The weather’s getting warmer, Spring has arrived, and so has the wedding season. Many almost newlyweds, just like myself, are planning their big day, from decorations to menus to making sure the best man doesn’t forget the rings. There’s a lot to think about and accommodate when planning a wedding, but what if you or your guests are also non-drinkers? Weddings are notoriously boozy affairs, but what are your wedding drinks options if you’re alcohol-free?
In the nine years since I gave up drinking, the advances in non-alcoholic drinks served at pubs, bars, restaurants, and gigs have been phenomenal. Who could believe, nine years ago, that you’d be able to walk into a pub and order a pint of alcohol-free beer on draught? But when it comes to wedding drinks, we’re still quite traditionally alcohol-based, and you might need to let the venue or caterers know exactly what alcohol-free wedding drinks you need. Nobody wants sickly sweet soft drinks all day, and we didn’t get this dressed up to sip water all night. So what are the non-drinker’s options?
Plan your alcohol-free wedding drinks
If you or your guests aren’t partaking in alcohol, it’s useful to think about making sure your AF attendees are catered for at all times. For example, it’s all well and good finding an excellent few bottles of sparkling alcohol-free wine as a champagne alternative for the toasts, but don’t let your sober guests be left holding a J20 during the welcome drinks, or downing sugary coke during the disco. Think about a range of options for each step of this special occasion to make it an inclusive and enjoyable affair.
My wedding venue has offered me cocktails and bottled beer for our wedding drinks. In this instance, alongside alcoholic wedding drinks, I’ve opted for some bottles of Heineken 0.0, and have asked for a non-alcoholic cocktail to match the alcoholic one, so that nobody feels left out. Alcohol-free cocktails you could try include:
Elderflower and Cucumber Collins can easily be made up with the usual ingredients of sliced cucumber, lime, elderflower cordial, and tonic, with a measure of Clean G Non-Alcoholic Gin.
Use a white rum alternative such as Lyre’s White Cane Spirit to create the perfect non-alcoholic Mojito.
Lyre’s Coffee Liqueur makes a fantastic Espresso Martini, although you might want to consider how wise a brown drink might be when you and your guests are wearing their finest clothes.
If you’re looking for a pre-made non-alcoholic cocktail for your welcome wedding drinks, then why not consider something unique such as the blackberry and mint Nigerian cocktail Chapman’s from DVees. Savyll’s peach bellini is a sophisticated option, or have fun with a fruity Cosmopolitan from Highball.
The most important wedding drink – the champagne toast
Some caterers and venues are ahead of the game and already stock great alcohol-free fizz for your toast. Most venues, like the one I’ve picked, allow you to bring bottles of alcohol-free champagne alternatives with you for a corkage fee. Either way, this is the drink that most people plan ahead of time, and there are some truly great options out there for celebrating the happy couple without drinking alcohol.
We asked Club Soda’s alcohol-free off-license manager and Queers Without Beers manager Josh for his top tips on the sparkling wine selection we stocked in the shop. Some of you met Josh at our pop-up in London recently and know that he is our drinks expert extraordinaire – these were his fantastic recommendations:
Beautifully sharp and dry with lemony acidic top notes and plenty of bubbles. You could easily be drinking a full-strength sparkling wine and you wouldn’t know the difference. This is up there with our top recommendation for wedding drinks, but it’s so popular that it often sells out, so make sure you’ve ordered in plenty of time for your celebration.
Customers in the shop were always torn between this wine and ALT, above. It’s not as lemony as ALT, but the dryness is softer, with an exquisite mouthfeel. The de-alcoholised Chardonnay is rich without being sugary and is a great Prosecco replacement. A fantastic choice if the ALT is too dry for you.
A lovely, light sparkling wine, perfect for the toasts or for taking directly off a tray after the ceremony. Infused with green tea to ensure it isn’t over-sweet, it’s a really good mid-dry option that has plenty to offer at a low price point.
The Bla is wonderfully dry and confused the heck out of everyone who tried it in the shop as it’s clearly not wine but ticks all the boxes. It’s a great premium product and, once the cat is out of the bag, people see it’s tea. A nice long finish and is long on the tongue. Top seller for people who preferred the big bubbles one step removed from a traditional wine. Our second choice for wedding drinks.
The closest to Champagne that I had whilst in the shop. Dryer than a conventional rose with a great colour and bubble stream. Really biscuity and dry but with a soft, velvety finish. Looks great, too, and I’d have it on my wedding list as my top choice.
Vinada Crispy Chardonnay is a beautiful, bone-dry chardonnay with its origins in France. It has more of a Cava feel with style and attitude, and really great flavour range and finish. The Sparkling Gold is a more fruity demi-sec wine and would still work well at a wedding reception by being that little bit softer.
A lovely sparkling wine for the perfect toast. Wildlife Botanicals offer bubbles with benefits – their wines have botanicals in the mix and so you know you’re drinking something special. Great bubbles and flavours, looks great in the glass, and the added botanicals add a discussion point.
Lyre’s sidestep into the world of wine is a welcome one. Their Classico Grande is a lovely, light, prosecco-style sparkling wine. It looks great in the glass and is a little more on the sweet side than the other options. This makes it really easy to drink and also mixes fabulously in cocktails.
Wedding drinks for the wedding breakfast
If you’re following a non-traditional wedding schedule, then you’ll have done the toasts and speeches early so that your guests can get stuck into the fantastic menu that you’ve chosen for them. And, if this is anything like most weddings, they’ll be starving by now! Fizzy celebration drinks aside, it’s time to think about the perfect wedding drinks to accompany food.
White wine alternatives
Kombucha is not everyone’s cup of tea – if you pardon the pun – but we find that once people try it, they tend to really like Real Kombucha’s offerings. The Dry Dragon is a dry option and most wine drinkers are really happy to drink this. The taste is mellow for a Kombucha, and the elderflower top notes and the bubbles are both very pleasing.
Reisling is a sweeter grape variety so not to everyone’s taste in the full strength world. As an alcohol-free option, however, it works really well. The sweetness and sharpness of the variety prevent the ‘juice’ comparison of some other alcohol-free white wines, making it sit on a par with other alcoholic wedding drinks.
Red wine alternatives
This fantastic red wine option would pair well with red meats and has a little more depth than other alcohol-free red wines due to its Shiraz Merlot blending. With notes of blackberry, cherry, plum, and caramel, this is a great wedding breakfast option.
The red wine of everyone’s choice, hands down the best red that we had in the shop. It has great tannins and depth, some oak tones, and a real smokiness, too. Due to its popularity, this is also one you’ll want to source way ahead of time for your perfect wedding breakfast pairing.
Other food pairing options
My top kombucha. Easily merits a place at a wedding. The rose perfume is just right and avoids being overpowering. It’s gently sparkling, not sweet or dry but nicely balanced in the middle. It easily disguises its origins as it avoids the depth and sharpness of some Kombuchas. You know that you’re not drinking a glass of wine but you don’t really care because it’s that’s good.
A lovely light beer that sits somewhere between a light beer and a prosecco. Pairs really well with food, and has great bubbles and gentle, bitter crispness. It also makes a mean summer cup for summer or outdoor weddings.
Behind the bar alternatives
When the lights go down and the band starts up, your non-drinking guests won’t want to be drinking pints of Coca-Cola. Why not have a stash of something a little more interesting for your evening guests to sup on?
Leffe is a slow sipper, something to relish between the dancing whilst catching up with family and friends. The biscuit-malt flavours give a rich and mellow flavour, and it’s not too heavy after all that food! The alcohol-free version is almost identical to the alcoholic version, with a slightly sweeter taste.
This popular and unusual beer, made from adaptogenic mushrooms, has phenomenal pineapple top notes balanced out with some lovely mild maltiness. No, the beer doesn’t taste of mushrooms. Yes, your guests will love its drinkable, refreshing taste.
This refreshing alcohol-free cider from the heart of Normandy is nice and dry with some oak notes and subtle tannins. It’s a great bubbly option for the evening and is a nice slow drinker in the perfect-sized bottles. A really tasty treat for your guests.
If the venue is nervous about serving alcohol-free spirits, then why not get a crate of ready-made gin and tonic and pop it in the fridge for guests? Highball has mastered the AF G&T, using juniper berries and botanicals to emulate an old favourite. Dance the night away with one of these in your hand and remember every detail of the Big Day!
Wedding drinks to round off the perfect day
Once the music stops and everyone’s danced their socks off, it’s time to relax with a dram of something sophisticated to round off a successful day of celebrations.
What better way to unwind after a day of celebrating than with a nightcap? Three Spirits Nightcap was a favourite in the shop and was even bought recently as evening wedding drinks for a customer’s wedding. Mellow, woody, and with adaptogens to help you feel relaxed, this is a perfect sipper for the end of the night. A great whisky alternative that won’t make your non-drinking guests feel left out.
Highpoint Amber mixed with ginger ale is an excellent after-dinner long drink to replace whisky. It has some oak and some smoke and a little bit of gentle heat to it.
Marie Laveux sits happily between a New Orleans white rum and a tequila. It has lovely, soft, vanilla notes, shoots well neat, or mixes with ginger ale or coca-cola. Gives a beautifully warm, tingling taste to your post-party drink.
Ceder’s crisp has lovely juniper and cucumber notes and holds its own with a light tonic. Great if you feel you’ve overindulged, light after all that dancing, and not too heavy before bed.