If you’re attending a wedding, and there’s booze present, and especially if you’re the one getting hitched, there’s a good chance you’re getting tanked, friend. Not only will you be toasting and drinking at your command, but you’ll be plied with loads of alcohol by every well-meaning loved one on the guest list. And not just any alcohol — most likely every type of alcohol known to man, maybe barring absinthe or moonshine, depending on what part of the country you’re getting married.
Shots? Gotta calm those nerves. Wine? Goes great with that steak you’re serving for dinner. Champagne? Can’t toast without it. Mixed drinks? What’s a dance party without one or seven?
The odds are not in your favor here. First off, you’re already nervous and stressed, which means you’ll drink more. You’re already fielding well-wishing, small talk and bad jokes from in-laws, coworkers, old friends, and so-and-so’s sister’s boyfriend. By the time you’ve guzzled every intoxicant pressed into your palm, you’ll be lucky if you’re still conscious.
Is it humanly possible to survive the ultimate drinking endurance sport that is a wedding? Probably not. But we can at least keep you standing until it’s time to (not) have sex on your wedding night.
Let’s start with the science: Most of us have heard that mixing booze types is a one-way ticket to Vomsville unless you do it right — liquor before beer, in the clear. Beer before liquor, never sicker. Grape or grain, but never the twain.
Some experts say this isn’t the case: It’s only how much booze you drink, how quickly, and whether or not you’ve eaten that determines whether you get too drunk. This is a difference in degree and not kind. Yet other experts insist that there’s something to the order that you drink different strengths of alcohol that really does affect how blasted you get. Gizmodo explains, by way of professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas Rueben Gonzales:
The difference in alcohol concentration between beer (4 percent ABV) and hard liquor (40 percent ABV) is roughly ten-fold, give or take, depending on proof. Even in a mixed drink, you’re probably talking 10 to 20 percent ABV. So if you start out drinking beer at a certain rate, and then continue drinking a mixed drink at the same rate, it’s like driving slowly and then stepping on the gas. Your mouth may not know the difference in the alcohol concentration, but your body will. In contrast, if you start off drinking hard liquor, you’re likely to be drinking at a slower rate and feel drunk faster. Switching to beer and then drinking at the same rate will result in a decreased stream of alcohol by volume.
Gonzales also mentioned a study that found that the body does absorb different concentrations of alcohol at different rates: Diluted concentrations like those in a mixed drink actually seep into your bloodstream faster than a shot. That seems odd, right? But in reality, there’s more of the booze to go around. They write:
In other words, because it’s larger in mass and volume, the mixed drink spends more time in your digestive system, which is where it gets absorbed. Makes sense. So, if you’re filling your stomach up with beer and you’re then upping the alcohol concentration by adding hard liquor, you’re essentially making a mixed drink inside your stomach. It’ll sit there for longer, getting you more liquored up. On the other hand, if you start with hard liquor, the solution in your stomach begins with a higher concentration of alcohol, and it will pass through you more quickly. You’ll feel more drunk, and you’ll probably be less likely to drink as much beer afterwards.
Add to this that the carbonation in certain booze, like champagne, may actually get you drunker faster, too. Something about the way carbonation can irritate the stomach lining moves it to the small intestine with a quickness, causing it to be absorbed faster.
This is all a very scientific way of saying you’re probably screwed. What is to be done? Practical advice already circulating out there includes starting the day by eating a big breakfast, not skipping out on any other meals, having some water, and in general just sipping the booze so you don’t drink too much. This is the time-honored drinking strategy known as food, water and pacing. You could also try simply starting out with the hard stuff and downshifting throughout the day.
Hey, who knows. Do your best and maybe you’ll save yourself and future life partner a few embarrassing moments on the dance floor. But let’s get crucial: This is a happy, nervous day, and you’re probably getting sloshed.
There is another option: Enlist a designated buzz manager to make sure you don’t actually get too drunk. This is your ride-or-die friend, the sort of person you can count on to appear throughout the day at your side with a plate of hors d’oeuvre. The sort of friend who shows up to intercept that fourth shot from your uncle and whisk it away. The friend who slyly slips you an espresso when they see you’re fading. It could be your mom or dad; your brother or sister; your best man; your favorite coworker.
Of course, it’s entirely possible these people will also be wasted, too. And can you blame them? This is a party: Everyone should get a bit responsibly tipsy, and anything goes here short of sobbing and/or getting blackout, puking drunk.
Again, do your best. But there’s one important note here. The designated buzz manager cannot, under any circumstances, be the person you are marrying. Not only does your future spouse deserve to get reasonably hammered, too, but you need an ally in your drunken antics. That way, to paraphrase a popular Chainsmokers lyric, if you go down, you go down together. Which, frankly, sounds like a beautiful and correct way to start a life.