How do I handle an alcoholic wedding guest and an open bar at my wedding?

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My son has an alcohol problem. How do I handle him with an open bar at the wedding?
One Day at a Time – Recovery Jewelry from Tags and Things by K

I appreciated your article about how to handle an abusive/misbehaving wedding guest. I am getting married next year and I have a son with a drug and alcohol problem. I cannot uninvite him but need tips on how to handle him. He is fine until he starts drinking and there is no way that we can keep him from drinking since we are having an open bar.

I was considering hiring someone to attend to watch him and, as soon as gets boorish, place him in a cab and send him home. Where do I find a babysitter?

This is a sadly familiar situation for a lot of couples. I'm glad you already hit up our conflict resolution and family drama archives, since they're full of helpful tips to keep everyone cool at weddings.

If you knew your alcoholic son wouldn't make a scene if he was cut off from the open bar, that would be a great way to keep the whole situation at bay. But if that it's just not realistic, our recommendation would be to hire some event security to keep an eye on him.

Event security can be pricey (upwards of $50 per guard per hour), but you should only need one guard if there's only one problem guest in question. Googling your area + event security will get you started or see if your venue has any options for security that they could bake into the package. This is a nice way to outsource the enforcement — on your wedding day, you do NOT want to be the one responsible.

Alternately, if the price is too high, you could see if there are any physically capable guests you trust who would be willing to keep an eye on your son and discreetly escort him into a cab when the time comes. It's not ideal, but will save you some money. Perhaps they could take a specific shift so that they're not “on call” the whole night. Just make sure they understand that it's a de-escalation type of situation so that something like this doesn't happen.

Best of luck, and let us know how it goes!

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Comments on How do I handle an alcoholic wedding guest and an open bar at my wedding?

  1. Alternately, it is your wedding, and your son. Do you have to have an open bar? Maybe it is more important to you that your son attend the whole time than an open bar, or even alcohol at all. I don’t know your relationship at all, of course, but you shouldn’t feel obliged to have an open bar just because it is s wedding.

    • I feel that the best option for you and your son is to get rid of the open bar. I would suggest drink tickets instead, and limit it to at least three per guest.

      • I feel like this is a bit extreme. It’s like punishing the whole group for the potential actions of one person. Plus, drink tickets could present a whole new set of problems if people who don’t drink give them to people who do. I’m not able to drink for medical reasons so if we were to attend a wedding with drink tickets I’d give mine to my husband, or whoever else asked for them.

    • I agree!

      Do you want a relationship with your son or do you want the wedding of your dreams? It is time to decide your priorities. If I were you, I would prioritize your son’s well-being over the wedding. And that includes getting rid of the open bar.

      And secondly, look up co-dependency, and enabling behaviours. I feel that providing a open bar is enabling your son in my opinion. Better to limit the amount of drinks at your wedding than to see him sloshed to the point he ruins your wedding. Maybe switch to a drink ticket system?

  2. I would also suggest that you have a really honest conversation with your son prior to the wedding. Let him know that it’s important to you that be be there, and you want him to have a good time, but his drinking has been an issue in the past and you don’t want it to be an issue on the day. Let me know exactly what your expectations are and what the consequences are if he overindulges. If you end up hiring security for just him make sure he knows it. You could also always give your bartenders a heads up about him and ask them to cut him off after a certain point in the night and again, make sure he knows it. Springing these type of restrictions on him ON the day could be disastrous.
    We had to have a conversation with a few family members prior to our wedding and each potential problem drinker controlled themselves and still managed to have fun. A big point that we made was that you (potential problem) have 364 OTHER days this year to get out of control drunk so we would appreciate it if our wedding was not that day.

    • I agree with everything TOTB says above. Esp. the honest conversation part! An additional tip is to give the bartender a photo of your son, that they can place behind the bar – they can water down his drinks.

      • That is an excellent idea! We asked our bartenders to not make any of the mixed drinks too strong because we were using all 16 oz solo cups. Those make for some big ass drinks and we didn’t want anyone to get knocked over after only a few!

      • As a former bartender and the wife of an addict this is probably a good idea. Your bartender is trained in how to deal with the over inebriated. He or she will already know what to do and if they are well prepared (i.e. a sly introduction very early in the night) you may be able to keep the problem from getting to serious at the wedding.

        My other suggestion is to make sure your immediate family and close friends know. I can tell you from experience that some people are just enablers. You and the bartender can cut him off but if his best cousin friend keeps getting him drinks from the bar. Or his girlfriend or boyfriend keeps slipping him shots then you are back to square one. If you are comfortable explain to them that your wedding is not the night to feed his addiction.

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