Another batch of wedding invitations came in recently, so we’ve spent the past few weeks strategizing how we’re going to maximize our enjoyment of the event. What we came up with is a list of tips that could be waved away as common sense. Then we watch people at the reception (including ourselves) completely ignoring that common sense they were bragging about having, which makes us think we should probably publish the list, even if it’s just to reinforce how we’re going to try to avoid making asses of ourselves this summer.
Those of you who are already in relationships have this one under control already. You come with your buddy baked into the couple, where the other person knows what patterns and signs suggest you’ve had too much and when to suggest maybe you should grab some coffee or find something to eat. And vice versa. You’re already on the lookout to make sure they’re not sneaking shots of bourbon or chugging every beer in arms’ reach.
For the rest of us, we have a decision to make about which friends we trust enough to keep us honest about how much alcohol we’re shoving into our bloodstreams and livers. It should probably be someone who you enjoy drinking with, but doesn’t have a history of egging you on if they can see you’re on the verge of a blackout. You don’t need to be fused at the hip, though that would certainly help, but check in every once in a while and make sure things are going alright.
If you don’t have a friend like that at the wedding, this is your opportunity to meet some new people. Talk movies, trade drink recommendations, find out where they went for their last vacation. Connect with them on a human level and enrich both of your lives. You never know where something like that could lead. Go with the flow and let yourself have a good time.
Keep Water and Vitamin B Handy
This is a good tip for any time you’re drinking, but a wedding dials up the danger. There’s so much else going on that it’s easy to lose track of your hydration. Once you do that, all the negative impacts of drinking are exacerbated, not least of which would be the next day’s hangover. A lot of the more responsible drinkers we know swear by the one-to-one ratio, where you get a glass of water for every drink you have. Personally, the times we’ve held to that ratio haven’t been much different from the times we were simply a little more mindful. If you want us to be more specific, we’d say you’re in good shape if you’re having water once every hour.
Vitamin B comes in handy for the next day. If alcohol is a diuretic that flushes your system of good stuff, then the sooner you can replace all that stuff, the better you’ll feel. Passing around a little travel-sized bottle of Super B Complex pills at the end of the night means everyone’s going to spend their sleeping time replenishing what alcohol’s flushed out. It’s not a cure, but it’s a bit of prevention.
Pace Yourself During the Appetizers
Open bars are the cruelest joke you can play on an adult male in his mid-twenties to mid-thirties. It feels like all those “toddler test” videos that have been floating around, where parents will put a bunch of candy or fruit snacks or something in front of their kid, then tell them to be responsible. Of course, we’re going to dump free fancy whiskey and cocktails down our throat.
The problem is the structure of wedding receptions isn’t friendly to that approach. You’re having a drink with one friend or relative, finish that one with them, find another person you want to catch up with and finish a drink with them, do it one more time, then look at your watch and realize you’ve dumped three hefty cocktails on a flimsy base of canapes. Now you’re buzzed, bordering on drunk, and they’re still half an hour (or more) away from serving dinner.
To stop yourself from speedrunning your way through the reception’s drinking session, we recommend getting something that comes in a tall glass with a mixer and plenty of ice. We’re thinking gin and tonics, whatever spritz the couple picked, or whiskey on so many rocks you offend the elitist buried deep in your soul. It’s about stretching the drink out and making it practically impossible to slug so much of it during the appetizers that you become a problem as they’re wheeling out the salmon. Whatever takes longer to drink is where you need to be.
Which is actually a good segue to our next tip.
Beer vs. Spirits
The truth to the old adage “Liquor before beer, in the clear / Beer before liquor, never sicker,” isn’t some kind of alchemical magic where whiskey stops you from absorbing the beer. It’s the simple biology of what happens when you drink them. You can drink spirits a lot faster than beer, which has massive implications for how it’s going to affect you. If you start with spirits, you can use its high proof to get yourself a healthy buzz, then switch to beer to maintain. If you start with beer and get yourself to a buzz, then add spirits to the mix, you’ve just pulled a Mad Max and spit jet fuel into your drinking engine. Keeping that difference in mind gives you a hell of a lot of control over how intoxicated you are at any given point in the reception, even if you aren’t militant about the order you drink things.
For example, you could drink beer during the appetizers, have one each of the bride and groom’s cocktails during dinner, then switch back to beer for the bulk of the reception and likely have a very good night. You haven’t followed the exact letter of the liquor before beer law, but you followed the spirit of it.
Stick to One Base Alcohol
We don’t want to brag, but we can handle a decent amount of beer or whiskey in one sitting. But generally, separately. Because for some reason, when we add some variation to our night – whether that’s cider to a beer tasting, gin to a night of whiskey, or even something as seemingly simple as a single glass of rye with a couple glasses of bourbon – our tolerance drops through the floor and we feel like a second grader who got a little greedy with their First Communion wine. Then the hangover the next day feels like we wrung our brains out like a sponge and collapsed our spine against a brick wall. It’s better to stick to one thing you know you like and trust that you’re going to have a good time.
And when we say stick to one base alcohol, we don’t mean that as soon as a sip of whiskey, gin, or beer crosses your lips, that’s what you’re locked into drinking for the entire night. We mean hold to it like 70 percent of the time. It’s a wedding and you’ll want to try things. But definitely don’t pull a Chumbawamba and go from whiskey to vodka to lager to cider. You won’t recognize yourself as human the next day.
It’s Okay to Not Like the Signature Cocktails
There’s absolutely no way to design a cocktail that’s going to be a massive hit with every single person who ever drinks it. There are definitely people out there ranting about how manhattans are made by wringing out bar towels over coupe glasses, a Tom Collins is the same sickly sweet as citrus cough syrup, and you might as well chew on a dirty sponge for a few hours instead of drinking a martini. The problem with those people isn’t their taste, it’s that they keep being so shitty about how they express it.
Try the couple’s signature cocktails, if they even have them. If you like it, great. Drink it all night.
If you don’t, that’s fine, too.
Flasks are a Good/Terrible Idea
We’re attracted to the ceremonial potential of a flask at a wedding. You can fill it with one of your collection’s premium offerings, then gather your friends together for a sneaky personal toast. Something sentimental and lowkey that contrasts with the high energy of the rest of the event, but ends up being one of the more memorable things that happens at the reception. Besides, half the time you’re a groomsman, the groom gets you a flask with your initials on it. It’s begging to be used.
Don’t overdo it though. If you do, you’re basically injecting six ounces of hard liquor right into yourself at a time that you really should be winding down. Or at least staying away from hard liquor.
Help Out with Bar Runs
If weddings are really a celebration of coming together, then everyone should get into the spirit. When you’re getting up to go to the bar, see if anyone at the table needs anything. It’s a natural thing to do for your friends and an easy icebreaker if you don’t know many people at the wedding. Plus, half the time, people are going to offer to wait in line with you, which helps turn the line into a big mixer.
The walk-up is also a good way to check how intoxicated you actually are. A good chunk of the drinking at weddings is done sitting down and it’s easy to underestimate your drunkenness if you’ve been planted on your ass the whole time. If the room starts spinning when you stand, maybe think about making this a run for water for yourself. Still offer to get other people stuff, but consider dialing yourself back a bit.
Cut Yourself Off
One of the worst things you can do after a drinking session is to go right to sleep. Your body needs time to process what you’ve put into it, which it does much more efficiently with your conscious metabolism than your unconscious. If you get the sense that things are winding down on your last read of the room, take the opportunity to chill out. Nurse whatever’s in your hands, switch to water, find something to eat, and maybe grab some coffee or tea. Pop those vitamin B pills we talked about all those words ago. Check in with your buddy and see what they’re thinking. Evaluate transportation options and make sure your friends are taken care of.
Doing this also ensures the wedding won’t be lost to a blackout. We’re embarrassed to admit, though we suspect we’re not the only ones, that there’s more than one wedding we’ve lost to the haze. Taking time at the end to put yourself back together instead of chugging more and then passing out in your suit makes it much more likely your memories will stay memories and you’ll be on the much more fun side of reminding people what happened last night.