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6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception

6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception

As you plan your wedding day, you have millions of little details to consider. It is the biggest, most important day of your life. It doesn’t matter whether you are hosting a small, intimate ceremony or something much larger. The key is-it is your day. It is a day devoted to you and your partner. Therefore, it IS all about what you want. If you want to have a drink on the big day, we say enjoy it. If you prefer to stay sober and have your guests stay un-obnoxious, then that is okay, too.

This may seem like a sensitive topic for some. Much the same as we all have that one person in our family that we know we should invite, but we do so anyway. We do it while hoping they don’t make a scene. There are many good reasons to have alcohol, it is a way to liven things up since most people lose their inhibitions. On the other hand, losing inhibitions is maybe not always the desired effect.

If you choose to have a dry wedding, you do have a few more choices to make. At Erin Morrison Photography, we have seen both types of weddings. We have also seen those that allow guests to only partake a little. To help you get started, here are our six tips for planning a dry wedding reception.

6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception
Colorful Summer Wedding at Heartland Meadows

Daytime Nuptials, Daytime Fun

We know that your “time of day” depends largely on when you can get into your dream venue on the day that you have selected for yourselves. Having a morning or early afternoon wedding isn’t always in the cards. However, if you can kind of pick and choose a little, the earlier in the day you aim for, the less likely your guests will miss their favorite wedding hobby.

Most people go to weddings with a preconceived idea of what they will do while there. They watch the ceremony, they mingle with others, and of course, get a little tipsy. The later in the day your wedding takes place, the more even those casual drinkers may want to indulge a little.

6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception

Give Guests a Heads Up

Let’s say you have everything set up and then decide that even though the clock strikes “after 5” you still want the guests to be sober for a photograph. It may not be such a bad thing to tell your guests you are planning a dry wedding before they show up. You can say that you would prefer that they celebrate after the reception, at home or wherever they will be staying.

By giving your guests a warning that no alcohol will be allowed at your wedding ahead of time, they will know not to expect it. We feel this is better than allowing them to show up and then discovering nothing at the bar.

6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception
Rustic Wedding in Townsend, Tennessee

Rethink Your Reception

We do feel that the father-daughter dance, throwing of the bouquet, and other reception events are worth keeping. Alcohol, good or bad, tends to make people more courageous. Without that helping hand, you may have to rethink the goal of having crazy Uncle Al bust a move on the dance floor.

Instead of relying on dancing or other craziness at your reception, you may want to consider other options. Depending on your wedding reception location, you can choose from several fun indoor or outdoor wedding game ideas.

The goal is to allow guests to view your wedding reception as not a place to drink, but a place to play. Since there is no dance floor, no one has to get performance anxiety. They don’t need the alcohol cause the group is playing and not trying to work up the courage.

6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception
Rustic Glam Wedding in Knoxville

Offer Alternative Beverage Choices

From mocktails or “Virgin Hurricanes”, to watermelon-lime coolers, your guests can get the satisfaction of drinking their favorite chilled beverages without the buzz. There are many alternative beverages or party drinks that you can bring out during your reception. If you serve them chilled, many guests may not even realize that they are drinking non-alcohol.

6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception
Sustainable Wedding at The Quarry Venue

Allow Children and Allow Activities

There is something about having kids around that will make most people remain casual. They typically won’t get too tipsy if kids are nearby. You can pick games for kids that adults may join in on. Sack races or croquet are two examples.

If you aren’t sure about having kids attend because of the venue location or other reasons, you can still take note of the games that children play. For instance, you could host a game of Twister or get a bounce house rental for adults. Offer prizes to anyone who plays and wins. You could even consider a game of Pictionary or Charades. You know the adults in your family better than anyone. Do you think they would let their hair down for some good, old-fashioned, childish fun?

6 Tips for Planning a Dry Wedding Reception
Rainy Spring Wedding at Dara’s Garden

Set The Tone

Themed weddings that are based on something other than alcohol are a good option to keep people from thinking about a tall glass of bubbly. Have your DJ play not only good songs that make guests want to dance, but they can also keep it lively and entertaining without booze. A good DJ knows how to read the mood of the guests. They know how to get the party started and keep it rolling.

To take it one step further, you can also choose a wedding theme style that ensures guests don’t miss out on drinking. You can set up a milkshake factory, or candy store, or fill their bellies with an open buffet.

jewel-toned wedding at private estate
Jewel-Toned Wedding at Private Estate

Final Thoughts

Whether you are trying to stay sober or you have beliefs that do not allow you to consider indulging on your most special day, there are options. You have to balance what you want and what makes you comfortable with what your guests want or need. This isn’t easy.

If you don’t want people to get drunk, which can pose a problem, but you don’t mind them having a few sips, you can do this as well. At Erin Morrison Photography, we see both sides of this coin. We know that drinking at a wedding isn’t right for everyone. We also know that a wedding without alcohol isn’t going to be as fun for some. From a photographer’s point of view, we know that drinking can make things interesting as well. If you’re curious, check out our other blog post “Alcohol at Weddings? Let’s Chat“.

No matter which you choose, we hope our six tips for planning a dry wedding reception have helped. We want to help you make your wedding day memories special for years to come. We can capture the laughs and the smiles from your entire wedding party and guest list. We can also give you fun ideas for your wedding day photographs if you want. Simply contact us, and we will help you through the tough decisions ahead.


Natural light + honest photographer for all humans.


Knoxville, Tennessee



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