Throwing Dad Off The Wagon

by admin on October 8, 2012

I read a story in the “Dear Prudence” column that has bothered me a bit. So I thought I’d ask you.
The story is called “No wine at the wedding?”.

My question is – is it that important to serve alcohol at a wedding that they are willing to choose father of the Groom not attending the reception in favor of serving alcohol? It is not clear who is paying for the wedding. But even if the bride’s parents are footing all the bill, is it fair to keep the groom’s father out of the celebration, despite the fact that the groom really wants him to be there, just because they don’t want to other guests to think they are “cheap” and “odd”. From the post, it doesn’t seem that FOG is an obnoxious man, and he is taking full responsibility of his recovery. Is it asking too much not to tempt him and disrupt his recovery while he attends his son’s wedding?

I would like to know what the admin and other posters think.

What I see here are two families unwilling to budge on the issue.   Groom’s father needs to take responsibility for managing his alcohol addiction in a way that does not alienate everyone else around him.   I understand the desire to not be tempted by alcohol to avoid falling off the wagon but at some point in recovery, one has to stop relying on external controls put in place by others and employ internal restraints.   In effect, FOG is saying, “My need to not see an alcoholic beverage trumps your desire for my attendance at the reception.”   Alcoholism is selfish and recovery must include moving away from selfishness to grow in more altruism and selflessness.  Apparently the FOG isn’t at that point.

On the other hand, the bride’s parents have stated that there is no possible way to have a decent reception without alcohol.   We’ve discussed this before on the blog….of course it is NOT a necessity to serve alcohol at a wedding reception. The parents of the bride are selfishly focused on how their guests will perceive them and not on what is the best solution for everyone, not just the father of the groom.   (Clue by four to the parents of the bride…if your friends really would frown down on you and speak ill for a lack of alcohol at a wedding, you have pathetically shallow friends you would be better off not having.  Unless you happen to be as shallow as they are.)  Ego and alcohol appear to be of a higher priority than the groom’s wishes and his relationship with his father.

FOG should find a willing family member or even be allowed to invite an Alcoholics Anonymous mentor and sponsor to accompany him for moral support and oversight.    If he can be seated at a table of fellow teetotalers, all the better!   Or the parents of the bride can forgo having alcohol at the reception and instead have a bride’s family only after party amongst themselves with plenty of booze flowing.


Addendum:  Best Comment to this post was this:

Earlier I stated that the wedding is not the place to draw the line in the sand regarding the Father of the Groom and his “I won’t attend functions with alcohol” stance. And I suggested that the bride should treat it like a deadly allergey.

However, my mom has been sober for 28 years now. And when I mentioned this to her she rolled her eyes and said “This is what sponsors are for. Someone needs to tell this guy ‘Oh no you don’t! You are not hijacking these kid’s wedding with your own drama! The sun doesn’t revolve around you, Bucko’ Just because someone has become sober doesn’t mean they’ve become a good person. This guy needs to stop being so self-obsessed and selfish. It’s not his wedding. He doesn’t get to make demands.”

Since she has 28 years of sobriety I bow to her greater knowledge and authority.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Meegs October 8, 2012 at 10:16 am

Personally I don’t see it as it is so important to serve alcohol at a wedding that they choose to have the father of the groom not attend. I think its more like the father of the groom is choosing not to attend and not take responsibility for his own recovery, a very large part of which is learning how to cope with the fact that other people drink alcohol even though he cannot.


Cami October 8, 2012 at 10:21 am

I remember reading once about a brother of the groom who’d recently been diagnosed with diabetes and demanded that there be no wedding cake because he couldn’t handle seeing it without tasting it. I thought that was just as ridiculous as having a no alcohol wedding because someone is an alcoholic.


Enna October 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I’ve been Diabetic for 13 years and have eaten plenty of cake – the trick is to have a small piece maybe a mouthful or two to nibble on to have a taste. I’ve also shown enough restraint not to over eat when others are eating an extra meal e.g. going to MacDonalds after the cinema. Also a Diabetic will never know what their blood sugars are going to be in the future – sometimes a slice of cake can be good medicene if blood sugars are low (you need short term sugar and long term carbs to treat low blood sugars, depending on the cake it can be long acting carbs because there is so much fat in it, slows the absortion of the sugar down, the same with chocolate).

I think the only time it is suitable for there to be no alochol on the grounds of alocholism (or history of) is if the groom or bride is recovering from the condition. We had a post awhile ago about a bride going all bridzilla because the lady who she wanted to do a reading during the service wouldn’t stay at the reception as she was a recovering alcoholic and didn’t know if she could could resist the alcohol.

FOG can bring along an AA mentor, he also doesn’t have to stay for the entire reception does he? The agony aunt said bringing along a mentor sounded a good compramise and I agree with that. He’s going to have to face a situation some day when he sees alcohol will be served and consumed by others. If he really can’t do it or doesn’t feel like he can then it would be best for him not to go.


Kate October 10, 2012 at 5:08 am

That is indeed ridiculous! My uncle has Type 1 diabetes and he’s never turned down a piece of cake at a family celebration. As Enna said, it can help if you have low blood sugar, and he measures his blood sugar several times throughout the day so he knows if it’s safe or not.


Enna October 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I’ve also been on a DAFNE course (Dose Adjustment For Normal Eating) which allows me to adjust the amount of insulin I need for the meal I’m eating. Icing has a lot of sugar in it so that would be good fast acting sugar. The sponge will be more long term. I’ve also found cake is very good if my blood sugar has been on the low side (personally I find that if my blood sugar is below 5mmol I need to have a bit extra or I start feeling light headed and often go low). Every diabetic’s diabetes is different but insisting on no cake?

Anyway I do think having an AA mentor would be best to help support FOG – it could be a good opportunity for FOG to get used to seeing alcohol but not drinking it. That sounds the best compramise.


Enna October 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm

P.S admin’s idea of sitting FOG with other teetotallers sounds a good idea too.


Cat October 8, 2012 at 10:29 am

This is a difficult one to call. On one hand, alcohol is not going to disappear from the world because you are an alcoholic; and you cannot demand that no one drink because you cannot. (I am obese and could not have the wedding cake, but the bride and groom should be allowed to have it even if I cannot.) At some point, one has to seize him/herself by the courage of ones beliefs and tell oneself “no” just as if a three year old wanted to play with daddy’s loaded revolver.
On the other, alcohol at a wedding is not a requirement. I have never heard of a wedding ruined because Uncle So-and-So was sober and no fun at all. No one gets sued because everyone left the reception sober, and no one had an accident on the way home or got arrested for DUI.
I’d leave off the hard liquor and serve wine and sparkling cider. I don’t drink and, if you come to my house for Thanksgiving or Christmas, sparking cider is what you’ll find in your glass. Nice taste and no alcohol.The bottles look like wine bottles and I’ve have people check the labels to see that there’s no alcohol. Dad will be less tempted if he can’t tell what is what.


The Elf October 9, 2012 at 9:14 am

I agree that alcohol is not a requirement – ours was a dry wedding – but that’s not really the problem. The problem is that FOG is making unreasonable demands. This is no different than a diabetic demanding sugar-free desserts, the allergic person demanding that no food contains nuts, or the vegan protesting the inclusion of a beef entree. It’s unreasonable to make the entire wedding conform to your particular situation. FOG needs to learn to deal. A good way might be to pick someone to be his “sober buddy” to both not drink and to steer him away from the drinks.

OP, if you decide to go with a dry wedding (for whatever reason), I recommend looking around for really good sparkling ciders, flavored lemonades, iced teas, and other such soft drinks. You can also make fun virgin cocktails like dacqueries or rickeys. There’s no reason dry has to be boring!


Cat October 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I think that assigning blame is what causes family splits over what could have been resolved by compromise. You may truly feel that Dad is being unreasonable and that he should not be accommodated. You may be correct in thinking that. The result could be that Dad feels that no one cares about his illness, is choosing alcohol over him, and the rift will last for years.
If Dad’s side “wins” and no alcohol is served, the result could be that the bride’s parents feel that they were not allowed to host their daughter’s wedding in the manner they wished (the old “we’re paying for it” routine) and will be able to huff, “Well, we knew at the wedding reception that our wishes don’t matter to you two at all!” for every family holiday for decades.
It’s not a matter of who is being unreasonable. What matters is that both sides of the issue need to be addressed, treated as important, and accommodations be made so that everyone feels that all their needs are being acknowledged and met to some degree.
What I suggested was this, ” We love all of you and want you all to be at our joint family reception. Dad, we know the struggle you are putting up against alcoholism. We love you and respect your concerns. We’ll skip the hard liquor we’d like to have and see to it that non-alcoholic drinks are on the tables. Mom and Dad of the bride, we love and respect your concern that you want your daughter’s reception to be lovely and all that anyone could wish for. We know you want to entertain your guests in a fitting manner. Rather than hard liquor, we are going to ask that you put the money into some very fine wine for the guests who wish it and to serve sparkling cider and other soft drinks too.”
It’s a wedding reception, not a war. No side has to lose that the other side may win.


The Elf October 10, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Why Cat, you are being entirely too reasonable. If the wedding couple is willing to compromise, this sounds like a great way to do it. If they aren’t, then it still behooves them to explain to Dad that his concern is duly heard and noted, but that they’ve decided to serve alcohol anyway, and suggest the sponsor be invited or whatever. This can help alleviate hurt feelings.

But I still think he’s being unreasonable.

BTW, it doesn’t have to be hard liquor that’s the trigger. A relative of mine is an alcholic entirely on cheap light beer.


Cat October 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm

No solution, however well intentioned, is going to be acceptable to everyone. I think that the best one can do is to avoid taking sides, to try to make some accommodation to both issues, and, if it isn’t acceptable, to know one has done the best one can.
What I don’t like is to draw lines in the sand when you know how it will probably be taken, and you’ll have to suffer for it for years in the future. Dad may be totally wrong, but he is still the father. I would expect my father to respect my wishes to some degree even if he thinks I am out of my tiny mind. I extend the same courtesy to him.

Lerah October 8, 2012 at 11:12 am

I agree that the future father in law is going to need to find ways to cope in the real world where there will be alcohol at events. BUT, does this bride really want to draw the line in the sand at the wedding? This is the groom’s father. Is she really going to exclude her husband’s father from their wedding just because she feels he should be able to man up and deal?

Think of it this way: What if the bride’s father had a really horrible allergy to peanuts? An allergy so sensative that just having peanutbutter cookies at the reception could get enough peanut particles in the air to cause him to go into anaphalactic shock and possibly die.

Would the bride then think it so unreasonable not to serve any peanut products at the reception? Or would the groom’s family be able to insist that Pad Thai is traditional at weddings in that area and their friends might look at them as being “cheap” and “odd” if they serve something else instead?

I have a feeling that the bride would say “This is my dad. I want him at my wedding. The guests are just going to have to do without the pad thai at the reception.”

I think the groom has the same right to request a non-alcoholic reception so his father can be included in the celebration of this happy day.


Meegs October 8, 2012 at 11:43 am

I don’t see this as a reasonable comparison. An involuntary reaction to peanuts is very different then the FOG taking responsibility for his problem and dealing with it. It will not be physically impossible for the FOG to avoid having a drink, they way it would with this peanut example, it will just require effort on his part.
I am not unsympathetic to alcoholics. My father was one so I have seen first hand how difficult recovery can be because part of it is the reality that you will be around alcohol and you cannot partake. If you are still expecting people to accomodate you a year into it, then you are not really in recovery yet, just in avoidance. And I don’t think the bride and her family should have to accomodate the FOG’s avoidance techniques.


Cat October 8, 2012 at 2:14 pm

There’s no way a dad who was so allergic to peanuts could attend a reception in which he could not breathe without inhaling peanuts and thereby going into anphalactic shock, but alcohol isn’t consumed through the air we breathe. He would actually have to drink alcohol for it to effect him.
A better example would be someone who is allergic to peanuts, but who demanded that the Pad Thai not be served because, if he saw it, he would feel compelled to eat it.


SPH October 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

Compromise seems to be the solution for this matter. Either admin’s or something similiar- The father attends the wedding ceremony, skips the reception, and has some one-on-one time, perhaps a lunch, then next day with the couple (assuming they are not leaving straight away for their honeymoon). I think allowing his sponsor or mentor attend with him is a great idea. People should support him in the early stages of his recovery, but he has to learn that he cannot dictate what is to be served or say “I’m not coming because you are having alcohol”, forever.

My father was an alcoholic for about 30 years. He finally quit, after several near-death incidents, by attending AA and having an absolutely fantastic sponsor. After some time he was able to attend functions/dinners that included alcohol without drinking. If the Groom’s dad is at the point in his recovery where he cannot be around alcohol without indulging, he should stay away. Wanting to be sober is great, but FOB has to learn to use his willpower at some point. If he continues to insist on the no alcohol rule at every party/function he is invited to, he may find his invites start to dwindle. I’m not saying his friends should abandon him- they should be there to support him- but expecting them to keep every event dry is unrealistic. I’m not a drinker; I’ve witnessed first hand what alcoholism can do to a person and what it does to families and I know that as a child of an alcoholic, I have a much higher chance of becoming an alcoholic myself. If my friends and other family members choose to have a drink or two,I don’t begrudge them that.


Shoegal October 8, 2012 at 11:29 am

There will always be alcohol around – at restaurants, at people’s homes, in stores – the FOG will have a hell of time avoiding every situation that involves alcohol – including this wedding. I think it unreasonable to ask that alcohol not be served in order just to suit himself. In fact, I think it is quite unfair. If this couple wants alcohol. for whatever reason, they look as if they are putting that above theirrelationship with the groom’s father. He looks rather selfish by putting this stipulation on his attendance.

He clearly needs to work on this aspect of his recovery. I’m just saying alcohol is everywhere and if his method of staying clean is to avoid all situations where it is present – then he’s got a ways to go. I agree that allowing him to bring a counselor there is a good solution. I don’t agree that the wedding will seem odd or cheap if alcohol is not served – but frankly, as a guest I’d like a glass of wine with my meal.


Sallyann October 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm

To be perfectly honest, if someone told me they were going to refuse to attend their child’s wedding because they were serving alcohol I’d assume they were being attention seeking and unreasonable. Trying to dictate everyone else behaviour because you can’t control your own is extremely arrogant. The father does not get my sympathies.

But I really don’t think this is a situation you can make a general rule about. I am sure there are many people for whom serving alcohol at their wedding is no big deal, who will say they should have a dry reception for the father; and many people for whom it is an important part of the event, who would say one guest can’t dictate what all the others get to do.

This is for the bride and groom to choose who and what is more important to them. But I don’t think its fair to characterise either choice and ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

For me personally, I’d choose all my other guests over one problematic one, even if he was my own father.

The ‘brides family only after party’ suggested by admin sounds horribly divisive to me, and not at all want I would want at an event that’s supposed to be about uniting families, but again, that’s about what is important to *me* in a wedding, and may be an acceptable solution for some people.


Lizza October 10, 2012 at 12:21 am

I agree with you on the last part – don’t we see letters/stories on here all the time about separate before/after wedding parties where only certain people are invited and others are slighted?


Roo October 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm

“Ego and alcohol appear to be of a higher priority than the groom’s wishes and his relationship with his father.”

I understand why it seems that way to some people, but I think this issue is not really about their wedding. He HAS TO be in control of his own recovery; he cannot ask others to take control of it for him or it will not work. If Dad feels that other people are responsible his alcohol intake, he will eventually fall off the wagon when someone won’t cater to him. Why should the bride and groom be expected to give up the wedding they want and have planned for that temporary fix? I think the sponsor and teetotaler’s table is a lovely compromise; the rest is up to him. I doubt anybody told him getting sober would be easy.


Katy October 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I think there has got to be room for a compromise, and it is unfair to insist that a couple not serve alcohol at a wedding without trying to compromise in advance. Is there enough time at the wedding that groom’s father could do some dry runs (no pun intended)? Perhaps to a bar and grill later in the day on a Friday or Saturday, where there will be a lot of people with drinks, but he does not have to drink? Maybe a few trial runs will get him to have enough confidence to attend the wedding with a support person and not feel the need to drink. I also like the above suggestions of seating him at a drink-less table.
I know this is going to sound selfish, but I come from a family where alcohol is expected at weddings, at least expected at evening weddings. We like to have some wine with dinner and toast with champagne, and a lot of us like to have a few drinks while dancing and spending time with friends/family that we may not see very often. While I’m not saying we couldn’t go without drinking for a night, it is expected for there to be at least wine and champagne at a wedding. With our wedding we had an open bar. Several of DH’s family members were non-drinkers, including a few recovering alcoholics. I know at least two of these went up to the bar and turned in their IDs with the instruction that they not be served drinks, and we gave the bar a strict one-drink-per-person rule (with no complaints about inconvenience to those who couldn’t just send someone for their drink) to help these people avoid temptation, and we made sure their soft drink of choice was served via pitchers at their tables so they didn’t even have to go to the bar except to retrieve their ID at the end of the night.
In the end it is up to the couple, but I also think that they should not ignore bride’s parents for the sake of grooms father. There has to be a compromise here, and I’m sure with some negotiations and concessions on each side they can find a happy medium.


Library Diva October 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm

This is great! I’m of the belief that there’s almost always a “third way” that can be found with a little creative thinking. The Dear Prudie couple should try something like this.

Personally, I don’t know what to advise them to do. I think each situation like this is different and people’s personalities, history, etc. all come into play. If the couple doesn’t care, alcohol could be easily dropped. If the father’s past behavior has been terrible, maybe he doesn’t get to make demands even though he’s now trying to turn his life around. If alcohol has some major religious or cultural significance, that adds another dimension too. I hope they can work something out so everyone’s happy.


hanna October 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Good comments so far.

Just wanted to add that at the reception we are holding, we have chosen no alcohol because there are a number of people that we know have problems with alcohol and we don’t want to be a “stumbling block” for them, cause them to have to make a choice to stay away, or find they have “fallen off the wagon” at our party and cause a huge scene at our event.

Just a note–while I have no problems with alcohol at an event, you do have to wonder how many other recovering alcoholics there may be present that you just don’t know about, or how many drunks you will end up with at your celebration?


June First October 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Ultimatums from both sides aren’t helping the situation.
I am also a fan of Slate’s Dear Prudence column, and this letter also struck me. Having a “sober table” or inviting a sponsor to be with FoG at the reception seem like good options.
Of course, no one NEEDS to drink…but it’s a social event and drinks are nice to have at social events.


StephM October 8, 2012 at 2:00 pm

This is a once in a lifetime event, and I think it’s wrong to ask the FOG to miss it because they aren’t willing to pick another beverage.


AJ October 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Maybe once in a lifetime, honestly, let’s look at the divorce rate. But I digress, even if it is once, it is wrong for him to demand that everyone caters to him. He may be the FOG, but this is not about him. As some one posted earlier, he is not in recovery, he’s in avoidance. There’s a big difference.


Meegs October 8, 2012 at 3:23 pm

They aren’t asking him to miss it. He is deciding for himself that he is going to miss it.


StephM October 9, 2012 at 2:13 am

I cannot imagine the FOG coming to this decision without spending hours trying to convince himself that he can make it through the reception. If there is booze, he and his mentor/watcher will probably be stressed out enough to take away their enjoyment of the event. I don’t think that not serving liquor because of a risk of falling off the wagon is any worse than not serving liquor because the parents are religious.


Spuck October 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm

No person needs to drink alcohol, but no person should be prevented from drinking because of another person’s problem. I think the FIL should be the one making concessions in this situation. For a man who is seeking help for his problem, he is the one offering the ultimatum, and it is the bride’s parents who are coming up with the alternatives. If the FIL was really sincere in his efforts he would be the one offering alternative choices, or at least showing his children that he is trying to make an effort by making a dry run around alcohol in restaurants or other social situations.


June First October 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Yes, this!


WillyNilly October 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I would have this as a ‘hill to die on’. No way under any circumstances would I have a big formal 5 hour (industry standard) wedding reception without alcohol. I’d just either accept my FFIL couldn’t attend or I’d not have a wedding and just have a civil marriage. Not because I “need” alcohol to have fun (I don’t drink well over 300+ days a year and have a very happy life), but because I want alcohol there; to me it is as important a part of celebrating as dressing up and serving food. My family and my friends and my culture as whole celebrates with alcohol. It is important to me and those close to me as part of a celebration.

And I say this as someone who is getting married in a week with an open bar, and who has not only a FFIL in recovery but also my groom is sober now, 2 of his brothers are sober and 1 of his uncles are sober. And even my groom insisted we have open bar – just because he doesn’t drink doesn’t mean the world stops spinning or alcohol stops flowing!

Now I have been to, have had fun at, and have respected dry weddings. But I’ve also been to church weddings, and outdoor weddings, and weddings with kegs & red Solo cups – they were lovely for *those* couples, but they aren’t what I want to my wedding. a dry wedding is a *very* different event then a wedding with alcohol. Very different. At my wedding that I’m stressing out over planning, and that I’m spending tons of money and man-hours on, and that I’m going to remember for the rest of my life and that is going to include all of my friends and family and new family I want the party I want (well that I & my DF want), not the party one other person who isn’t getting married, is demanding.

A wedding is by and far the biggest party many people will have in their lives and a couple should get to have the party they want (obviously so long as they can afford it). If a champagne toast and wine with dinner, and any other drinks, is what they want how dare anyone try to emotionally blackmail them out of it!?!? The grooms father needs to learn how to live in the real world – and the real world includes alcohol at celebrations. And if anyone has to suffer his inability to be at a party with alcohol, it should be him, not every single other guest and especially not the bride & groom at their once in a lifetime event.

People often say “can’t you survive one day without alcohol and still have fun?” during these events and it totally misses the point. Most people enjoy hundreds of thousands of days without alcohol – they want this one day to include alcohol! The alcohol (in part) is what separates it from a regular day!


NZHoney October 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I think you have said this beautifully! It epitomises everything I think about ths situation.


Sarah October 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm

You took the words out of my mouth. It is not that the vast majority of the people who I know have never been a day without the help of alcohol – it is that this day is special!!


Melly October 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm

A friend of mine is in AA, his family owns a club. On the day he joined AA, his father told him he was needed to bartend that night. He said, “Dad, I joined AA today” to which his Dad replied, “Good for you. But you still have to earn a living in AA. ” And so he spent his first night sober serving alcohol to club patrons. He has many years of sobriety under his belt now, and loves to tell that story.


Jenny October 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm

For me, it would have been easy to cut all alcohol from my wedding, My FIL is actually 30 years sober, but he wasn’t crazy about alcohol at our wedding. We chose to have a little wine, champagne, and beer at the wedding but we provided plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. FIL was okay with that.

I think that it’s a little ridiculous that both are drawing lines here. Cutting alcohol really isn’t that hard, but on the same side, the FIL should also be willing to bring his sponsor and acknowledge that temptation happens.


Gellchom October 8, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I’d have a dry reception. I see this as similar to his having a doctor’s orders to stay strictly away from anyplace alcohol is being served for a period of time. Whether that is good advice or not wouldn’t be for me to say; if this is the treatment he has chosen – perhaps after trying and failing with less drastic approaches, we don’t know – then it is.

If he were just any guest, I wouldn’t alter the plans over it. Or if it were some other party, or, say, another of their children’s weddings that they were inviting this man to attend. But this is his child’s wedding. He may feel sincerely that he will be in agony or at least so completely distracted if there is alcohol around that he would be totally stressed out , even with a mentor. So although it would be his “choice,” it’s a pretty awful one to have to make. Maybe he does need to learn to function in settings with alcohol. But his son’s wedding is not the time to force it. He may not be ready.

What if the groom’s parents were Mormons or Muslims who abstain from alcohol? Would it be so terrible to have a dry reception out of respect for them? Or, to try to approximate the “selfishness” issue some posters mentioned, what if the dad had broken a leg indulging his love of surfing, and wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding if the couple had it at the mountaintop venue they’d had their hearts set on? At our son’s wedding, there were several things I’d been looking forward to and that are customary in our community that had to be forgone because my DIL’s divorced parents and their respective relatives were uncomfortable being together too much. I was disappointed, but that was the right thing to do.

I, too, like alcohol at a wedding or other party. We had a full bar at our own wedding and at our son’s. But I can certainly enjoy myself without it. As to what the bride’s parents friends would think, I think that they may be worrying about the wrong thing. I wouldn’t think poorly of anyone who didn’t serve alcohol, but I would not think much of the values and priorities of someone who chose having alcohol over the presence of their new son-in-law’s father at the wedding.

And double that because the groom wants to make it dry. The bride seems torn – between her parents’ preference, based on fear of looking stingy to their friends, and her husband’s preference, based on his father’s recovery plan. Otherwise, why did she write?

I know what I would hope my daughter would do.


clairedelune October 8, 2012 at 10:21 pm

It can take some people much longer than others to become strong in recovery, but it’s worth noting that this man now has a year of sobriety, and should be at least working toward getting to a point where he can be in the same room with alcohol without losing control. To me, the question in this case is not at all whether alcohol is important to serve, but whether one person should be allowed to manipulate and control an event to this extent.


Elle October 9, 2012 at 12:15 am

There is no right answer to this situation, and I hope everyone comes to an agreement that pleases all parties involved. I don’t know what I would do if I were to be in this situation as I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out on such an important date in one’s life.

I will however add this little experience I had with a travel agent that was trying to book her client’s trip to an All-Inclusive resort. It was a family celebrating the fact that 3 of their teenage children had completed their AA program and as a reward she was taking them on a holiday as a reward for their accomplishment. The mother had asked the travel agent to request that no alcohol was to be supplied in the mini fridges of the room, just soft drinks and water… I said no problem, we could call the resort and provide them with these instructions. ( Just to clarify, I worked for the wholesaler/supplier that the agents booked with, not the resorts). A day later I received another call from the same travel agent, apparently the mother had concerns about her children breaking down and wanting to drink, so she asked if we could call the resort and request that no alcohol be served anywhere for the week that the family was there. I believe my jaw hit the desk, I asked the travel agent if she was joking, and no she wasn’t. She was quite serious, and neither her nor the mother could understand why the resort couldn’t do it for one week. I still wonder if they actually ended up booking the trip?!


Niamh84 October 9, 2012 at 6:00 am

This is what I would do.

FIL could attend the wedding. He would be seated at the head table with myself, my groom, my parents, MIL, best man and bridesmaid. This would be a sober table for the duration of the meal and speeches.

Once the meal and speeches are over, everyone mingles more so sober table wouldn’t really be too much help as many well wishers with drink would come by, so at that stage I would allow sober table to drink if they choose, and if FIL felt he couldn’t handle being around it he could excuse himself at that point, having been present for all the important parts, all he’d be missing is the dancing.


Louisa October 9, 2012 at 7:39 am

I happen to be an alcoholic, and for the first year or so of sobriety I stayed away from events where I felt I would crack. Now I just go in the knowledge I can abstain, and usually no-one is the wiser. I would be embarrassed to ask anyone to compromise their plans for a big day because of my personal issue. That is so selfish, and when one CAN drink in moderation, unlike alcoholics like me, I know it can add to people’s enjoyment. Why should everyone miss out because of me? FOG should back down and take his sponsor. The day is about his son and bride not him.


NewJenn October 10, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I agree. I too am an alcoholic in recovery and during my first year (I’m about 2.4 years now) I really alienated myself from most situations where social drinking is occuring. But I cannot IMAGINE, even during that year, pushing a close family member to have a dry wedding just because I have a problem controlling my alcohol intake. It’s not even a whole day, it’s a party that lasts for a few hours. I’m assuming there won’t be any alcohol at the ceremony itself (isn’t that the important part anyway?) and then he could spend the first hour or so at the reception with someone else who is choosing not to imbibe and then if it’s too much, say goodbye to the bride and groom and leave. I’m still uncomfortable around alcohol but I don’t ever feel like I’m going to somehow lose control, grab the cocktail on the table near me and toss it back.


Lynne October 9, 2012 at 9:01 am

My friend’s parents refused to come to his wedding because there was no alcohol. (They were on a budget and the wedding was in church hall that didn’t allow it.)

I often wonder if a few shots of booze was worth the rift between parents and son.


AMC October 9, 2012 at 11:11 am

I must be alone in my opinion that the bride’s family should show a little compassion and forget the booze for one night so the FOTG can enjoy his son’s wedding without worrying about the temptation to drink. I don’t personally have any experience with addiction, but I imagine the struggle to overcome alcoholism is extremely difficult. Yes, the father will eventually have to learn to live in a world where alcohol exists, but part of taking responsibility for one’s own recovery is avoiding environments where drugs/alcohol are likely to be present. The groom has already made it known that he would rather forgo the alcohol and have his father there with him on his wedding day, so in my opinion, that settles it.


LJ Briar October 10, 2012 at 7:50 am

I’m inclined to agree with you. I don’t drink, not for any particular reason, it’s just not something I feel the need for in my life, but when I’ve read books, blogs, or any personal accounts from former drug addicts, it sounds like the struggle to not be tempted is very, very difficult. Now, I must admit I didn’t read the letter, so I don’t know if this demand is coming at the couple in the context of a series of attention-seeking histrionics and tantrums, but if this is really the only problem the groom’s father has raised then…maybe this really is a problem for him. And it’s quite possible that he’s attended other events with alcohol and then left early so he wouldn’t be tempted, however those other events were not his son’s wedding. It seems a little harsh to say, “Either deal with it or leave your son’s wedding while the rest of your family parties and gets to celebrate his marriage”.


Gellchom October 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Couldn’t you say exactly the same thing to the bride’s parents? They want alcohol. Groom does not. Bride hasn’t told us but at least seems torn. So if you take the position that the wedding is only about them and what they want (which btw I don’t), seems to me that weighs at least as much in favor of a dry reception as not.


Ellen October 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I think the Bride and Groom should take this opportunity to examine what has been revealed in BOTH families about controlling behavior and their relationship to alcohol. An alcoholic parent creates an alcoholic family. We also tend to be attracted to people who fit into the scripts we learned from our families of origin. If Grooms’ dad is in early recovery, is Groom attending Al-Anon?

There is “No Way” to have a nice party without alcohol? The single most important factor in the wedding is how it looks to other people/what people will say? Sound familiar to anyone else out there?


Angel October 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm

It is unrealistic to expect that a wedding, any wedding will have no alcohol served. I do think that provisions should be made to have the FOG’s sponsor attend the wedding with him so that he will stay on the right track. But I wouldn’t deprive the rest of my guests of having a cocktail just because one person is an alcoholic. To me that would not be fair!


2browneyes4 October 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm

One solution would be to have a morning wedding with a “brunch” reception. If the reception starts at noon or 1:00 pm, it would be too early to serve alcohol anyway. It may not fit in with the original plan, but it would accomodate the groom’s father and also serve as a “pseudo explanation” for not having any booze and so the bride’s parents would not be “embarrassed” if they thing a reception without alcohol is not acceptable. Then, after the reception, the couple could have an “after-party” with alcohol and close friends if they feel alcohol is necessary.


WillyNilly October 10, 2012 at 9:25 am

I love a brunch party almost as much as any other party but 2 major points:

1. It doesn’t at all explain no alcohol. Mimosas, bloody marys, bilinis, screwdrivers – these are all “breakfast” drinks commonly served at brunch. Even diners and tiny mom& pop restaurants serve alcohol with brunch as a matter of course.

2. A brunch reception radically changes the tone of the celebration, and that might not be what the couple wants at all. Usually brunch receptions don’t have dancing, the big gown and tuxes would be out of place at a morning wedding and therefore changes the whole look of the event (one wouldn’t wear “evening wear” to a brunch!), the foods are changed, etc.

It wouldn’t be a compromise IMO opinion, but rather a total overhaul. And it wouldn’t eliminate the ‘norm’ of alcohol usually being served.


2browneyes4 October 11, 2012 at 10:56 am

Although mimosas, bloody marys, bilinis, screwdrivers can be served with brunch, most people don’t drink in the morning. And EVERY brunch/lunch reception I have been to or been a bridesmaid in has had music and dancing. As far as what would be out of place, while After 5 attire would not be traditional, there is such a thing as daytime formal.


Cady October 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm

In the FOG’s defense (and I do disagree with his demand), some of these recovery programs encourage participants to make such ultimatums. I have a very close friend who entered such a program, and they told her to tell her family that if they would not agree to completely expunge alcohol from all future family gatherings, then they did not support her recovery. I know this woman’s family loves her very much, but they take the view expressed in many of these comments that alcohol does not disappear from society just because you are an alcoholic. Worst-case scenario, FOG should attend the ceremony and leave before the reception, and the bride and groom should set up their schedule for the day in a way that facilitates that arrangement. The ceremony is truly the important part, anyway.


essie October 10, 2012 at 6:29 am

This might be a stupid question, but how much non-alcoholic beverages will be available at the reception? Maybe the FOG is afraid there won’t be anything potable except alcohol and tap water, which is more likely if it’s “just beer and wine” than if it’s a full bar.


Lerah October 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

Ok, I stand corrected.
Earlier I stated that the wedding is not the place to draw the line in the sand regarding the Father of the Groom and his “I won’t attend functions with alcohol” stance. And I suggested that the bride should treat it like a deadly allergey.

However, my mom has been sober for 28 years now. And when I mentioned this to her she rolled her eyes and said “This is what sponsors are for. Someone needs to tell this guy ‘Oh no you don’t! You are not hijacking these kid’s wedding with your own drama! The sun doesn’t revolve around you, Bucko’ Just because someone has become sober doesn’t mean they’ve become a good person. This guy needs to stop being so self-obsessed and selfish. It’s not his wedding. He doesn’t get to make demands.”

Since she has 28 years of sobriety I bow to her greater knowledge and authority.


admin October 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

Great comment!


RedDevil October 10, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I’m disappointed in the amount of people commenting that FOG should get over himself and just attend. The man is a recovering alcoholic. He should not be made to feel forced or guilted into situations where alcohol is being served if he is not ready for it yet. Clearly, he knows he’s not ready yet, and bravo to him for standing his ground on it. Better that he not attend at all than show up and fall off the wagon. For memories of the wedding, which would you prefer?

That said, the important part of the day is the ceremony, followed by the reception. I don’t understand why FOG can’t just attend the ceremony (where no alcohol is served) and leave prior to the reception. This is particularly easy if the two locations are seperate.


Katie October 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm

My feeling here is that this depends very much on the personalities, and upon the relationships between everyone involved. I don’t think that the dad has the right to demand that his needs are prioritised above everything else. If, on the other hand, he’s just letting them know that he doesn’t feel ready to be around alcohol yet, then that’s fair enough. Only he can say whether he is ready to attend that kind of function, and I don’t think that the wedding should necessarily take priority over his recovery. But IMO he absolutely should not make anyone feel guilty about serving alcohol if the couple wants it there. I think that probably the best solution is for the dad to attend the ceremony, but not the reception/bit afterwards. I don’t think that he has any right to demand that the couple change their plans for him, and by doing so, I think he’s knowingly putting his daughter in a very awkward position.


Gelliebean October 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I just wanted to say that this issue hits home for me in a very big way right now. I have been married for about 3 years, and the reception was held in a church hall, so no alcohol was allowed.

About three weeks ago, my BIL (husband’s brother) got married at a really lovely venue, where the terms of their contract were that no alcohol was to be served before a certain time. FIL began complaining to the bride immediately after the ceremony that he couldn’t have a beer, cursing at her and making a scene. His sister took him outside to calm him down, but he came back in screaming and calling the bride vulgar names. He then told her that she and BIL were no longer welcome to live in his house – basically, evicting his son and his 6-months pregnant daughter-in-law on their wedding day.

Long story short, after a few days of thunder and lightning, FIL has packed his bags and is gone; nobody knows where, no one has heard a thing from him for a text DH got a few days ago that put him back into tears over the whole thing. BIL and SIL are afraid to move back into the house in case he should show up again. I’m probably taking it too personally, because I can’t tell who I think is in the right in the Prudence column, but I really feel for both sides and hope all goes well for everybody.


jaelle October 20, 2012 at 4:59 am

I hate to break the news to everyone, but the OP said the wedding was being held in a hotel. That means, it is very likely there is a bar on the premises. So, even if they opt for a dry wedding, people are going to leave the wedding, buy drinks, and come back to the wedding with them. So, unless they hire some sort of security to check what people are holding when they come into the hall, there’s going to be alcohol, probably a fair bit of it, whether the happy couple wants it or not.

All the not providing alcohol will do, is create a cash bar situation, which is not a good thing.


JWH February 4, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Couldn’t they just say, “I’m sorry you won’t be able to make it” and be done with it?


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