event insurance or hire someone who is insured they may opt to not deal with the liability at all…*ie a Dry wedding.

    An accident cause from drinking at an event can ultimately make the host of the event responsible. It is a long shot at a dry wedding however lawyers will find any and every loop hole and possibility to sue and place fault on anyone they can. Plus some couples do not have it in their budget to supply alcohol at their event.

    So yes, in my opinion it is disrespectful not only for my reasons stated but for the many reasons stated in response to this post.

  9. Yeah, it’s disrespectful. And rude. And inconsiderate.

    Like many commenters have pointed out, sneaking alcohol into a dry wedding could put the entire wedding at risk. It could put someone’s sobriety at risk.

    I’m not going to say that if you want to drink at a party you’re an alcoholic. I’m 24 years old, I enjoy drinking and getting drunk, and I had an open bar at my wedding. I get the alcohol is fun thing.

    But if sneaking in a drink is more important to you than respecting the wishes of the people who are getting married, who invited you to share this day with them, maybe you should reevaluate why you’re going to the wedding in the first place.

    They invited you, asked you not to drink at the event, and you did anyway. Of course it’s disrespectful. Of course it’s rude. And taking into consideration that it could have shut down their entire reception, yes, it’s also very inconsiderate.

    And maybe because it was your cousin’s wedding and not a close friend, you feel that they invited you because they had to and not because they wanted to. Maybe you didn’t really want to be there. Maybe you think their reasons for having a dry wedding were invalid or not good enough. Maybe you think they should have warned you that it would be dry. Maybe you think they should have provided better-tasting punch (I’ve been there). But you went to the wedding, and you should have respected their choices. That’s what Offbeat Bride is all about: respecting the choices that people hosting weddings make, even if you really, really don’t get it.

  10. Yeah, long story short, disrespectful, rude and inconsiderate, but you’ve already got the gist of that.

    It’s good that you’ve realized this was a bad move and I’m sure you’re sorry for it. My only concern is, would the bride forgive you if she found out? What if you were caught? Would that damage your relationship with them?

    I’ve expressly forbidden illicit substances from our wedding for various reasons and I’m not sure I’d be able to forgive someone who decided to sneak them in. If you can’t go without for the night, maybe you just shouldn’t go.

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