How do I host non-drinkers without making them feel excluded?

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My in-laws recently decided to stop drinking, and they’re healthy and happy with the choice. And for my part, I love it when people make choices that make them feel good.

However, I’m in a spot when it comes to an upcoming family party: I’ve never hosted non-drinkers. How do I gracefully support their choice without making them feel excluded or singled out?

Any tips for simultaneously hosting folks who drink and folks who don’t? -smac

My first piece of advice is to peruse Offbeat Bride’s awesome post on mocktails. That way you can serve alcohol-free drinks that are just as fun as the booze-y drinks.

You could also use this trick: Set out a big bowl, or beverage dispenser, of non-spiked punch and let your guests spike their own drinks.

Or set up a drinks station with beverage dispensers full of pre-made drinks that are both non-alcoholic and booze-soaked. But make sure to label them really well — you don’t want anyone getting tipsy by accident.

Homies, what are your tips for hosting non-drinkers in your drink-enjoying homes?

Comments on How do I host non-drinkers without making them feel excluded?

  1. When I ran into this post as I perused Home’s new articles, I immediately wanted to let you know that I am SO appreciative of your mindset here.

    I have been vegetarian for six years and vegan now for approximately half a year. My family is anything but supportive. I’ll spare you the details, but I think the reason this stood out to me as much as it did is because of my birthday party coming up in less than a week (family tradition to use birthdays to get the family together), and my parents (who have always prepared or purchased the food for their children’s birthdays) have basically refused to make anything that I or my husband can actually eat. I know how much I can feel excluded and unaccepted by people who really matter to me when something important like diet or alcohol consumption is ignored. So thank you!

  2. First of all: Things like non-alcoholic beer even Malt Beer, some lemonades made via fermentation etc. have some small amounts of alcohol in them! This actually makes them not so great for children and becomes relevant if the guests are non-drinkers for religious reasons or because they’re recovering alcoholics. If somebody has stopped drinking for health reasons, or because they just don’t like being drunk, or has always been a (mostly-)non-drinker (like me) for similar reasons, then those are fine (if they like the taste).

  3. This question made me chuckle. As a non-drinker, my question would be the opposite. How much alcohol do you serve for drinkers? Do they just drink the boozey drinks, or should there be other options too? How many different kinds of beer would I need to get to satisfy the majority of palates? Is liquor appropriate for a dinner party or is that just a weekend thing? At what point do you require a beer run to keep the supply from running out? What are margaritas????

    It basically boils down to the idea that everyone wants to enjoy a party/gathering/ritual sacrifice without feeling parched and maybe having something other than lukewarm tap water with which to hydrate.

  4. For people who don’t like carbonated drinks (like me!), I’d suggest offering fancy juices like kiwifruit, banana, pear, whatever feels fancy in your part of the world 🙂 Fruit cordials are also a great way to show you went out of your way for your non-drinking guests.

  5. I LOVE THIS QUESTION! I am a lifelong non-drinker.

    I don’t need anything special when I visit you. One non-alcoholic, non-water, non-soda option is sufficient.

    Mocktails are a bit ridiculous to me. I don’t like non-alcoholic wine or beer, either. I don’t drink by choice, and I don’t need to pretend that I am. I also can’t have anything fizzy due to an allergy. Lemonade, iced tea, juice, apple cider (non-alcoholic), hot tea or coffee, ect. And don’t discount milk, especially in cool weather! Chocolate milk is pretty fun at parties.

    If water is my only option, I’ll drink water. Water is great! Especially water flavored with cucumber, berries, or citrus.

    Thanks for thinking of us non-drinkers!

  6. Thier is a lot of great comments so forgive me if this one has allready been mentioned.

    My husband is sober and I’ve spent much of the last 3 years pregnant or nursing babies and thus not drinking. To make the non-drinkers feel like part of the festivities and to not make them look like the “debbie downers” (and I say that as someone who doesn’t think you need booze to party but who fields the “why aren’t you joining the fun” questions all the time) match the alcoholic bevies to the non-alcoholic. If you’re serving nice red wine with dinner nothing stands out like looking around a beautiful set dinner table full of wine glasses and holding a can of coke. Serve wine and sparkling grape juice or wine and sparkling water with fruit. Of if you’re having people over to grill serve beer, cider and sparkling apple juice. Or serve cocktails and mocktails. That way no one stands out as drinking something different and drinkers/non-drinkers get to have something special.

  7. This is kind of a weird question to me because I’m a mostly non drinker who grew up in a Southern Baptist family, which meant no drinking. I was out of high school before I even went to a wedding where alcohol was served. The big concession was making sure there was enough unsweet iced tea for those who don’t drink sweet tea (I’m from the South, um, obviously).

    As I’ve gotten older my family has relaxed and changed but it’s still the same – sodas, water, iced tea (sweet and unsweet) and sometimes beer or wine.

    And everyone is different. A lot of commenters have said they like it when there’s an option that’s not soda, but I’m prefectly happy with a diet soda. I also don’t really like seltzer water or flavored sparking water, so if those are the options, I’d quietly figure out a way to get tap water.

    Also some people would feel uncomfortable having a soda or water or something that stands out from being beer or wine or mixed drinks. But I’d rather have a Diet Coke, it’s my favorite. I’d rather drink something I’m comfortable with than having something that I might or might not like made to look like everyone else.

    I don’t know about your relationship with your in laws, but you might try asking them directly what they would prefer. You may not feel comfortable with the direct communication but there are a lot of different suggestions/ideas/opinions so maybe the direct approach would work best in your situation.

  8. Thanks, offbeat homies! All good advice. I’m happy to say the event went without a hitch. Nobody made a fuss about non-drinking, and everyone was comfortable. In retrospect, I was more worried about them feeling awkward or excluded, but I was able to offer some great mocktail options and life carried on as usual. Success! 🙂

    Also: while hubby and I love our wine and scotch collection, we don’t judge non-drinkers at all! To each their own. It was just a totally new hosting paradigm for me, since I grew up in a house/community where adult parties meant strong bevvies. It’s been really cool readingyour various responses that reflect the variety of eexperience out there.

  9. I don’t drink and neither does my immediate family. My husband and about half his immediate family doesn’t either, so our wedding was dry. We had diy Italian cream soda bar and fruit water, as well as a few other options at our wedding.
    My dad when he was alive, was an alcoholic, and had been clean for 30 years. He was also a musician and frequently in clubs and bars to play. People wanted to buy him drinks and would probably have considered it rude if he declined. So, he just set it up with the bartenders. If someone wanted to buy him a drink, he’d get those non- alcoholic beers… But in a glass. No one knew or had to know. And he could join in their fun… And his playing wouldn’t suffer for it either. 🙂

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