Alcohol-Free Hosting Expert's Advice on Wedding Venues
I didn't realize it was going to be so difficult or zeitgeist-challenging to host an alcohol-free wedding, but here we are with 2 insane stories about how our beverage choice is making venue stability and selection much more challenging than I anticipated.
(Photo by @creativeedgephotographyaz)
As far as wedding planning goes, we really don't have a lot of must-haves, but here's our list:
🌱 October 2023
🌱 Anything Arizona except Tucson lol
🌱 Fall wedding with at least 1 pumpkin
🌱 Dog friendly as Honey has to be there OBVS
🌱 Alcohol-free reception serving kava and CBD
🌱 Dessert bar!!!
In September, we found the DREAMIEST venue in the entire state of Arizona. Lynx Creek Farm is a part of the Prescott Cabin Rentals group, which owns a handful of properties in the Yavapai Hills in Prescott, Arizona. For weddings, they'd INCLUDE 3 cabins that slept 18 people for the entire weekend of your special day. This was the seller for us - but they just kept getting better. We got to bring our own personalized menus for their bartender to serve, have everything on our list, and have one of the best backdrops I've ever seen -all coming in UNDER budget. I literally told Tyler "I can't believe how easy planning this wedding has been. I have had zero stress whatsoever."
Famous. Last. Words.
On December 13th 2022. we received this email:
Dear Marina & Tyler, It is with heavy hearts and our deepest condolence that we must tell you our Venue has received a cease and desist order. We can no longer host weddings on our farm. Although we have been hosting weddings for the last 20 years we have grown considerably the last 3 years and our neighbors have risen up in protest. We unfortunately have had a few past disrespectful wedding guests wander around and trespass onto several neighbors property, urinating, throwing beer cans, cigarette butts and with one case actually enter their home through an unlocked door. Greg, Raphael and I have been in long talks with Planning and Zoning and have sent out hundreds of letters but it seems to be of no avail. This has made us sick with worry and deeply concerns us having to inform you of this terrible outcome. We all understand what a huge impact this must be to you. Raphael is ready to research and support you in finding another Venue if this would help you at all. Owner of Lynx Creek Farm / Prescott Cabin Rentals
Luckily, Raphael (the event coordinator at Lynx Creek Farm) is an absolute sweetheart and gave us a list of her top recommendations in the area with similar offerings. The moment we saw Mortimer Farms and their farm-to-table offerings in a family-friendly environment, we were SO excited! We booked a tour on the farm by filling out a form on their website. We mentioned the points in the above list (including the alcohol-free bit) both online and then verified in-person. We had an extensive conversation with the Event Coordinator about why we're alcohol free and why we're so passionate that we made it into our careers. She told us she thought what we are doing is really neat and she couldn't wait to draw up the contract.
When we received the contract, it was more expensive than initially anticipated, but we decided we liked what they had to offer because we felt so great about feeding our families and friends the highest quality, farm to table meal possible. We were just about to schedule another visit to do another tour with my mother-in-law, when I received the following separate email:
Hello Marina- I spoke with the owner yesterday regarding the drink requests for your event. We cannot allow the CBD wine or the kava that you have requested for your event. Please advise as I know this was an important element of your event. Special Events Manager, Mortimer Farms
To which we replied:
Thank you for getting back to us regarding this important detail before any contracts were signed or paid for. Did the owner happen to mention to you why you cannot allow CBD wine or kava to be served? This is a legal, safe, healthy alcohol-alternative that guarantees everyone will get home safely at the end of the night. Did you mention that we are professionals in the alcohol-free beverage industry and are directly involved with the company of the product we’re trying to serve? We’d be happy to answer any questions they have – as we are the experts and can help their business better serve their community by replacing poison with drinks that actually foster real connection. Alcohol-free alternatives are growing in demand, as people are not as into alcohol as they used to be. If today is not the day that the owner wishes to be open to these alternatives, please let them know we’re expanding our business and will always be available when they’re ready to increase their ability to serve their community. Have a great rest of your day!
And she responded:
Hi Marina- Yes, the owner researched and considered those points but has decided not to allow these at our venues. And, I did convey all points noted in your message. I wish you success in locating your perfect venue and much happiness in your life together. Thank you for the opportunity.
This rejection lit a fire to do some research into all wedding venues in the state we can possibly find. Now I can't help but to ask, who is open to this, to us? Who isn't? Where can I make more connections to help empower business owners to offer more responsible choices to their non-alcohol drinking crowds other than tea or lemonade? Where are we going to get married?!?!
In a recent group staff coaching session at Lacuna Kava Bar, we talked a lot about ensuring we understand our desired result and purpose for achieving that desired result in order to be fueled most optimally. What came up for me was that I want to grow and expand the alcohol-free movement in order to help more people heal & challenge the notion that alcohol is required to have a good time. I’d love to see kava being offered as an alternative option to alcohol in situations where alcohol is typically offered in our culture (i.e. weddings, public places like zoos, sporting arenas, farmer’s markets, private corporate events, entertainment and event venues, etc.). I won't rest until I've talked to every event coordinator, beverage vending business, and venture alike. This purpose is so potent to my fiancé and myself that it has became a hard NO to any venue that won't allow kava and CBD but does allow alcohol.
My best advice for anyone searching for a wedding venue: fill out a LOT of venue information request forms from the start, just in case your venue falls through. This will also help you negotiate a better rate because you'll be more well informed of "fair" pricing in your desired area.
We aren't stressed, but we are determined. We have amazing people in our lives that have our back. Huge shoutout to our friends, family and our photographer, Nicole of Creative Edge Photography, for being so insanely great at communication, being a human throughout this process, and most of all, being great at what you do behind the lens!