How to Make a Sober Wedding Reception Anything But Lame

No alcohol? No problem. We’ve got some refreshing alternatives to a boozy reception that’ll leave everyone satisfied and smiling.
by The Knot

Drinks are fun, but certainly not mandatory at a wedding reception. You could choose to have a nonalcoholic wedding for any number of reasons. You, your partner or your close friends and family might not drink for religious, medical or personal reasons. Or maybe cocktails just aren’t a priority on your must-have checklist. It’s also possible your wedding venue doesn’t have a liquor license, or doesn’t permit alcohol for liability reasons.

Also consider that serving alcohol, particularly a full bar, can get pricey depending on the size of your party and your guests’ appetite for cocktails. With this in mind, you might prefer not to deal with the hassle and the expense. Whatever the situation, own your decision and get ready to plan a fabulous and personalized celebration with a little inspiration from our favorite dry reception ideas.

Make the Most of the Morning

Host your reception at a time when people are less likely to drink or even want alcohol. A morning ceremony calls for a breakfast or brunch reception when, chances are, no one’s expecting an elaborate drink menu. Have a beautiful sunrise ceremony on the beach or in a lush garden followed by a bountiful breakfast, brunch or lunch. Offer freshly pressed juices, smoothies, soda and flavored water, and don’t forget to offer coffee and tea.

Capitalize on Tea Time

Speaking of tea, an afternoon tea reception is another refreshing option. There’s something classic and celebratory about a five o’clock tea reception in a garden, backyard or airy restaurant. Serve sweet and savory bites like sandwiches, pastries, assorted cheeses and fresh fruit. If you’re saying “I do” on a hot day, iced tea is always welcome and provides options for delicious varieties and added flavors like fresh mint, lemon or spices. Coffee fits right in here too—if you’re feeling fancy, consider a coffee and espresso bar complete with mochas, lattes and other special blends of drip coffee.

Take Advantage of What Your Venue Has to Offer

Most wedding venues and caterers offer a variety of alternatives to alcohol, so definitely look to your caterer or reception staff for their ideas, since they’ve likely helped another couple with similar asks. Here’s a rundown of nonalcoholic ideas to ask them about. Serve any or all of these options to keep your guests hydrated and in good spirits. 

Flat Drink Options

  • Bottled, plain, sparkling, flavored or mineral water
  • Nonalcoholic beers and wines (ask your caterer for their recommended brands)
  • Juices and smoothies
  • Floats, malts and milkshakes to satisfy your guests’ sweet tooths—we love the idea of creating an old-fashioned soda fountain experience
  • Creative mocktails, including virgin favorites (like daiquiris, piña coladas and Marys) or new concoctions that can double as signature sips (ask the catering or bar manager to prepare something unexpected to delight your guests)

Sparkling Drink Options (Perfect for Toasting)

For toasts, it’s always nice to raise a glass of something bubbly (although you certainly don’t have to). Take a look at these celebratory options to find your ideal nonalcoholic version of “pop, fizz, clink.”

  • Sparkling cider, apple juice, grape juice or other carbonated juice variety
  • Flavored seltzer water
  • Mock mimosas (usually orange juice with ginger ale)
  • Sodas—including the usual crowd-pleasers or an assortment of trendy new varieties (bonus points if you can find some in fun glass bottles)
  • Ginger ale or ginger beer

Offer a Limited Bar

If you’re trying hard to please a mixed crowd, one compromise between an open bar and a sober reception is to have a limited bar. This could either mean you serve a limited number of drinks—whether it’s only beer and wine or just a signature cocktail or two—or offer an open bar for a limited amount of time. Choose to pass drinks only during your designated cocktail hour, then stop once the reception kicks off. Have the waitstaff pass drinks to keep your guests’ consumption under control, or only bring out beer and wine during dinner. Feel free to play around with what makes you comfortable while still delighting your guests. (The only route we urge you not to take is having a cash bar, which is really just asking guests to pay for an event you invited them to.

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