The Next Round: What happens after you change your drinking?

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Can you celebrate without alcohol?

Can you celebrate without alcohol?

Celebration means champagne, right? The association between celebration and alcohol is so embedded that it’s hard to imagine a wedding without the sound of popping corks. Baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, new homes, new jobs, Thursdays. Seemingly any occasion is a moment to celebrate. But can you celebrate without alcohol?

Why do we celebrate?

People celebrate for all kinds of reasons. But at their heart, celebrations are about bringing people together.

Indeed, our word celebrate finds its roots in the Latin celebrō, pointing to the idea of going to a large number of places. Celebration historically was about honouring achievement, marking solemn occasions and bestowing honour on individuals. We still describe accomplished people as celebrated. Sometimes, even celebrities too.

Celebrations can strengthen social connections. And because most of us don’t drink most of the time, we should think about how to celebrate without alcohol.

Weddings, birthdays and reunions are celebrations that put people at the centre. Guests and hosts may not be regular drinkers on these occasions, so don’t take drinking for granted.

We celebrate achievements, too, whether completing a degree, winning a contract at work or achieving a milestone. Celebration allows us to recognise the human effort involved in significant accomplishments, and you don’t have to default to buying someone a bottle of wine.

Importantly, celebrations are fun. Festivals, parties, and carnivals are all examples of celebrations we engage in simply for enjoyment. Interesting research on feelings about different drinks suggests that many people positively associate alcohol with fun and celebration, while alcohol-free drinks elicit neutral feelings rather than heightened positive emotions.

So, of course, you may want to consider invoking good feelings in other ways when you celebrate without alcohol. But first, you will want to step back and consider what and who you’re celebrating.

Consciously rethinking celebrations

Priya Parker’s brilliant book, The Art of Gathering (Amazon UK, US, Canada and Australia) is a great guide to bringing people together. At the heart of her approach is understanding the purpose of a gathering.

She shares an example in the book about her baby shower. As is traditional, she was at the centre of the celebrations, while her husband was excluded. But reflecting back, she realised they wanted to express their commitment to parenting their new child together. Having a clear purpose of demonstrating their equality as parents would have meant a celebration that included both of them. As she puts it:

“When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicate old, staid formats of gathering. And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.”

Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering

So the critical point here is not to follow the template for a particular celebration just because that’s how it’s always been done. Starting with the purpose of bringing people together means you can design celebrations that meet the needs of the people involved. And especially if those people – hosts or guests – don’t drink, you can get creative about celebrating without alcohol.

Suddenly, anniversaries don’t have to involve champagne toasts. Birthdays don’t have to involve the popping of corks. You don’t need a cocktail hour at your wedding just because everyone else has one. You can do things your way.

Ways to celebrate without alcohol

Sharing food and drink is a powerful way to signal that we’re all in this experience together. Understanding that shared consumption is about shared connection also frees you to celebrate without alcohol in different ways.

I remember a wedding which eschewed the standard cake for an enormous tiered tower of local cheeses. It was spectacular. But it also really meant something to the couple. The bride and groom were foodies and put their shared passion for food front and centre in their celebration. Everyone ate, shared and talked about the cheese. It was so much more memorable than simply popping a cork.

Much like pre-written sentiments in Hallmark cards, I also wonder if wedding toasts save us the awkwardness of vulnerably expressing our true feelings. So it can be powerful and inspiring to create a way to celebrate without alcohol by making it intensely personal.

For example, at one significant birthday celebration, I used branches and ribbon to create a wishing tree and invited my friends and family to write their hopes for my future on luggage tags that were hung from its branches. After the event, I treasured these notes and repurposed them to hang on my living room wall. Some made me laugh out loud; others brought me to tears. But I felt celebrated. And alcohol had nothing to do with it.

When you realise that you’re celebrating people, not occasions, you can customise your plans to focus on experiences that create joy. If you’re stuck for ideas, start with what makes people happy, like music, dancing and laughter. Make space for conversation and intimacy. Inspire people by stimulating their senses.

Drinks to celebrate alcohol-free

And, of course, you might want to include drinks in your alcohol-free celebrations too.

If popping corks are a joyful sound for you, many sparkling wines are great for celebrating without alcohol. Most supermarkets will carry an alcohol-free wine similar to prosecco, ideally served chilled in a fluted glass. If sparkle and bubbles are your priorities, these drinks can hit the spot, though many people find they can be a little too sweet.

If you’re looking for a more sophisticated drinking experience, check out Club Soda’s range of sparkling wines. These alcohol-free sparkling wines prioritise exquisite flavours, with crisp aromas and a dry finish, at price points for every budget.

Sparkling teas offer possibilities, too, for an elevated and sophisticated celebration without alcohol. If you’re looking for memorable experiences, these drinks are a winner.

Celebrating without alcohol means designing memorable experiences that centre on the uniqueness of the people involved. Ultimately, whether your celebration involves sparkling drinks or not, this is the goal. So get creative, connect with your purpose and celebrate your way.

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