BYOB weddings: do they work?

With guests guzzling more than £1000 of booze on average per wedding, isn’t it about time we embraced BYOB?

I have a love-hate relationship with summer wedding season. The flowers, the dresses, the heat of the sun as you sip on Prosecco with your nearest and dearest – it can’t be beat. But the cost of hotels, presents and fancy venue bar tabs? That’s something I can do without.

This year, two wedding invitations flopped through my letterbox almost simultaneously (to be held one day after another, groan). But one held a very pleasant surprise. Annie, a friend from university, was getting married (the first to tie the knot) and she had planned exactly the kind of wedding that any guest would love to attend: no gifts, local venue, home-made cake table and, best of all, bring your own booze.

Don’t get me wrong: big ’dos are a blast to attend, and an incredibly generous way for a couple to show their appreciation to those that have supported them throughout their life and on their journey to becoming a married couple. But, as a guest, my funds are limited. And it’s no fun saying you can’t celebrate with a friend because money’s tight.

Last weekend, the big day rolled around. With a gift list, you can click from a selection of pre-chosen items, have it sorted within minutes and without even lifting a brain cell. BYOB is a different matter.

Is it inappropriate to show up with a four-pack of Red Stripe? Should I bring enough to share? If I tell people I’m not sharing, will they raise an eyebrow at how much I’m planning to drink? What if someone takes my carefully chosen beverage? (At a house party you could confront someone over this kind of heinous act; but at a wedding?)

I opted for a few bottles of craft beer, thinking that as it was a nice occasion it would be a better look If I had something fancy to swig on, and I made sure to spend enough that I didn’t really mind if someone else dipped into my stash (grand total: £15). And off we went, Sainsbury’s carrier bags in hand, to celebrate.

The night was perfect. Annie had enlisted friends and family to help decorate the venue, the Limehouse Town Hall, with an abundance of fairy lights, gypsophila and white roses. Two huge tables swooped through the room for everyone to put their booze and home-made bakes on, while the venue provided two members of staff to open and pour drinks for us.

Really, all Annie wanted was for everyone to celebrate with her and her new husband. By asking us all to contribute to their celebration, the couple created a sense of togetherness that would be hard to replicate at a more formal event. And I’m pretty sure it was this atmosphere that was largely responsible for so many guests having to be herded off the dance floor at the end of the night (one more song!). Young and old, everyone was enjoying themselves to the full.

They say once one of your friends gets married, everyone else starts to come down with wedding fever. Cue invitations (and credit-card applications). As the first of our friendship group to take the leap from single life to marital bliss, I hope Annie’s low-key-but-still-perfect celebration can set the trend for the rest of us!

For more wedding drinks and party planning tips:
How many glasses of champagne in a bottle? Wedding party questions and answers
Your guide to a wedding bar and drinks
Unusual wedding drinks ideas

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