Weddings are happy events, and when a group of people are collectively in a celebratory mood — alcohol is an inevitable social lubricant that many turn to. After all, when there's an open bar, why not make the most of it?
But, just because the drinks are unlimited and the toasts are plenty at a wedding, it doesn't mean that you should go to town as a guest. We've all heard horror stories about attendees who went a bit too far. It's a big etiquette no-no, not to mention the hangover — and mortification — that will hit you like a truck the next morning.
We're obviously not telling you to say no to booze entirely, but what's the correct protocol when it comes to drinking at a wedding? We're getting input from Lizzie Post, an etiquette author, co-president of The Emily Post Institute, and host of the Awesome Etiquette Podcast (she's also the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, the OG etiquette expert, NBD). Read ahead for everything you need to know to navigate the tricky waters of handling your booze as a wedding guest.
It Depends On The Couple
There's not really a magic number for how many drinks you should have: It really depends on what the couple's like, and what they would want for their big day. "Whether you want to let loose or you're feeling reserved, the couple really sets the tone," says Post. "If they're the type of people who love a raging party, then by all means, don't feel bad about going all out. It's important to read the room: If the bride and groom are throwing a more formal reception, then perhaps it's not the best idea to overdo it at the bar."
Know Your Limit
It's important to not fall into the spring break mentality as a guest — especially if you're at a destination wedding. "Alcohol affects you differently every time you have it, so start with one drink — that's the recommended amount for work-related situations — and see how it goes," says Post. "The best meter to guide you is your own ability to function when you're drinking." Slow and steady wins the race: If you're starting to feel buzzed and slightly uncomfortable, switch to water and get some food.
If You Got Too Drunk...
Hey, we get it: It happens! If you got wasted at a wedding, acknowledging it is always better than having an elephant in the room, according to Post. "Take ownership of your actions: Let someone know that you're sorry that you went too far the night before," she says. "Be clear that it wasn't your intention to take the specialness out of the couple's day, but don't focus on the reasons why you got drunk."
A small gift is usually a great gesture to say you're sorry, but in this case, it's not the way to go: "Sending a gift in this scenario implies that the person who got offended needs some kind of transaction to occur in order to forgive," says Post. "Your words are significant enough." Of course, you should obviously still pick something from the registry if you haven't already — as a thank you for the invitation.
Remember Your Plus One
If you're bringing a guest who doesn't know the people at the wedding very well, then you should by all means be more cautious about your intake. "You want to be responsible for your guest: You never want to put him or her in the position of babysitting you when you're drunk," says Post.
"As a guest at a wedding, you should not be asked to pull out your wallet," says Post. The tip for the bartenders should already be taken care of beforehand by the couple.
If Someone Else Gets Drunk...
The classy thing to do is to not call attention to the situation. "Try to stay positive and helpful, and don't start snickering or making comments," says Post. "If anything, try to participate in other things happening in the wedding, so there are fewer eyes on the distraction." The one thing you absolutely shouldn't do? Don't document this for social media – no one wants their inebriated moments captured.