Why are Weddings Triggers for Alcoholics?

Remember the movie where Sandra Bullock gets drunk at her sister’s wedding, steals the limo and crashes into a house? I am going to a wedding today, and I do not intend to do that. Nor do I expect to drink up the dregs of liquor left by tablemates when they get up to dance. I won’t go to the bathroom and apply black eyeliner as lip liner or pass out sitting on a toilet. I will not throw up in the chocolate fountain.

There will be no interruptions of the speeches on my part. I won’t clang my champers glass with such vigor it shatters all over my endive salad. No “flirting” with someone else’s spouse in a broom closet. And when my polite neighbor pulls out my chair, I will notice. I won’t sit in the empty space and fall, legs akimbo, beneath the table (yanking the linens from under the china like a bad magician).*

Weddings Are Triggers for Everyone

As I think about going to the wedding, I feel nothing except anticipation. But I hear from people all the time that weddings are a trigger to their alcoholism. In meetings and group sessions across the land, someone is telling a story about their bad behavior at an erstwhile wedding. Or they are talking about how scared they are to turn up at the nuptuals of a loved one.

I think those of us in recovery should give ourselves a break. Weddings are triggers for everyone on the planet. The single, those who are 20 pounds overweight, the black sheep uncle from Down Under, the long-time married and people with jobs they loath, to name a few.

Here’s why weddings trigger us:

  • Family – Who pushes buttons more than far flung family? Who do you want most to impress? The old saying springs to mind – “Don’t shame the name!”
  • Alcohol – Open bar – need I say more?
  • That Band – The Bunny Hop is not something you break out on a Wednesday night – silly begets silly.
  • Look at the Time – At weddings you spend long, unstructured time with people you normally have more structured relationships with.
  • (Don’t) Show me the Love – They are so happy. Everyone is so happy. Why aren’t I that happy?

I don’t mean to be insensitive, but this isn’t about you. In the Sandra Bullock movie (28 Days), the worst part about her behavior was not her alcoholism (which was bad). It was the fact she ruined her sister’s wedding. That’s the point – alcohol makes those of us with SUDs insensitive, boobs.

If you are a recovering alcoholic and you go to a wedding, by all means prepare. Your sobriety is incredibly important. Have a sober friend at the ready. Or if you think it will be too difficult, respectfully decline. If you are on a diet that has been going well, watch the cake intake. Hate your job? Lie. Your marriage might be going through a rough patch, but try not to compare it to the bride and groom…

This is their day, after all – one glorious event to declare the love and commitment.


Remember that. Have a good time. Stay away from the limo. And keep your head down.

Today I’m not drinking because I am packing my party purse – no eyeliner, only lip gloss…

How come you’re not drinking?

*I have only done one of these ghastly things, but they are all true stories from others…