When you attend a wedding, do you expect there will, or will not, be alcohol served?
13 years ago this December, I married the daughter of a Texas Baptist pastor. Ergo, there was no alcohol at our wedding reception. And Valerie and I were fine with that. But to my father, whose Massachusetts Irish-Catholic relatives were in attendance, it was an insult that he "wasn't allowed" to provide it at the rehearsal dinner HE was paying for...
Sadly, I think my dad - who I had asked to be my Best Man - let that eat at him so much on the inside, that it really distracted him from the things I had hoped he would find special about that weekend. I still don't think he ever grasped what I was asking when I asked him to be my Best Man. We shared a special bond, and I wanted to reflect that, have him give a heartfelt toast at the reception (he blew it big time), and just put together a little "bachelor party" that consisted of me and him and my best friend Jay (who also thought of my dad as a father figure) at the pool two nights before the nuptuals. At least that last part he got right.
Alcohol and the use of alcohol is a subject I don't intend to get to the bottom of today. I'm well versed in what the Bible says and what it does not say. I have a history of alcoholism in my family, but the reason I tend to not use it isn't that. I've just never had much use for it. That said, I'm not an abstainer. Though I've never kept beer in the house, we do usually have a bottle of wine on hand for special dinners, and have mixed margaritas for special occasions. At dinners out or social gatherings, I tend to have one of whatever's being served. Again, it's not from a conscientous decision, personal stand, or anything else. This is just not my pet issue. I have too many others.
Besides that, culture and geography play such a huge part in answering this question. Valerie and I still attend church in Virginia, but most of our Sunday School classmates in this part of the country are shocked that we didn't serve alcohol at our wedding. For them, and I think for many, to even consider not doing so would at best be a faux-pas, at worst be considerably rude.
But then there are plenty of Christians I know - particularly back in Oklahoma and Texas - who might be just as shocked if they ever attended a wedding where there was alcohol served. Before getting married myself, I was in the wedding party for several friends' marriages, and none of them had alcohol as part of the occasion. I strongly doubt whether it was even considered.
Who's right? Who's wrong? If you were to say the phrase 'dry wedding,' would that be redundant, because to you, OF COURSE a wedding is dry? Or would it be an oxymoron, because to you, OF COURSE a wedding includes drinking? (I'm pretty sure the wedding at Cana wasn't dry. But then again, I don't think Baptists had been invented yet...)
Whenever the issue of alcoholic beverages comes up, I like to reflect upon a story I read a couple years ago. An American pastor from the Bible Belt was attending a pastor's conference in Germany. During meal time, he was very discouraged to see his European brethren partaking of the beer that was on hand. He really wanted to say something to them about it, but he didn't want to be the 'ugly American,' so he decided to just sit there alone, eat his dinner, and drink his Coca-Cola.
Eventually, he noticed the others kinda looking at him funny. Finally, one of the beer-drinking European pastors came over to him and said, "Brother, we don't want to judge, but we can't help but be curious... how can you in good conscience put those chemicals [referring to the Coke] in your body?"
He'd just been served a lesson in cultural differences and perspective. Missionaries who visit our church and Adult Bible Fellowship class tell us that these are extremely important factors to consider wherever one does ministry and carries the gospel. Unfortunately, we ignore them in our own country quite often because of our love for truth and taking stands (good things).
What if Valerie and I hadn't married in the Baptist church... in Texas... and her father wasn't a pastor? Would we have served alcohol at our wedding? If we were doing it today we might at least discuss it, I think. But we'd probably come to the same conclusion we did back then...
We wanted our ceremony to be one of worship. And it was. The focus was on God, and our coming together. Relatives - even the ones who drink and were "so unfairly" (that's me putting words in my late father's mouth) kept from doing so - still tell us to this day it was beautiful, and as it should be. That said, I know for many, the focus of the reception is on putting together a fun event for the attendees. And I can't complain about that. Good hosting is valued. But the open-ended question still remains one that keeps me curious, keeps me asking Christians from different parts of the country what they think. And I never get tired of the quizzical reactions/looks on the faces that say, "What kind of a question is that?" - even when someone in Texas and someone in Virginia might have exact opposite reasons for the same reaction.