I’m so beyond thrilled to announce that WE DID IT! My true love and I got hitched at an entirely (*gasp!*) alcohol-free wedding!
Which leads us to the BIG question: would we do it again?
The answer? In a heartbeat! Here’s why…
1. The timing
We figured the key to hosting a successful alcohol-free event would be to schedule it at a time of day when people are least inclined to drink, namely morning to early afternoon.
I remember when I first heard about brunch weddings. My heart almost exploded with the sweet perfection of it. Go ahead and search ‘brunch wedding’ on Pinterest and tell me those images don’t inspire the warmest of fuzzies for you. The sunshine, the dainty teacups and sandwiches, the gorgeous little bomboniere packages filled with freshly ground coffee beans…
Granted, your day will probably start somewhere close to dawn (my hairdresser appointment was at 6:30am), but there’s something so enchanting about the feeling of a fresh beginning; celebrating your love in the newness of morning.
Another huge benefit of brunch weddings deeply appealed to the newly-discovered introvert in me: they generally take place over a shorter duration. Most weddings I’ve been to start with a ceremony at 3pm, only to finish up around midnight. That’s nine long hours of socialising. Phew.
We chose a ceremony time of 9am, with a reception from just 10am to 1pm. Long enough to have a great time; short enough to leave on a (natural) high. Heaven.
2. The venue and decor
Once upon a time, about six years ago when Dom and I were first dating, he took me to an outdoor cinema night at his old university. I’m not sure what I expected this venue to be like exactly, but as we walked from the carpark, around the faculty buildings, and into a hidden garden, I all but lost my mind. Suddenly we were surrounded by skyscraper tall pine trees, lush ferns and twinkling fairy lights.
I was sure it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen.
“Oh my God!” I breathed, reaching out to squeeze his hand. “It’s like the Ewok forest!”
In the years that followed, we started a tradition of heading there to see the first movie of the year, gathering friends together for a pre-film picnic to see the New Year in style. No matter how many times we went there, I always shook my head in wonder that any place could be so magical. So when we found out that they were opening the space for weddings for the very first time, we knew we’d found our place.
Brunch weddings offer the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the morning light and immerse yourself and your guests in nature. Beaches, parks, lakes, and public spaces often prohibit alcohol, providing one-of-a-kind settings in which to celebrate your exchange of vows without the booze.
As for the decor, you’re limited only by your imagination. Maybe you like the idea of a fun, themed wedding, or maybe you like the idea of simply enhancing your dreamy environment. Think: fresh, whimsical flowers; tea light candles and festoon lighting to add more warmth; and a clear marquee to highlight the soft morning light and the beauty of nature all around you.
3. The food (hello!)
With a brunch wedding, you can run riot as far as the menu is concerned. Plus, as Belle Robertson from Tired of Thinking about Drinking says, “It’s hard to think about booze when you’re eating pancakes.”
We totally went to town and served a breakfast course (mini quiches, waffles, chia pots and bruschetta), followed by a lunch course (fritters, sliders, flans and arancini balls) before (my favourite), the dessert course (choc brownies, lemon meringue tarts and carrot cake muffins).
We sipped on herbal teas, fresh juice and sparkling water, with sparkling apple juice in champagne glasses for the speeches and toasts.
Our cake was an incredible raw, strawberries and cream cheesecake made from cashews and other goodness. So morning-appropriate and so utterly delicious.
We even toyed with the idea of bringing in a barista, but have you ever been to a brunch event where the coffee was terrible and that’s all you can remember? We didn’t want to take that risk, or invite that banging noise that baristas are known for, and instead chose to bring in two heavy duty coffee machines. They were a massive hit, with everyone lining up to press the fancy buttons and make their own frothy latte or cappuccino.
4. The entertainment
Thankfully, we were blessed to have a funny, charismatic MC in the form of one of Dom’s best friends. A born extrovert, he kept the tone upbeat and interactive and had the crowd laughing from the minute the reception began.
Knowing that music would be a vital part of creating a fun, lively atmosphere, we booked a gorgeous couple who sang and played guitar and ukulele throughout the ceremony and reception. Their music included folksy and classic numbers; fun to sing along with but not so loud that you couldn’t have a deliciously deep conversation.
All morning long, family and friends asked: “Where did you find these guys? They’re amazing!”
My grandparents being the only exception, who apparently said: “I wish all these people would stop talking so we could better hear the band!” Ha! A hit with young and old, then.
As we planned, we debated whether to include a dance floor or not. Would people dance at an alcohol-free morning event? Finally we decided to order one, because at the very least, Dom and I would be so high on excitement that we’d want to dance. We could only hope our guests would join in too.
5. The dress code
Generally considered a less formal time of day, with a brunch wedding, you can let your imagination run wild. Want to host a beach wedding at sunrise in tropical attire? Go for it. Want to invoke a 60’s Hollywood glamour vibe? Why not.
When stating dress code on the invitations, we decided on ‘garden party attire’ and encouraged our friends and family to be themselves and have fun. As a result, our photos are filled with dreamy pastel colours and glorious floral ties and dresses that truly added to the atmosphere.
As for the bride and groom, with a morning wedding you can choose to dress up or down as much as you like.
6. The initial reactions
I must admit, as we organised our dream wedding, I was nervous about how our loved ones would react to the alcohol-free part. Like us, most of them had never been to a completely alcohol-free wedding before. Would they be so freaked out they wouldn’t want to come?
To my surprise, most people were much cooler with it than I thought. The small concerns we did hear were just around how they’d have fun.
I listened closely and was so curious whenever anyone said: “Oh I can’t dance / make a speech / chat to new people sober!”⠀
It was such a great reminder about how brave we all are. You and me, doing all these things sober, all day long. Dancing; socialising; speaking up; telling the truth; asking for what we need. Standing on our own two feet, day after day, without a lick of Dutch Courage. ⠀
The truth is, early sobriety feels challenging because it IS freakin’ challenging. Not just for you and me, but for everyone who has ever used alcohol as a crutch. ⠀
What you are doing right now – choosing to turn everything you’ve ever known on its head in order to create a new, healthier lifestyle for yourself and everyone you care about – it’s a true to testament to the courage and spirit that live within you. x⠀
7. The magic
As for the day itself, I only wish I could have captured the very essence and bottled it. I’d never seen bigger smiles on the faces of our loved ones. I’ll always remember a moment halfway through main course when I realised that the whole marquee was buzzing. The atmosphere was electric. These people were beaming and more jovial than I’d ever seen them whilst drinking. It was one of those true ‘pinch me’ moments.
Even more exciting was when, much to our surprise and joy, the vast majority jumped up to shake their bouncing booties on the dance floor!
For days afterwards, our guests and vendors alike called and texted messages like:
“It was as if we were all in a magical, enchanted bubble.”
“The place was absolutely lit up with infectious smiles and happiness!”
“It was such an incredible, beautiful day.”
“It was like all of my fairytale dreams come true.”
And as one beautiful soul on social media remarked: “What a great wedding that everyone remembers, no one has any embarrassing moments, and the only hangover is from all the fun!” Precisely.
8. The time alone with your new husband/wife
We received so many questions during the planning stage about the 1pm finish time. Every woman and her cat wanted to know, “But what will you do afterwards?”
In short, we kicked back and blissed out. We checked into our hotel with plenty of time to enjoy a bubble bath, order room service, swap stories about our favourite moments from the day, and chat about what our future might hold once we finally got out of our huge, fluffy bathrobes.
A huge thank you to our absolute dream team for bringing our vision to life (in record time!):
Venue: Somerville Auditorium, University of WA
Catering & event management: Ultimo Catering & Events
Event styling & flowers: Ceremony Secrets
Lighting: Complete DJ
Music: Polkadot + Moonbeam
Photography: Isabelle Haubrich Photography
Cake: Raw by Chris
Celebrant: Andrew Murfin
Hair: Theory for Hair