Top 10 Tips for Sober Entertaining

10 Tips for Sober Entertaining

I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in over 10 years, and I don’t miss it one bit (except maybe once in a while, after a hard day in the office). But it does make entertaining different, and slightly challenging. You don’t quite realize just how much entertaining revolves around alcohol, until you stop revolving around alcohol.

So here are my top 10 tips for sober entertaining that I’ve figured out after 10 years of sobriety:

1. Make it a family event. Whenever you include kids and family, it’s a lot easier to avoid supplying alcohol. After all, no one should drink and then drive—especially with kids in the car. Plus, kids always provide lots of entertainment that’s even more funny and weird than watching people get drunk.

2. Do lunch. People don’t freak out as much if there is no alcohol at a lunch event, and often they don’t even expect any. So if you’re planning a weekend picnic party and you think people might balk if there’s no beer, do it over lunch instead of dinner.

3. Pack it in, pack it out. Sometimes—let’s say I’m having a dinner party for work or charity—it’s not appropriate to NOT serve alcohol. In that case, I always ask the caterer to take care of it. I don’t want alcohol or the tools that go with it in my home, so I make sure they bring it all in and take it all away.

4. Allow people to go BYO. If I’m having people over for dinner and they say, “What can I bring?” I usually say that if you want to drink alcohol, bring your own because I don’t serve it myself. Occasionally people do bring some, and I don’t mind.

5. Use music, the great intoxicator.
It’s true—I get much more buzzed from a good song, a great band, or a high-energy polka! It can really help make a party feel like a party to have a good soundtrack or live music. So invest some time into picking tunes that everyone will enjoy.

6. Make punch. It’s one of the easiest and most fun things to make—and I have three or four vintage punch bowls to serve it in. The typical recipe involves some sort of mix of fruit juices, ice, and sparkling bubbly fluids. Punch can make the dullest day seem festive. (Just don’t spike it!) You can get some ideas by searching the Rodale Recipe Finder.

7. Find sober friends. There are a lot more sober people out there than you think, and it’s great when you find each other. I mean if Keith Urban ever wants to come over to my house for dinner, I’m ready! (Nicole can come, too!)

8. Meet at a restaurant. If you have friends that really like to drink, and you don’t feel like dealing with it, just meet them at a restaurant. They can drink as much as they like and you don’t have to worry about cooking or doing dishes. You also don’t have to tell them that drunk people are never as clever and funny as they think they are.

9. Give it away. Sometimes when you have a party, people bring bottles of wine or other spirits as a gift. I accept them graciously and then give them away at the end of the night—as a thank you to the caterer, or to whomever’s last to leave.

10. Make everyone comfortable.
I am not a prohibitionist or a believer that no one should drink. As a hostess of any party or event, my job is to make everyone feel comfortable. I think a lot of people drink at parties to loosen up and feel less inhibited. But a good hostess can help make it easier for people to feel good—by introducing them to people they don’t know but might like or have something in common with, and by making sure no one is standing alone in a corner (unless they are talking on a cellphone). Most important, keep on laughing. I am thankful I discovered that laughing feels just as good (if not better) without the alcohol, and without making you feel bad or regret things the next day.


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26 Responses to Top 10 Tips for Sober Entertaining

  1. Mary August 7, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    Sorry Maria. Normally I just love your musings and all but this comes off as just a little too preachy.

  2. Callie August 7, 2009 at 10:24 am #

    I think these are good tips, especially for someone who is trying to stay dry and/or go through recovery. If someone is trying to make lifestyle changes where it may be the toughest, advice and tips like these will make it easier and will serve as very useful tools that people can actually implement.

  3. Recovering Family August 7, 2009 at 10:38 am #


    Apparently you have not had the opportunity to deal with an addict or a recovering addict for that matter. My father has been sober 29 years this month! Perhaps you should read up on addictions, recovery and al anon. You may be enlightened!


    Great suggestions & ideas!

  4. Mary August 7, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Hate to bust your bubble, Recovering, but we all have addicts in our families in one way or another! You have no idea what me and my family has dealt with so to say that I have not had the opportunity to deal with an addict is total b.s.! And I’m an ex two-pack-a-day smoker … but honestly, who cares?

  5. Sunny August 7, 2009 at 11:17 am #

    Great tips, but I go even farther and do not allow alcohol brought into my home. My home, my party, my rules. We have more fun without it. If you need alcohol to have a party, well, that’s just sad.

  6. Lori August 7, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    Excellent suggestions. If you need alcohol to have a good time, you aren’t actually having a good time. If people only realized how stupid they look and sound when they are drinking, they just might think twice.

  7. Mary August 7, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    Self-rightessnous is another vice, folks. Sorry to say that I’m just a mere mortal, flaws and all. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  8. Steph August 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm #

    Some people don’t “need” alcohol to have a good time. Some just enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, a beer with a pal, a martini with the girls, etc. Nonetheless, it’s always a good thing to try and make ALL guests feel welcome and comfortable in your home and if that means not having alcohol involved in the festivities, then that’s what it means. To each his own. I have both friends who drink and friends who do not. Personally, whenever we have guests over we ALWAYS make sure to have their drink of choice on hand … whether it be alcohol or not.

    And, I agree Maria. There’s no better feeling than laughter … and good friends usually bring that out pretty easily in us 🙂

  9. Laura K. August 7, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    Congratulations on 10 years of sobriety!

    As a party-girl, I love to have a drink or two at evening events like dinner parties. If a party is “dry” I would definitely appreciate the hostess’s heads-up. It’s a very considerate and generous sober host that would also allow her guests to bring a bottle. I totally would understand and I’d appreciate the attitude that I may drink a glass with other guests but that you would not want it kept in the house. It’s not always easy for sober people and social drinkers to party together.
    Everyone has to find the right balance with friends or associates. If you have friends who must drink to excess to attend and enjoy a social function then it might be time to get new friends, or just meet up at a restaurant like you suggest and remove the prickly problem altogether. As a hostess I always have a wide variety of beverages and options. Just like I serve vegetarian options alongside meat, I try to respect my guests’ health choices. I don’t think you’re coming from a place of self-righteousness, Maria.

  10. Chris August 7, 2009 at 12:36 pm #


    Congratulations on 10 years of sobriety! It’s great that you’re giving tips from the hostess’s perspective. I’d like to add that a good guest should never expect alcohol to be automatically served. I have relatives that never serve alcohol b/c they are also recovering alcoholics, and I have friends who don’t serve it for religious reasons. A gracious guest is simply thankful to be invited and appreciative of whatever is served.

  11. Mary August 7, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Boy, I knew I’d step into it when I opened my mouth … but that’s me!

    First of all, WE ALL know sober friends and family and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, just like there’s anything wrong with having friends and family who drink. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION and all that good stuff. I would never make anyone uncomfortable in my house if they didn’t want a drink if one was offered. That’s fine with me and I’d gladly offer you a non-alcoholic beverage of choice. And chances are, I may join you!

    But to say that it’s “sad” to have to have alcohol at a party, or how people look and sound stupid when they drink … that’s the smugness that I’m talking about.

    Just fill in “meat” where Maria put alcohol in her post and it would probably have every one here that enjoys a good burger rolling there eyes. That’s the preachiness that I’m talking about. I enjoy a good burger with a glass of wine ( or beer) and I feel no shame.

  12. Jake August 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    MARY MARY – sounds like you MAY need AA in the future………..I actually found Maria’s list quite appropriate since a friend of mine just went into rehab yesterday – Maria is SO NOT preaching, she is just speaking from the heart and from her own experience…..just take it for what it is – Maria’s blog, Maria’s perspective……YOU may be able to have just ONE drink with your burger but others may take it to the extreme and want several and when that is the case and they are hosting a party they may do what Maria suggested in order to AVOID excess alcohol in their home and around them in general…..Maria, I will be printing your blog for my friend because she enjoys hosting a good party and perhaps may find your suggestions extremely helpful for when her husband returns!

  13. Sunny August 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    It is sad to HAVE to have it, didn’t say it was sad just TO have it.
    Tone of voice is lost with all of this.
    Also, congratulations to Mary on kicking the 2 pack habit, that is awesome!

  14. Mary August 7, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    WOW! Never seen such a bunch of ass-kissers in my life!!!

    I’m outta here. Rather laugh with the sinners ….

  15. Steph August 7, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    Can’t we all just get along? Wow. Or at the very least, be adults. Mary is completely entitled to her opinion; as everyone is. And I’m pretty sure no one said drinking alcohol was a “sin”.

  16. Claude August 7, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    I’m a parent. My children(all over 21) watch what I do more than listen to what I say. (sad but true) I rarely have a glass of wine at dinner. I cook with wine, so we usually have a bottle. I have family members who sometimes indulge too much. It is sad and it hurts to see someone that you love loosing control. If you have people in your circle that are struggling to learn how to live without alcohol you are sensative to their struggle. That being said, my children need to see me, as a parent enjoying a glass of wine and behaving myself. They need good role models. I haven’t served liquor at a party in my home in years. But guests are free to bring their own if they want. When guests bring what they like, there is less consumed overall. No one feels funny saying, “No, thanks.”

  17. Katie August 7, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    Hey thanks for this thoughtful list! I appreciate your perspective and experience. I do have 2 small kids and when other families come over we put on some rockin’ dance music and all have fun watching the toddlers dance.

  18. Maria (farm country kitchen) August 7, 2009 at 5:34 pm #

    Thank you all for your great thoughts on this! For those of us who are alcoholics it is an all or nothing thing. It was impossible for me to have only one drink. One turned to 4 or more. I saw my kids mimicking me. I saw other family members who never stopped living lives of misery. I wanted to stop and I did — but the world doesn’t make it easy — so we all have to find ways to keep our friendships and family alive in what works for us. Having said that, I still love hamburgers very much! 🙂

  19. Recovering Family August 7, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    Props to you Maria! My father was the first of 3 generations to stop the vicious cycle! One day, one step, one chip at a time! Congrats!

  20. Diane August 8, 2009 at 9:07 am #

    I think your tips are awesome! I’ve been with my boyfriend thru his recovery, and it was hard especially at first to go out with friends or go to parties, because you knew alcohol would be there and I wasn’t sure how he’d handle it. But we still wanted and needed social contact with our friends. We plan to have a non-alc wedding. Those guests who can’t or won’t attend a wedding because there’s no wine or booze, can simply stay home, if that’s their preference.

  21. Anonymous August 9, 2009 at 9:24 am #


    You sound extremely defensive and confrontational. People have a right to express what they feel w/o so much objection to a opinion.
    Maria was offering her view and you can take it or leave it.

  22. Omi August 9, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    Thanks for this post Mary. It seems to have a struck a volatile nerve for many folks, huh? Well, I suppose that just indicates exactly why these kinds of articles are needed. For many of us, there is so much “emotional charge” around alcohol, whether recovering or alanoning, or none of the above. I think its valuable that the discussion gets raised. That we try to collaboratively come up with new options. They may not be perfect, but hey, for my old black and white thinking, I like having some optoins available to me as my mind gets clearer everyday.

    I also think that when we raise controversial issues, its probably best for our own mental health to be prepared for some flack. Not everyone is on the same page. In my perfect world you’d all be on my page. Bu-wha-ha-ha, and do exactly as I say.

    But, until then, I appreciate the honest human effort to sort through this stuff. I’d love to see more response posts from other folks who feel proactively inclined to ADD ideas, instead of bash your tone or what you’ve proposed here. If a recovering addict wants to contribute to the discussion, well, I think Bill W would say that’s the precise “cure” their addiction needs – the opportunity to reach out and support other people trying to make healthy decisions. Too often, once we get clean, we think we know everything, which is just another form of grandiosity. Ok, as I write that last sentence with such, ah-hem, knowing-ness, I recommit to go back to my 4th step work this afternoon. *grin*

    Peace and thanks


  23. Professor Thomas Lee August 10, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    Congratulations on your CEO Edvancement at Rodale Inc., i love your company and read many of your publications. Now you have a rare opportunity to help pioneer and edvancement of our movement to bring integrity and wellness to the public school system. Please consider the great impact that you can have to make a difference in this most important area. The kids need your leadership. We are pioneering a national project in Washington DC with some of the senior members of the Nobel Family that are about the food our kids eat in the public school system. Companies are making billions feeding our kids too much sugar and salt. My office will call your staff to welcome you to become a leader on the HGCS Nobel Integrity Foods for Kids Team in Washington DC. GOD Bless You and Your Family. Thank You for a lifetime of integrity publishing to bring forward your most important work (green wellness) for humanity. Kindest Best Regards, ThomasLee@HGCS Nobel Green Energy 9-10-09

  24. Maggie April 6, 2015 at 10:26 pm #

    Mary, this blog post just isn’t for you. And contrary to what you might believe, you don’t have to continue to beat your opinion into this thread because the original post isn’t about you or your opinions.

    Maria – thanks for the great tips! This is exactly the type of stuff I was looking for. Also, I’d like to add that sometimes there can be confusion as to what type of “sobriety” a party may be (especially in California). Some people who give up drinking do still smoke pot while others don’t. If you have some friends who like to smoke, let them know ahead of time if your party is totally substance-free or just alcohol-free.

  25. Pam August 4, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    I never fell like I HAVE to serve alcohol as you state in #3.

  26. Phe June 28, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

    I’m glad for any articles like these. Have teens now. And a partner on AA. Sometimes I feel that it is nearly impossible to have a party with adults that does not involve alcohol. And the kids are taking their first cues from us, and then with their peers.

    We had a game night recently with a new family. It went well. We rode through the awkwardness of getting to know new people without the “social lube” and ending up having a great time. Took time to get past the awkwardness. It was time well spent.

    We ending up being goofballs. and it was good.

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