How Do I Address A Family Member's Addiction At My Wedding?

Be supportive, so they can celebrate with you

Updated 08/30/17

Elizabeth Cooney

Weddings are happy occasions, though they do come with their fair share of challenges and stress. They can also magnify family issues, including those surrounding addiction and substance abuse. If you have a family member who has an addiction or is in recovery, it’s something you’ll want to make sure is addressed as you finalize your wedding plans. Our experts have a few tips to help you along the way.

When you’re in the midst of planning your wedding, it can be easy to lose sight of the people around us, even just for a moment. You know to schedule date night with your fiancé, arrange girls’ nights with your friends, and call your mom about something other than what color napkins to choose, because these relationships are important and will continue long after you’ve said “I do.” And if you are one of the many, many people who are providing support for a family member dealing with substance abuse or who are on their path to sobriety, it’s a huge and emotional task that requires a lot of thought and brain power.

Don’t forget to find the support you need in order to be the most supportive sibling, child, or relative you can be.

As your wedding day approaches, there are a few things you can do to continue to be supportive and help create a positive environment for the family member or close friend in question. First, identify a vendor who you really trust. That might be your wedding planner, your catering rep, or your photographer. You don’t have to fill this person in on all of the details, but you should bring him or her on as an ally to help you ensure things go smoothly.

For a family member/friend who is sober, take the time to make a few plans that will help him or her feel comfortable. When talking to your vendor, you can keep your explanation incredibly simple, such as: “My uncle Jim is sober, can we make sure we have non-alcoholic beverages available and that the servers don’t offer him wine at dinner?” If you and your sober family member are close, talk to him or her about whether there is anything they might like to have available. Does he or she absolutely love Dr. Pepper, or is iced tea their drink of choice?

It isn’t a must, but if it is something you can accommodate easily, it’s a kind gesture of support.

For a family member who is not yet on a path to sobriety, let the chosen vendor know if there is someone who should be watched closely to make sure they don’t drink too much. Most catering staff and bartenders know what to look for, and have a system in place to cut off a guest who has had too much to drink, and if you are able to give them a heads-up in advance, they’ll be more prepared to catch it before the situation becomes complicated.

It is also a good idea to have a conversation with the person in question in advance of your wedding. If you are worried that they may still end up drinking to much or getting out of hand, ask their spouse or another trusted person to serve as their chaperone for the evening. It is much easier to prevent them from drinking than to try to stop them once they have started, so preemptive preparation is incredibly important.

In either instance, let your vendor-ally know the family member’s name, who he or she is related to, and where he or she will be sitting at dinner. This will enable your vendor team to best serve you and your family, and help ensure everything runs smoothly.

If the person in question has a significant problem, and you don’t trust them to be able to attend your wedding without an issue, you will have to decide if you are comfortable having them attend at all. Deciding not to include a family member in your celebration is hard, but it is important to remember that this day is about you and your partner starting your lives together. If you will be more comfortable and at ease if you are not worrying about a guest having too much to drink, you may need to make the call and ask them to stay home.

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