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People celebrating
July 24, 2018

Top 10 Hints for Celebrating Special Occasions Without Alcohol

People celebratingBeer at a Memorial Day picnic, red wine at a college-graduation party, champagne at a wedding—there are occasions where “social drinking” is considered ubiquitous, at least in certain extended families and social circles. Which can make things difficult for family and friends who can’t drink due to alcoholism.

Other articles in our database cover how-to’s of maintaining abstinence at events hosted by others. But if you’re the host or otherwise have a say in the program, here are ideas for maximizing enjoyment and minimizing “Where’s the booze?” complaints.

1. HAVE FAMILY AND PEERS ON YOUR SIDE

The more of your close contacts understand your problem and support your recovery, the easier it is to stay sober. Invite people who are already active in your support network, and they shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed when you don’t serve alcohol.

2. MAKE IT A MULTI-GENERATIONAL EVENT

When children are invited to the party, adult guests are less likely to expect a menu that includes beer or liquor. Just don’t try to keep everything else adult-style, with formal dress and endless conversation: the kids will get bored, restless and probably disruptive. Keep things fairly informal, limit sitting-around-the-table time and have age-appropriate activities available for everyone.

3. HOLD THE EVENT OUTDOORS

Bringing things into the open air provides more distractions for those inclined to think too much about “where’s the bar?” It also provides a setting where a bar looks less natural to begin with.

4. PLAN A GREAT MENU

If your guests have enough other things to put in their mouths, they’ll be less inclined to insist on any one type of refreshment. Provide several trays of low-mess finger foods if you expect people to spend much time standing and talking. When you serve a full meal, make it nutritious and filling—and choose food items your crowd doesn’t regularly pair with wine.

5. LET THEM DRINK “MOCKTAILS”

Every menu includes drink as well as food. Often, it’s fine to serve just water—or, at a sit-down meal, water with coffee and/or tea. But if the occasion calls for something fancier, look up “mocktail” for drinks that provide fun and flavor without affecting judgment. Alternatively, combine fruit juice with carbonated water or ginger ale (a classic non-alcoholic punch mix is orange or cranberry juice, ginger ale, and sherbet).

6. INVITE AN ENTERTAINER OR SPEAKER

Consider hiring a musician or comedian. If you aren’t willing to make that big an investment, invite a talented friend to help entertain (note that using this as an excuse to show off your child’s progress in piano lessons is not recommended—and if you have personal friends who are also professional entertainers, do not invite them as guests and then surprise them by asking them to “work” during their off time). Or show a good video, or organize games—whatever keeps your guests too busy enjoying themselves to think about the absence of one party element.

7. CHOOSE YOUR GUEST LIST WISELY

Of course, if you have friends or relatives who insist they always need alcohol to enjoy themselves—especially if they have as-yet-untreated drinking problems of their own—the best thing may be to avoid inviting them in the first place. Responsibilities to your own health and the comfort of your other guests come first.

8. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE AT ALL TIMES

From the invitation onward, it’s never a good idea to highlight what’s not on the menu (or anything else that’s “missing”)—this all but obligates people to feel deprived. Talk only about the good things that are available, and that’s what your guests will notice.

9. BE THE RIGHT KIND OF HOST

You don’t have to pour anyone a drink to make them feel welcome—nor do you have to stress yourself out, and perhaps invite relapse, trying to make everything “perfect.” What you do want to do is be glad to see everyone, show interest in what interests them, and enjoy your own party!

10. BEWARE OF GUESTS BEARING BOTTLES

This isn’t likely to be a problem if you’re responsible for the whole menu. But with a potluck, find out in advance what everyone plans to bring, taking the “beverages” category yourself. And if there’s any chance some well-meaning guest may show up with a “host gift” of wine, have a supportive friend or family member ready to spirit it out of your sight, and your home, after the initial “thank you.” (If any guest is known for the “host gift” habit, an advance person-to-person warning may be in order.)

Whatever the occasion, remember your real friends come to see you, and that’s more important than any thing you serve!

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