Weddings are one of my favorite things in the world. Well, let me back up. Going to my friends’ weddings is one of my favorite things in the world. They’re beautiful. They’re classy. They’re paid for. Each and every one of them is a drunken free-for-all.
A few years back, my family and I were invited to my cousin’s wedding in Virginia, and us being from the Midwest, that would make it a “destination wedding,” I guess. I had never been to Virginia, but heard great things. Sure enough, those things were true. My cousin Jimmy and I were very close when we were younger, but when his family moved off to the East Coast, our relationship dwindled and we lost touch. At any rate, I was pumped to see him again and celebrate his marriage.
The wedding was a gorgeous affair at the base of a mountain in a state park just about an hour outside of Washington, D.C. It was a small, fast ceremony with my uncle presiding over it. Looking back, it was a very beautiful moment that I probably should’ve taken more time to appreciate. Whatever. I was ready to get drunk by the first reading.
The ceremony ended and we headed back to a nearby town where the reception was being held. I was fidgeting in the back seat, thinking about my first drink order. Should I go with the whisky-soda? Vodka-rocks? Class it up right off the bat with a scotch? So many ways to get shitty for free, and I wanted all of them.
We strolled into the venue as a family, and I was a bit taken aback that there wasn’t a cocktail hour and we were just going right into dinner. I thought nothing of it and looked at it as a positive. I was starving. In the meantime, I’d just power down a couple of beers and save the hard stuff for after dinner. The “beer before liquor” rule doesn’t apply once you’re out of college. Everyone knows that.
I started scanning the banquet hall for the bar. Nothing. Do we just order from a server? Maybe they hadn’t set up the bar yet? Maybe the bartender was late? The bar is in some secret location I didn’t know about?
My mouth dried out and I started to panic. The room was spinning. I had to loosen my tie as the thought of being sober for several hours with my extended family overcame me. I was in a tailspin. I needed hooch and I needed it right then. Some might say that makes me an alcoholic, but as a gainfully employed 23-year-old, I say it made me human.
I leaned over to my dad, hiding the sheer terror in my voice…
Me: “Hey, dad. Where’s the bar at?”
Dad: “Um. Son, this is a dry wedding.”
Me: “What, they’re only serving merlot and cab?”
Dad: “No. There’s not any alcohol here.”
The color drained from my face. My worst fears were realized. I was at a wedding without alcohol. None. There wasn’t a drop in the building.
I knew what I had to do. I had to find a liquor store, and fast. Dinner would be served shortly. I grabbed one of my other cousins and pulled them aside, asking them if I knew where I could get a pint of whiskey before things got underway and if they’d be interested in sharing it with me. They informed me that they couldn’t help me out.
So I went up to Jimmy to congratulate him on his marriage, and tell him how happy I was for him and his wife. I was about to turn the conversation to hooch, when a guy I’d never met before came up and introduced himself to me. I knew most of Jimmy’s friends and this wasn’t a family member.
“Oh, hey, man. This is my sponsor, Jeff.”
Boy, did I feel like an idiot. My cousin, who I was once very close to, was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and I had no idea. I was wondering why everyone was so emotional. In fact, I remembered my mom mentioning something about it at the airport.
So after pretending to know what the hell he was talking about, I asked him about his recovery and how it was going, just feeling like a terrible human being. Here’s a guy with a legitimate substance abuse problem that has even gone to rehab for it, and here I am like some sort of fiend, ready to fake chow one of the fat bridesmaids for a shot of Beam. Who’s the one with the real problem here?
The reception drawled on and I actually had a pretty nice time. I danced with my mom, which inevitably led her to asking me when I was going to get married, and I avoided the question by subtly hinting at putting her in a home first chance I get. I caught up with a lot of family members and even hit it off with a bridesmaid without the aid of grandpa’s cough medicine.
The reception came to a close, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel. I was still aching for a taste of the sauce, so me and my oldest brother asked our dad to drop us off downtown so we could find a bar and eventually make our way back to the hotel.
We wandered around this small burg’s downtown for 20 minutes unable to find a bar, when finally we ran into a couple on the street. We asked them where we could find the nearest alcohol serving establishment. They looked at us like we had just asked them where we could find black tar heroin and then informed us that the county we were in was, in fact, a dry county with 30 miles both ways in between us and the nearest bottle of legal booze.
Tired, and not willing to find a way to the county line, we surrendered and headed back to the hotel. I guess sometimes the powers-that-be just don’t want you to drink.