Blog Entries

How I Survive Weddings… Sober

April 04, 2017

Mary R., Crossroads Volunteer Recovery Blogger

My Last Drinking Wedding

The last wedding I attended while I was still drinking remains, both fortunately and unfortunately, a very clear memory.  As they say in AA, “We won’t regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”  I’ve since made amends, but the memory is alive and well. And that’s good; it helps to recall what I never want to do again.

It was about a year before I got sober. I looked forward to this particular black-tie, country club wedding as an opportunity to show off.  Back then, “showing off” was a sport for me. In my self-centered, alcoholic mind, I was always the star rathan than a supporting cast member.

I arrived around 4 pm with a couple bottles of wine in me already.  We were seated next to a woman who used to be a very close friend and I proceeded to ask her about her dad.  She answered incredulously, “He died, Mary.”  (Oh, now I remember. That was actually several years ago, before my heavy drinking.  Oops!) 

As the dancing began after dinner, I joined in and busted out my moves, and kept right on going. As I ordered a round of drinks for all the cool kids at the bar, my daughter pulled me aside and said angrily, “Mom, how much did you have to drink before you got here?”  My indignant answer was, “Nothing!  I’m just having a good time!”  But my inside voice said, “She’s onto me.”

I used to come to these functions looking for attention and acceptance, only to awaken the next day with shame and remorse. It was not a pretty pattern, but one I repeated for many years. Today, I consider what I can give to the party rather than what I can get for myself.

Sober Wedding Survival Tips

When sobriety was new, I was told to avoid events where drinking occurred, unless it was absolutely unavoidable.  Over time, I was told I could remain sober at these events as long as I was working my program and staying spiritually fit.  And I have indeed found that to be true.

But being a non-drinker is still hard.  It’s hard spending hours with friends and family who are in a celebratory mood. It’s hard dealing with the added stress and anxiety as a parent or participant in a wedding. It can all be enough to put any recovering alcoholic on edge, if not over it.

Here are a few tips that have got me through many weddings in sobriety, while actually having a blast:

  • Tip #1:  Eat!  When you’re not focused on standing at the bar, you’ll find the food comes out fast!  Head for that hors d’oeuvres table and stack up a big plate.  If cocktail hour goes on too long, eat more!  Hop in that buffet line, ask your server for seconds, actually EAT the cake!  I realize now that I’m sober how much really good food I never ate before, and I haven’t gotten fat either. 
  • Tip #2:  Be a great listener.  People say all kinds of things at weddings and then forget or regret them later.  With your clear head, you’ll remember everything and can regale your friends and family without actually being the story.  And new people you meet really like it when you care enough to ask about them and listen to their answers.  It feels good to make other people feel good.
  • Tip #3:  Flatter the bride and groom.  Instead of just saying “your wedding was great”, you can offer specific compliments, such as, “Your grandfather’s toast was so touching”, or “I’ve never seen such gorgeous flowers.” Pay close attention to details and even write some down for future reference. 
  • Tip #4:  Be a designated driver. No explanation needed.

New Doors and Second Chances

My daughter’s wedding was held two years after I’d had my last drink and it was the best day of my life as a mom.  On my daughter’s most important day, I behaved like a real mom.  I stayed calm and carried her anxiety so she could enjoy her big day. I actually knew where the bridesmaids’ jewelry had been stashed when my daughter forgot. I didn’t freak out when the navy napkins didn’t arrive and we had to use the white ones. I photographed and recorded all the details of the wedding party getting ready. And I even complimented my ex-husband on his toast. I was there for my daughter in body, mind and spirit, and alcohol stole nothing from us that day.

We do get second chances and I have a few more coming up.  My son will be married next month; my stepson’s wedding is in May; and this September I will go to California to attend the wedding of the family I mentioned in the beginning of this article.  My daughter will be in the wedding party.  And this time, she won’t have to ask me, “Mom, how much did you have to drink before you got here?” 

I don’t regret the past and I don’t wish to shut the door on it.  Those drunken days are a reminder of the train wreck that was once my alcoholic life.  But sobriety has opened new doors for me and given me lots of second chances.  Bring on the wedding season!  I’m sober, and I’m ready for fun!

About the Author:
Mary R. is a wife, mother, daughter, retired business owner and recovering alcoholic who relocated to southwest Florida from Ohio. As a person in recovery, she writes from the heart and shares her strength, hope and experience with others so that they too may recover from the prison of addiction. Her sobriety is strongly engrained in the belief that "you can't keep it unless you give it away."  When not volunteering for David Lawrence Center or actively participating in 12-step meetings, you can find her living her life in recovery to its fullest potential playing tennis, traveling, or trying out a new recipe with family and friends.