Ok, so as an “oldtimer” here is my take on this topic.
Alcohol has been an issue I think at Weddings for eons in North America… to serve it or not. Wet or Dry that is the first Question.
I think it ties in a great deal to two factors… of our society:
One a Wedding has traditionally been a religious event, and as such, many of the more Puritanical Religions see alcohol as an evil force that takes away from the sober thought of man, and is a sin against the idea that the body is a temple, and excessive use of alcohol undermines the fabric of the family.
This is a leftover from the Victorian age and the influences that were of course greatest during the first half of the 20th Century and Prohibition, but they have indeed long term impact in our society in that many of our Laws etc.
So the element of whether to serve, is also combined in some jurisdictions with the fact that access to alcohol can still be problematic. Certainly so for where I live, in Eastern Ontario (and I see @Coopsie does too). Canada as a whole, much of the UK (and some States in the US) have strict Laws governing the distribution, purchase, and serving of drink. Not to mention, that the price is quite prohibitive for many.
Another concern… although some families would be open to the idea of having alcohol present, but they object / have difficulty with the steep price of hosting a full-on Open Bar.
And so to manage that aspect and still seem hospitable to Wedding Guests some have found ways & means to make alcohol available to their Guests either for Complimentary or not… be that by having Drink Tickets – a Complimentary Cocktail Hour – a Champagne Toast – Wine with Dinner – a White Bar – a Subsidized Bar (Loonie or Toonie Bar) – or a set time frame / dollar limit – or a full-on Cash Bar or Open Bar.
All of which tie in to whatever is the Reception Budget and the Custom for the Families. The key element here on WBee for those Bees who have been around for awhile is there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG… it really does come down to WHATEVER IS THE NORM FOR YOUR REGION / CULTURE /SOCIAL CIRCLE.
So there you have it…
Although, alcohol may look like a Black or White issue at first glance, it truly has a lot of different layers to it (family, culture, religion, region, budget, social norms, age of the attendees etc). And can vary quite a bit from person to person and their expectations / experiences with alcohol as well.
Honestly, oh well c’est la vie.
As the Bride & Groom, IF you are the Hosts of the event you get to decide… BUT if the event is Hosted by someone else (ie they are paying) then it can be a tough tightrope to walk this trying to keep everyone happy.
At my first Wedding my Parents (the Methodist Tea-totallers) paid for our Reception, but the Groom and I covered the alcohol… which consisted of a Complimentary Cocktail Hour – Wine with Dinner – and a Champagne Toast… after that the Guests were on their own with a Cash Bar (as was the custom for our social circle / culture / region).
Sometimes tho, the easiest solution can be found in “traditional” etiquette where, different events were hosted by various people… Such as the Wedding Hosted by the Parents of the Bride, and the Rehearsal Hosted* by the Parents of the Groom. Sure it means that not everything may be exactly as “you wish”… but in reality it is just “one event” out a long list.
*NOTE – That the Rehearsal Dinner / Get Together is Hosted by the Groom’s Family… be sure and be cognisant of that… it is not cool to step on their toes and assume that you will be the Hosts (even if money is an issue and you are essentially paying)… as it can give root to hard feelings as their is a perceived loss of face at times when that happens. And that is no way to start of your Marriage, embarrassing (or p-ing off) your Inlaws.
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On the other hand, regarding your other concerns on Wedding Planning and your Future Mother-In-Law, may I suggest the old tid-bit… “Don’t overshare, just tell people stuff about the Wedding on a need-to-know basis” that will certainly cut back on the criticism and the opportunity for her to make revisions.
Hope this helps,