We often think of the best bachelorette parties as the most intense—the ones with the most cocktails, the most chaos, the most wild stories. Taking some time to cut loose with your closest friends in life generally is so important—and with a life event as important as marriage, of course you’re going to want your time with your friends. But with the emphasis on things getting messy, crazy, and, well, drunken, it can be a whole other world if you don’t drink (because of issues with addiction, health problems, or because you just don’t want to). Don’t worry, there are still so many ways to have a great time at a bachelorette party—even while staying sober as a judge.
I should know—I’ve been sober for over four years. If you’re someone who used to celebrate a special occasion (or any occasion) with a cocktail, it can be difficult transitioning to sober celebrations. It’s totally normal to feel self-conscious and nervous while you’re getting used to it. But there’s really nothing to feel worried about. Once you get used to partying sober, you’ll be able to relax into it and find yourself cutting loose as much as anyone with a cocktail in her hand. So if you’re trying it for the first time, here’s what you need to know.
Don’t Worry About What Other People Think
First of all, you’re going to feel like people think you’re being lame or not joining in on the fun. That’s total BS. You’re just as much fun as everyone else, whether you have a drink or not. If you feel really weird about it, drink things like sparkling water with lime, which looks like a gin and tonic or a vodka soda. Once everyone else has had a few drinks, they’ll just start to assume you’re holding a cocktail. The worst part of being out and the only sober person is how much pressure everyone puts on you to drink. Either they’re telling you to make an exception, asking you really invasive questions about why you’re not drinking, or just being generally judgmental. Even though you have nothing to apologize for, not drawing attention to the fact that you’re not drinking can help. Then you don’t have to deal with any awkward questions.
In order to nip this problem in the bud, before you go on whatever bachelorette bash your bride has planned, clue her in to the fact that you won’t be drinking (if you feel comfortable sharing). A little suggestion for those brides-to-be should one of your friends bring this up to you: Be understanding, don’t ask too many questions, and keep the info to yourself.
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
Honestly, in my experience, the most difficult thing about partying sober isn’t the lack of alcohol—it’s trying to stay awake. It sounds silly, but it’s alcohol that lets people stay up raging until the wee hours of the morning. This is where you are going to find the biggest struggle. Try to keep the caffeine coming—even an energy drink if you have to—to make sure you’re not snoring on the dance floor.
And don’t feel embarrassed about knowing your limits. If you want to leave early, that’s totally fine. Nothing important happens after a certain point of drunkenness…at least not that anyone remembers. And though everyone may beg you to stay, they’ll probably forget seconds after you’re gone. (It’s nothing personal.) Go home, get some rest, and make them breakfast in the morning. Just try not to gloat over their hangovers.
Allow Yourself to Get Caught Up in the Mood
The most important thing is to still let yourself have a great time—and really, there’s nothing stopping you. But if you’re not used to being sober, you may feel really aware of how drunk everyone is getting around you. Instead, just try to relax. Whether the bachelorette is some girly cocktails in a fancy bar or a full-on stripper show, you can find a way to laugh along with it all. I still dance like an idiot, talk too loud, scream along to my favorite songs, and laugh too hard at jokes on a night out because the mood is infectious if you let it be. It’s one of the best things about big nights: There’s all that great energy. Sure, people can get messily drunk and things can go a little weird, but that’s normally just at the end of the night. Up until then, there’s really no difference; be just as ridiculous and irreverent as everyone else, all while staying completely sober.
You Can Say No
If you find being around alcohol really triggering, feel free to avoid the event altogether. I know it feels extreme, but if it's what you need, then it's what you need—and you shouldn't be ashamed of that. "For those newly in recovery, it may not be so easy to be around these substances without partaking in them," Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist and founder of Envision Wellness tells Brides. "It's a matter of owning where you are in your process and being true to that. If you feel it may be too triggering to attend the party, decline the invitation. If you're comfortable doing so, you can even tell the bride-to-be why you won't be attending. Instead, maybe you two can share something different (e.g., a girls' night or spa day) to celebrate before the big day." If it's a close friend, she'll understand your need to abstain.
Have a Game Plan
When I was first sober, every new event felt like a huge leap. My first sober birthday, my first sober vacation. It gets better—but the first one of anything can be tough. Having a game plan helps. "If you decide to go, then have an exit strategy well thought out ahead of time,” says Martinez. “Drive yourself there (so you can leave if you need to), stay for only the first half of the night, buddy up with someone else who's sober, schedule calls to check in with your sponsor or a supportive friend/family member, and have Uber or Lyft apps ready to go on your phone.” If you know you have options, you'll feel more relaxed—and able to remove yourself from a tricky situation.