Should you make it clear in advance if the invitation is to a 'dry' event?

Oh, boy. This weekend some relatives are hosting a big family get together/cookout/potluck all day type thing, the first such occasion we’ve had since 2019. The idea is everyone come, hang out, eat, play games, swim, whatever – just a casual all-ages whole family type thing.

This was announced back around the end of May, in the ‘notice on the family page’ sense, with word osmosising around to everyone casually. No written invitations or RSVPing or anything like that. Basically, here’s when and where, bring your favorite share-able dish, and come or don’t as you please.

But yesterday the hosts sent out mass email to the whole family “reminding” everyone that this was a ‘no alcohol’ gathering and no one should bring any booze or dishes that include alcohol when they’re consumed. (Like it’s okay if something is cooked with wine, so long as the wine is boiled off in the process of cooking, but no booze soaked fruit cakes or such.)

Yeah. This hasn’t been well received. First of all, there’s no ‘reminder’ here, nothing like this has been mentioned before, and there’s plenty of people who feel this sort of day-long hang out just screams for a cooler of beer and pitchers of something with a bit of a kick to help pass the hours pleasantly.

And there’s no explanation for why the ban. We’re not Baptists or anything like that. So far as I know, nobody in the family is ‘formally’ an alcoholic or recovering, and there’s never been any big drink-fueled bust ups at past occasions – though a fair number of cases of ‘he drives there, she drives home because…you know.’ So why??

OTOH, from some of the screeching, you’d think some of the people consider having to spend some hours socializing without a drink is just short of torture. And many of these are claiming it’s an infringement of etiquette for the hosts to ban alcohol, when in a sense, everyone at a potluck is partially playing host. “Why shouldn’t my contribution include a 12 pack of Miller as well as potato salad and a blueberry pie?” A couple went so far as to call it a form of ‘bait and switch.’ Get people to make plans, get their children all excited about the party, and t hen change the rules to something the parents would have refused outright if they’d known.

Like one woman told how she and her husband had gone to a wedding reception and then walked right out before the meal started when they found out there’d be no bar or even wine at the meal. She was apparently so indignant over this that she’d fumed over being ‘suckered’ into giving the couple a nice wedding present!

So, what do you say? Is the presumption that large get togethers will be at least accepting of alcohol drinks? Should the invitations include some sort of ‘warning’ if otherwise?

Personally we’ll still go, but I expect my husband will want us to arrive ‘late’ and depart rather soon after the meal, versus hanging about and schmoozing for hours the way he would normally.

For a “Bring your own everything else”? Yeah, in general.

For a wedding or some such? I’d say including the information in the invitation would be courteous considering the society we currently live in, but if you feel it’s a “bait and switch” if it’s left out you have a (low grade) drinking problem.

The answer to the first question is one of culture. Most large events I frequent would be accepting of alcohol if not actively providing it. But I know some that wouldn’t.

If people would otherwise assume that alcohol is fine, then, yes, it should be specified that this event is dry.

People who make a big deal about attending a social event without alcohol either have a drinking problem or are insufferable assholes. I like alcohol, but, geez, not every event has to include it. And I can’t imagine leaving a wedding because they didn’t serve alcohol. What the hell is wrong with them?

I would assume that there is someone, and the hosts are trying to accommodate them without making it public.

Given the way it was passed around, I could see that it was really a reminder about something that got lost in along the grapevine.

As for your main question: assuming there is no such expectation otherwise, I do think it probably should be mentioned. With my family, it was expected on both sides that there would never be any alcohol present, but, on one side, it wasn’t unusual for someone to bring a couple cans of beer or something for themselves that they would drink, albeit not usually around everyone else.

But, yeah, if that’s not the norm, it makes sense to mention. Though you do have to make allowances for if the norms for certain groups are different.

Is it possible that the people who sent the reminder are teetotalers, and tend to assume no alcohol in their gettogethers?

The no alcohol bit should be part of the original invite. I get the complaints honestly.

Walking out of a wedding as no drinks though? That is seriously rude.

I think that it should be mentioned in advance. Also, since this is a pot luck, why does one person get to say whether there is booze? If someone is in recovery, I think it’s reasonable to make a request, with some kind of explanation.

Have these same relatives hosted events with alcohol in the past? If so, then yeah, this was kind of rude to spring at the last minute, with no explanation. And if it’s because there will be a relative present who can’t be around alcohol, that information probably does need to be disseminated (even through back channels) so if nothing else people know to only invite that relative to alcohol-free events in the future.

As others have noted, if, as the OP notes, “no alcohol” has not previously been the norm at past family gatherings, then yeah, it would have been good form to bring up the subject when things were first being planned (though, as the OP mentions, a lot of the organizing seems to have been on the informal side up until now).

To word the note as a “reminder” is probably at least part of what’s weird and potentially upsetting to some people, as it was clearly new information to many of the participants.

This is what I would suspect is what’s going on. In particular, it may be that a family member (or one of the hosts) has recently been diagnosed as an alcoholic, is having some issue with alcohol, or has started with a substance abuse program. The wording of a “reminder” makes me think that the hosts are trying to make it seem like “this was our intention all along,” even if it wasn’t.

Since its a big family thing its quite possible that someone is struggling with substance abuse and they don’t want to call it out. If there are teens who have been getting into the booze, a big family event with coolers and not a lot of supervision can be trouble. But it should have been on the first invite - possibly with a “someone who shall remain nameless has asked this to be an alcohol free event because they are struggling. We ask that you respect that.” However, in some families that just is going to create gossip and tension anyway. Its also possible that the hosts found out about this late when someone said “we can’t make it because…”

Substance abuse is a tough one and the drama your family is creating over beer doesn’t help.

I wondered about this. But I also suspected that the reason for the “no alcohol” policy was that, last time, one or more people had too much to drink and became assholes. Or maybe there was underage drinking that could have gotten them in legal trouble; or people drinking and then driving home. So giving a reason for the no-alcohol policy might have helped, or it might have just offended people or invited further argument.

For me personally, whether or not there’s alcohol is pretty close to a non-issue: I’m happy if it’s there, and I don’t mind if it isn’t.

If there are people who can’t enjoy themselves without alcohol, well, in a way, I envy them, because that means that alcohol does something for them that it doesn’t do for me. But that means that if they can’t handle an event like that without drinking, I can’t handle an event like that period.

If I’m invited to an event with my relatives, I’m going to want to be drinking/vaping, otherwise I’ll be spending my time with people who are more fun.

If Uncle Ted is struggling with alcohol I won’t offer him any.

I don’t consider myself an alcoholic nor an asshole, just a realist.

If the alcohol is banned because the event is in a public park or something that should be shared in advance. If this is something that the family just discovered then more information should be given. In either case I’ve found that the people and places that ban alcohol tend to be tedious in other ways too so I would plan on showing up late and leaving early just like I do at other events that sound like they’ll be tedious.

Maybe a drinking problem, but it actually fits in with her overall “if it isn’t being done EXACTLY the way I would do it, it’s WRONG!” nature. I learned back when hubby and I were just dating that you NEVER go out to anything lower than ritziest of dining establishments with her because otherwise you had to witness (and try to intervene in) an endless series of lectures from her to perfectly nice waitstaff.

The couple definitely aren’t teetotalers – or they weren’t as of a couple years ago – but they haven’t hosted any big gathering that I’ve been to. They’re relatively young (around 30) and I think only bought their house a couple of years ago. Generally the hosts of our big family gatherings have been the well-established couples with larger houses/yards that can accommodate people more easily.

Yeah, except lots of people may not be ready to announce they’re having a problem, even if they’ve reached the stage of acknowledging it and even seeking help.

But somewhat similar, around fifteen years ago we started gaining a few vegetarians/vegans through marriage and/or conversion and there was some ruffled feelings. But it soon enough became a custom to label dishes that were suitable for vegans or vegetarians, and to avoid ‘unnecessarily’ adding meats to stuff that would otherwise be fine. Like, put a bowl of bacon crumbles alongside your bean casserole instead of just sprinkling them across the whole dish.

But that leaves it up to the affected individuals: they have to choose not to dig into that casserole with mystery ingredients and skip the bacon bits for themselves, rather than saying that no one else is allowed to bring or eat those things if they choose.

I hadn’t thought about those aspects. In our ‘sue over everything’ society, I guess the host is taking a real risk. “So what if you didn’t give him the beer? You threw the party and otherwise Johnny couldn’t have drunk all that beer and then drove his car into that tree!”

Insufferable assholes it is :wink:

I don’t think that having a preference for gatherings with alcohol makes one an asshole or a problem drinker. I think making a big deal about it suggests that one is an asshole or a problem drinker. Or maybe your relatives are just less pleasant to be around :slight_smile:

I think it’s poor etiquette to throw that out there at the last minute but, personally, I really wouldn’t care as long as there is good 'ole cold H2O available. I don’t drink soda, though unsweetened ice tea would be fine.

Yeah, I wouldn’t “make a big deal about it”, I’d just do something else on that day.

Me too. Family gatherings are much more an obligation than anything I would choose to do with my free time.

I am from a Baptist community, and the presumption was always that events were dry (though that is probably changing.)

For me, the religion didn’t stick but the contempt for alcohol did. I strongly prefer to avoid locations/situations where people are drinking.

If it is an event where there is traditionally ample alcohol than it is polite to mention it will not be available. If it is not such an event, then no, although it may still be polite.

That’s where my mind went, too. “Oh shit, Uncle Frank’s coming, isn’t he? Christ almighty, last time we had him over to a barbecue, he got plastered and went skinnydipping in the neighbor’s pool and then punched out their dog, didn’t he? What do we do? Can we just make this a dry event?” Maybe not handled with utmost tact, but they might be low-level panicking about someone in particular.

The fact that it’s an obligation would make me more likely, not less likely, to put up with rules around it that I don’t like. I don’t really enjoy reunions, so if I go to one, it’s not for fun, it’s for some familial duty or another.