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Etiquette

Alcohol-related problem

Hi everyone!

I've been mulling this situation over for a long time and I thought I may as well ask the experts. This is a very difficult and personal issue, but I'm hoping someone has been in a similar situation and might have advice. I'm trying to give as much context as I can, so I apologize that this is so long.

My older sister is a wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful person. She is one of my bridesmaids and I am so excited to have her with me as I get married. However, I'm afraid we will encounter a problem at the reception. We are having a wedding of about 100 people, at a city park, and the reception will be in a log cabin-type lodge there. Our biggest hope is that people are comfortable and happy and enjoying themselves.

Last summer, my sister ended a relationship she had been in for approximately seven years. Obviously, this was devastating for her, and she struggled to adapt to a different life afterwards. She moved back in with our parents, and gradually began neglecting her health and withdrawing. She quit her job, and withdrew from her Master's program and the teaching assistant position she was going to start in the fall. She lost her health insurance and it was a struggle to try to get her the health care she needed related to chronic ailments.

My sister had always been a complete teetotaler. My family is mostly wine drinkers, and she always abstained. In the past seven or eight months, she has become completely dependent on alcohol, and I am terrified for her health.

We have had to bring her to the ER many times after finding her semi-conscious and sometimes bleeding from injuries she had given herself. My parents tried to lock any alcohol in the house in their closet, and one day she found a hatchet in the garage and spent a couple hours trying to hack through the door, and the police were brought out. When my parents eliminated any alcohol from their house, she found rubbing alcohol and drank that until she was unconscious, and back to the hospital. I'm a registered nurse with a background in psychology and I still don't know how to help her. She can become violent when she drinks and, unfortunately, often loses control of her bowels and bladder.

Obviously, the upcoming wedding (August) is not much of a concern in her life right now, nor would I expect it to be. The first priority is her health, and unfortunately, nothing will change until she decides she wants to change.

This does, however, raise the question of alcohol at the wedding. As I mentioned, we are wine drinkers and many of our guests enjoy beer. We are trying hard to host well and also are on a fairly tight budget, so our initial plan was a self-serve bar (I know this is often frowned upon) with only wine and beer. It's become apparent that this is not a safe option any longer. So we are now stuck with the dilemma of having a bartender versus a dry wedding.

It wouldn't be the end of the world to forgo alcohol, but I'm worried that I might harbor resentment if I'm unable to have a champagne toast because one person would be in danger from significantly over-drinking. My other concern is that if we go with having a bartender, which we could try to save up for, would it then be the bartender's role to prevent her from drinking or over drinking? I worry that this is completely unfair to ask of a vendor, because if she is denied alcohol when she wants it, she is very unpredictable.

I'm worried that I'm being selfish with this issue in hoping that a bartender would be sufficient. I'm worried that if there is any alcohol, she will become violent, potentially dangerous, and may significantly endanger her health. I don't want her experience of the wedding (or anyone's, for that matter) to end with her in an ambulance and us needing to go to the ER to try to support her. Before, we never even considered having a dry wedding, and even though I know it would still be a lovely evening, I think I would be a bit disappointed--and again, I don't want to resent her. I know she's ill and is not intentionally being hurtful. I know also that she is an adult and I am not responsible for her choices, but still, I'm worried.

I'm sorry for going on so long, I just wanted to shed a bit of light on the severity of her behavior. Has anyone had experience with having a volatile alcoholic at a wedding? Did you have a dry wedding to avoid issues, or have you had experience with a bartender handling such a situation? I'd appreciate any advice. Thank you!


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Re: Alcohol-related problem

  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    First to answer your question: the bartender can cut her off but can't prevent her from making a scene. The bartender also wouldn't cut her off before she had had enough to make her drunk to a point. Personally, if you are as concerned about you sister as you say you are, I would have a dry wedding. You are right. You are not responsible for her and she is ill. However, your only other option is to not have her at your wedding. So what is more important to you: 1) a champagne toast where your sister may get dangerously drunk or 2) having your sister at your wedding without incident?

    Now the biggest question here has your family tried to get your sister help both mental and physical? That is what she really needs. Not locking alcohol in a cabinet but real professional help.
    OurWildKingdomshort+sassynightnerdOliveOilsMom
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Hi everyone!

    I've been mulling this situation over for a long time and I thought I may as well ask the experts. This is a very difficult and personal issue, but I'm hoping someone has been in a similar situation and might have advice. I'm trying to give as much context as I can, so I apologize that this is so long.

    My older sister is a wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful person. She is one of my bridesmaids and I am so excited to have her with me as I get married. However, I'm afraid we will encounter a problem at the reception. We are having a wedding of about 100 people, at a city park, and the reception will be in a log cabin-type lodge there. Our biggest hope is that people are comfortable and happy and enjoying themselves.

    Last summer, my sister ended a relationship she had been in for approximately seven years. Obviously, this was devastating for her, and she struggled to adapt to a different life afterwards. She moved back in with our parents, and gradually began neglecting her health and withdrawing. She quit her job, and withdrew from her Master's program and the teaching assistant position she was going to start in the fall. She lost her health insurance and it was a struggle to try to get her the health care she needed related to chronic ailments.

    My sister had always been a complete teetotaler. My family is mostly wine drinkers, and she always abstained. In the past seven or eight months, she has become completely dependent on alcohol, and I am terrified for her health.

    We have had to bring her to the ER many times after finding her semi-conscious and sometimes bleeding from injuries she had given herself. My parents tried to lock any alcohol in the house in their closet, and one day she found a hatchet in the garage and spent a couple hours trying to hack through the door, and the police were brought out. When my parents eliminated any alcohol from their house, she found rubbing alcohol and drank that until she was unconscious, and back to the hospital. I'm a registered nurse with a background in psychology and I still don't know how to help her. She can become violent when she drinks and, unfortunately, often loses control of her bowels and bladder.

    Obviously, the upcoming wedding (August) is not much of a concern in her life right now, nor would I expect it to be. The first priority is her health, and unfortunately, nothing will change until she decides she wants to change.

    This does, however, raise the question of alcohol at the wedding. As I mentioned, we are wine drinkers and many of our guests enjoy beer. We are trying hard to host well and also are on a fairly tight budget, so our initial plan was a self-serve bar (I know this is often frowned upon) with only wine and beer. It's become apparent that this is not a safe option any longer. So we are now stuck with the dilemma of having a bartender versus a dry wedding.

    It wouldn't be the end of the world to forgo alcohol, but I'm worried that I might harbor resentment if I'm unable to have a champagne toast because one person would be in danger from significantly over-drinking. My other concern is that if we go with having a bartender, which we could try to save up for, would it then be the bartender's role to prevent her from drinking or over drinking? I worry that this is completely unfair to ask of a vendor, because if she is denied alcohol when she wants it, she is very unpredictable.

    I'm worried that I'm being selfish with this issue in hoping that a bartender would be sufficient. I'm worried that if there is any alcohol, she will become violent, potentially dangerous, and may significantly endanger her health. I don't want her experience of the wedding (or anyone's, for that matter) to end with her in an ambulance and us needing to go to the ER to try to support her. Before, we never even considered having a dry wedding, and even though I know it would still be a lovely evening, I think I would be a bit disappointed--and again, I don't want to resent her. I know she's ill and is not intentionally being hurtful. I know also that she is an adult and I am not responsible for her choices, but still, I'm worried.

    I'm sorry for going on so long, I just wanted to shed a bit of light on the severity of her behavior. Has anyone had experience with having a volatile alcoholic at a wedding? Did you have a dry wedding to avoid issues, or have you had experience with a bartender handling such a situation? I'd appreciate any advice. Thank you!


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  • Just want to add that if there is any alcohol at your wedding, your sister will find a way to drink. So if she's not sober and stable by then, don't serve alcohol at all.
    OurWildKingdomnightnerd
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    OP it sounds as if you and your family are doing everything you can for your sister. It is up to her now. I hope and pray she comes to the point sooner rather than later to realize that she needs help and gets it before she hurts herself anymore. I am very sorry you and your family are going through this at time that should be a happy time. I think @climbingwife 's idea of going out afterwards wearing your dress is a great idea!

    OurWildKingdom
  • ei34ei34 member
    Seventh Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I’m sorry you’re all going through this.  PP have had some great thoughts and ideas, just sending hopeful vibes that your sister improves and a virtual hug to you.
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    I'm very sorry you're dealing with all this. It sounds like you're doing everything possible for your sister that you can. With regards to your wedding, all you can do is not provide alcohol and have security on hand, but it may not be enough to keep your sister from drinking or otherwise behaving inappropriately. At this point, the only remaining thing you can do is play things by ear. Congratulations on your wedding, best wishes, and good luck!
    OurWildKingdomdowntondiva
  • edited March 11
    banana468 said:
    I'm going to be the dissenter saying don't have a dry wedding for one person.   If one person is an alcoholic changing to dry isn't going to solve the problem. The issue is that she's an addict not with what you serve.

    The reality is that if she makes a scene and her behavior is that problematic can you have a tough love discussion with her and talk about therapy? 

    What would her therapist or your parents therapist advise?  

    If this is a greater issue of mental health then should she be invited?  

    I don't have the answers but it sounds like alcohol is only a part of her situation and I'd come up with other plans regarding it. 
    I agree with this, I don’t think having a dry wedding is the answer. She could drink before hand, she could bring her own in her purse, she could stash some I her bags/car/limo. If she needs to drink she will. 

    Some of what my experience had been when my dad was drinking not changing my plans to cater to his behavior. In some cases this is near impossible but I needed to live my life and if there were consequences to his actions he had to deal with them, but it wasn’t on me to stop him from drinking, because that was not something I could ever do. 

    ETA: fixed typos
    ei34MyNameIsNotbanana468
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    banana468 said:
    I'm going to be the dissenter saying don't have a dry wedding for one person.   If one person is an alcoholic changing to dry isn't going to solve the problem. The issue is that she's an addict not with what you serve.

    The reality is that if she makes a scene and her behavior is that problematic can you have a tough love discussion with her and talk about therapy? 

    What would her therapist or your parents therapist advise?  

    If this is a greater issue of mental health then should she be invited?  

    I don't have the answers but it sounds like alcohol is only a part of her situation and I'd come up with other plans regarding it. 
    I agree with this, I don’t think having a dry wedding is the answer. She could drink before hand, she could bring her own in her purse, she could stash some I her bags/car/limo. If she needs to drink she will. 

    Some of what my experience had been when my dad was drinking not changing my plans to cater to his behavior. In some cases this is near impossible but I needed to live my life and if there were consequences to his actions he had to deal with them, but it wasn’t on me to stop him from drinking, because that was not something I could ever do. 

    ETA: fixed typos
    I’m with banana and Charlotte. My brother is an alcoholic (and drug addict). I wouldn’t have a dry wedding just for him. He has huge issues, and we’ve tried to help him so many times. At some point we have to live our own lives. If he wanted alcohol he would drive the mile and a half to go get it or bring it in his car. If she gets belligerent and violent when she drinks I would have security on hand to deal with it for the safety of you and your guests. 


    image
    charlotte989875downtondivaei34
  • downtondivadowntondiva member
    Fifth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited March 12
    banana468 said:
    I'm going to be the dissenter saying don't have a dry wedding for one person.   If one person is an alcoholic changing to dry isn't going to solve the problem. The issue is that she's an addict not with what you serve.

    The reality is that if she makes a scene and her behavior is that problematic can you have a tough love discussion with her and talk about therapy? 

    What would her therapist or your parents therapist advise?  

    If this is a greater issue of mental health then should she be invited?  

    I don't have the answers but it sounds like alcohol is only a part of her situation and I'd come up with other plans regarding it. 
    I think this is fair. If someone is an alcoholic, they are going to find a way to drink and to have alcohol close at hand no matter what. You've already seen this happen with your sister in your parents' home. You wouldn't be wrong in hosting a dry wedding, and I get why you're considering it, but you do need to accept that it probably won't be the solution you're hoping for. It would keep you from being the one making alcohol available to your sister, but it wouldn't keep her from having alcohol at all.

    Personally, I think you should go ahead and serve alcohol, but have security on hand as @levioosa suggested in case things do go badly with your sister. While there's no perfect solution here, this should allow you to host your guests the way you'd like to while also keeping their safety in mind. 

    I'm sorry you and your family are going through this. I hope your sister gets the help she needs.

    image
  • I'm so sorry that you and your family are going through this. It sounds like you are all so thoughtful and supportive of your sister, and I commend you for it. I'm sure that as a nurse, it is especially hard for you watching her struggle and waiting for her to accept needed treatment, and for our medical system to be able to provide that treatment. (That's seriously messed up about the lack of beds, but unfortunately not unusual.)

    In regards to the wedding, I honestly see it both ways. If she wants alcohol, she sounds pretty determined to get it. I can understand not wanting to make it easy for her to access, especially given the concern that she may act out while intoxicated, but it sounds like this is a risk no matter what. I think you are totally justified in making either choice. If you do decide to have alcohol, strongly consider having both a bartender and security, as this will lift at least some of the weight of supervision off your shoulders. If not, I love the idea of an after-party where you can truly let loose after having a (hopefully) tamer reception.

    Wishing you and your family all the best, and hoping for a marvelous wedding for you in August!
    OurWildKingdomdowntondiva
  • For those advising an after party- why?

    It only postpones sanctioned exposure of alcohol OR blatantly says to the sister that she's not welcome to a portion of a wedding related event.  I don't see that as a solution.   
    downtondivacharlotte989875
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    banana468 said:
    For those advising an after party- why?

    It only postpones sanctioned exposure of alcohol OR blatantly says to the sister that she's not welcome to a portion of a wedding related event.  I don't see that as a solution.   
    I suggested the after party because OP seemed to not want to serve alcohol at the wedding, but was very disappointed in not getting to enjoy a glass of champagne. It's a good compromise IMO. Sister doesn't have to know about the after party. It could be with just her closest friends. 

    nightnerd
  • banana468 said:
    For those advising an after party- why?

    It only postpones sanctioned exposure of alcohol OR blatantly says to the sister that she's not welcome to a portion of a wedding related event.  I don't see that as a solution.   
    I suggested the after party because OP seemed to not want to serve alcohol at the wedding, but was very disappointed in not getting to enjoy a glass of champagne. It's a good compromise IMO. Sister doesn't have to know about the after party. It could be with just her closest friends. 
    I don't know how that would work.   She's either then going to party with her close friends and not her sister so she's going to be hurting her sister's feelings by excluding her or her sister will find a way to get there. 

    I understand why it was suggested but I don't think having it eliminates any of the OP's concerns. 
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    banana468 said:
    banana468 said:
    For those advising an after party- why?

    It only postpones sanctioned exposure of alcohol OR blatantly says to the sister that she's not welcome to a portion of a wedding related event.  I don't see that as a solution.   
    I suggested the after party because OP seemed to not want to serve alcohol at the wedding, but was very disappointed in not getting to enjoy a glass of champagne. It's a good compromise IMO. Sister doesn't have to know about the after party. It could be with just her closest friends. 
    I don't know how that would work.   She's either then going to party with her close friends and not her sister so she's going to be hurting her sister's feelings by excluding her or her sister will find a way to get there. 

    I understand why it was suggested but I don't think having it eliminates any of the OP's concerns. 
    If her sister has such a serious problem as she describes, you absolutely wouldn't include her. The after party is a separate event. She's fine to not invite her. 

    ShesSoColdnightnerd
  • Thank you all for your advice; I really appreciate everyone taking the time to consider different angles of our situation. We are still talking things through, and I think some of it will depend on how my sister is doing closer to the wedding. I can't imagine not having her there--my family is pretty close and she's my only sibling. She is a bridesmaid and in my view, will remain so unless she chooses otherwise.
    Because she has not been able to work and is in pretty large debt, she can't really purchase much alcohol--occasionally she sells something online and then goes to buy a fifth of vodka and drink it. Our parents don't have alcohol around now, so she is currently rather restricted, but of course, the addiction remains. She is also restricted in that she doesn't have a car anymore, and will be dependent on our parents for transportation. Their house is about an hour away and she will rely on them for a ride home after the wedding.
    Right now, my fiance and I are considering two options: having a dry wedding, then having a small after-party at a bar. My sister would have gone home with my parents as they would not be going to the bar. In essence, she would not be invited--I think it's necessary, but I do feel that's hurtful and so it gives me hesitation.
    The other option would be to have alcohol at the wedding with a bartender. I honestly don't know how we could afford the bartender and security. If this is what happens, would it be reasonable to provide a bar for a while (say, during dinner) and then no longer serve alcohol? Or is that incredibly rude?
    Again, I appreciate all of the experience and knowledge this group brings!
  • LD1970LD1970 member
    Eighth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    If what you'd really miss is the champagne toast, why not *just* a champagne toast - one glass per person distributed by staff - and no other alcohol?
    You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. ~Mae West
    OurWildKingdomMobKaznightnerd
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Thank you all for your advice; I really appreciate everyone taking the time to consider different angles of our situation. We are still talking things through, and I think some of it will depend on how my sister is doing closer to the wedding. I can't imagine not having her there--my family is pretty close and she's my only sibling. She is a bridesmaid and in my view, will remain so unless she chooses otherwise.
    Because she has not been able to work and is in pretty large debt, she can't really purchase much alcohol--occasionally she sells something online and then goes to buy a fifth of vodka and drink it. Our parents don't have alcohol around now, so she is currently rather restricted, but of course, the addiction remains. She is also restricted in that she doesn't have a car anymore, and will be dependent on our parents for transportation. Their house is about an hour away and she will rely on them for a ride home after the wedding.
    Right now, my fiance and I are considering two options: having a dry wedding, then having a small after-party at a bar. My sister would have gone home with my parents as they would not be going to the bar. In essence, she would not be invited--I think it's necessary, but I do feel that's hurtful and so it gives me hesitation.
    The other option would be to have alcohol at the wedding with a bartender. I honestly don't know how we could afford the bartender and security. If this is what happens, would it be reasonable to provide a bar for a while (say, during dinner) and then no longer serve alcohol? Or is that incredibly rude?
    Again, I appreciate all of the experience and knowledge this group brings!
    Thank you all for your advice; I really appreciate everyone taking the time to consider different angles of our situation. We are still talking things through, and I think some of it will depend on how my sister is doing closer to the wedding. I can't imagine not having her there--my family is pretty close and she's my only sibling. She is a bridesmaid and in my view, will remain so unless she chooses otherwise.
    Because she has not been able to work and is in pretty large debt, she can't really purchase much alcohol--occasionally she sells something online and then goes to buy a fifth of vodka and drink it. Our parents don't have alcohol around now, so she is currently rather restricted, but of course, the addiction remains. She is also restricted in that she doesn't have a car anymore, and will be dependent on our parents for transportation. Their house is about an hour away and she will rely on them for a ride home after the wedding.
    Right now, my fiance and I are considering two options: having a dry wedding, then having a small after-party at a bar. My sister would have gone home with my parents as they would not be going to the bar. In essence, she would not be invited--I think it's necessary, but I do feel that's hurtful and so it gives me hesitation.
    The other option would be to have alcohol at the wedding with a bartender. I honestly don't know how we could afford the bartender and security. If this is what happens, would it be reasonable to provide a bar for a while (say, during dinner) and then no longer serve alcohol? Or is that incredibly rude?
    Again, I appreciate all of the experience and knowledge this group brings!


    What you host at a wedding should be all or nothing.  You cannot offer some of something and then cut it off.  When/how would you notify guests of this change?  
    What is the cost differential from hosting an after party and the cost of a bartender?  Does she have a sponsor?  Perhaps you could invite the sponsor in lieu of security.  FWIW, I have never really understood the concept of security as a suggestion.  If something so drastic happens that it requires security, I would be more inclined to simply call the police.  Whether private security or police, the family will be involved regardless.

    I think the suggestion from @LD1970 is a great compromise!  
  • Has she taken any steps toward recovery at all? It is possible for her to be accompanied by a "sober companion" (this could even be her sponsor) to help keep her away from alcohol and on track. Unfortunately this requires "buy in" from her and some motivation on her part to abstain from booze at your wedding. It's not something that can simply be provided for her.
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