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The 10 struggles of a sober bride

Kelly Fitzgerald is a writer whose work has been published on sites like The Fix, Ravishly, Sober Nation, and the Huffington Post. She is best known for her personal blog, The Adventures of a Sober Seorita where she writes about her life...

The wedding industry doesn't make it easy to be a sober bride

Last December my best friend gave me the biggest surprise of my life when he tricked me into thinking we won sideline passes to watch the Philadelphia Eagles warm up at their game against the Buffalo Bills at Lincoln Financial Field. The sideline passes were only part of his devious plan. The other part was when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him in front of the entire stadium. I was shocked and delighted, and of course, I said, “Yes!”

More: After 10 years of toxic relationships, sobriety taught me what a healthy one feels like

I’ve been sober for three out of the four years of our relationship. In fact, Fernando was the reason I decided to try sobriety. After years of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and countless attempts at moderation and drinking “normally,” I finally gave up the fight on May 7, 2013. It was because Fernando had broken up with me after months of watching me self-destruct that I decided to give sobriety a shot. After my decision to quit, we were able to form a healthy partnership.

I never dreamed that I would be planning my wedding as a sober bride because until three years ago, alcohol was always one of my main priorities. Now we’re planning our wedding for Feb. 2017, and one thing is for sure: Planning a wedding sober is unique.

1. Alcohol or no alcohol?

My partner is a normal drinker, as are many of our guests. This will not be a sober wedding. Obviously, if I had my ultimate choice, alcohol wouldn’t be present, but as a partner, I have to compromise. I want my guests, family, friends and future husband to be able to enjoy themselves and have a drink of alcohol if they so choose. That means I have to prepare myself to be at my wedding where alcohol will be present.

2. Wedding favors

Have you noticed that a lot of wedding favors are geared toward drinkers? Koozies, wine glasses, cork stoppers, flasks, shakers and shot glasses. You never really realize how many wedding favors and gifts have to do with alcohol until you’re sober. It’s been a struggle for me to dig deep on the internet and Etsy to find wedding favors that have nothing to do with drinking, creating or saving alcohol.

3. Paying extra for non-alcoholic options

I know it might not be this way at all venues, but at our venue, we’re going to have to pay extra to have some additional non-alcoholic options like non-alcoholic beer and a flavored water bar. To me, this is worth it because I want myself and my sober guests to have options. I want them to feel included and have drinks available that are fancier than just plain water or soda, but also don’t have alcohol.

4. Telling your wedding planner you don’t drink

I am not shy when it comes to my sobriety, but it was a little awkward explaining to my wedding planner that no, I do not drink. I felt like I needed to get it out of the way almost immediately when we spoke over email and then met in person. Of course, they might ask questions. My wedding planner asked me if I ever drank or why I was not going to be drinking on my wedding day. I simply said I used to drink a lot and then I quit three years ago. Maybe I’ll tell her more at a later date. I think honesty is the key to planning the wedding you want.

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5. Alcohol is always addressed first

When Fernando and I were looking at wedding venues, we visited one place where the woman showing us around did not stop talking about the “big party” our wedding would be. She talked about the dance floor, how drunk people would get and how we would be partying until the early morning hours. I wasn’t amused by this. This is a wedding, not a drinking fiesta, but I understand that for many other brides, alcohol is a main concern.

6. Sober bachelorette?

It’s basically unheard of, and there is so little about it on the internet it’s depressing. But that’s who I am. I’m a sober bachelorette and I am entitled to my sober bachelorette party! Why aren’t there many options? I guess society is used to drinking bachelorettes. My maid of honor has graciously started to plan my bachelorette party that will include the beach, spa, relaxation, food and laughs with my girlfriends. We sober brides deserve these options and a bachelorette celebration all our own!

7. Do I put wine glasses on our registry?

Another fun part of wedding planning is putting together a gift registry. Fer and I headed to Bed, Bath, & Beyond a few weeks ago to sign up for a variety of goodies for our new home. As we browsed through the china and frying pans, we came to the wine glasses and beer mugs. I stood there and asked Fer, “Should we put wine glasses on our registry? Who knew there were different glasses for white and red wine?” Fer doesn’t drink wine. As I pondered, I thought about my future with sparkling water and mocktails. They deserve a beautiful glass too, and I put them on the registry.

8. Cultural differences

I’m from the U.S. and my fiancé is Mexican. Weddings in each country are very different. In the U.S., weddings normally end at 10 or 11 p.m. In Mexico, weddings are typically designed as huge parties that generally last until 3 or 4 a.m. Booze is a main staple at Mexican weddings, whereas in the U.S., it’s not uncommon to have a cash bar or no alcohol at all to limit alcohol costs and consumption. This is a reality I’ve had to deal with in planning my wedding. We’ve compromised with having a wedding that will allow drinkers to imbibe and ending the wedding at a reasonable time for my liking.

9. The internet is void of sober bride advice

Once I got engaged, one of the first things I searched for online was “sober bride” and it came up with results that weren’t helpful. I was really looking for advice from other brides like me who are in recovery or just don’t drink. What I found was information for alcohol-free receptions or weddings, and even reasons to stay sober at your wedding. We need more brides who are willing to speak to the issues of planning a wedding that will contain both drinkers and non-drinkers and where alcohol will be present.

10. Yes, alcohol will be present on my special day

I won’t sugarcoat it. Alcohol and I are no longer friends. But as a sober person moving through the world, the reality is, I will be in situations and at places where alcohol will be. It’s a part of life. I’ve chosen sobriety and I will continue to choose it every day, and especially on my wedding day.

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