Being in your late 20s means that bachelorette parties are a regular part of your social calendar. The problem is, most bachelorette parties SUCK. They're often boring, uninspired, unoriginal, expensive, lame and there's nothing do to but drink and regret it later. In fact, if one more girl asks me to throw down $1,000 to go to Vegas to see a steroid-filled not-cute not-my-type man wearing a lime green thong, while drinking weak $30 drinks, so she can wear an over-priced plastic tiara for one night, I'm going to lose it. Which is why, last year, when one of my best friends got married and the tradition of bachelorette planning fell to me, I was determined not to fall prey to these all-to-familiar doomed scenarios.
Back in the day, when sex outside the marital bedroom was uncommon and difficult to procure, the "last chance" mentality of the bachelor party really did seem enticing. Bachelorette parties came around in the 60's, during the sexual revolution and provided an occasion for the bride to receive some lingerie and other goodies in preparation for the beginning of her sex life. It wasn't until the 1980's, as a result of the women's movement, when bachelorette parties embraced the promiscuity of a bachelor party, so that a bride too could have her "one last chance" before marriage.
The idea of seeing some thonged-men dance around might have been exciting to the virginal girls of the 60s, but these days, if you've had a few years of wanton frolicking where you sowed your wild oats and threw monogamous sex to the wind, the bachelorette tradition seems pretty outmoded. So why do women keep throwing outdated bachelorette parties like none of us has ever seen a naked man before? And if brides don't need a "one last chance night," is there a good reason to have a bachelorette party at all?
Yes, because marriage is a demarcation between girlhood and womanhood and getting a bunch of girlfriends together to celebrate the bride, share memories of our friendships, and just be silly, girly, and immature seems like an irresistible reason to have a party
And so for my friend, we got about twelve girls together for a weekend sleepover. The bride kicked her parents out of their house for the weekend (they stayed at my parents' house), but it would have worked just as well even if they had stayed. All the girls brought sleeping bags, and spread out on beds, couches, and the floor. The pièce de résistance was a photo shoot by a professional photographer, the very talented Kessia Embry. We spent one morning at a local salvation army, bought as many eighties taffeta and sparkly gowns as we could find and came back home to crimp our hair and apply blue eye shadow. We then took a bunch of "modeling" shots and eventually made a calendar out of our ridiculous pictures. We spent one night on our sleeping bags, watching romantic movies, and eating popcorn. We spent the other night out dancing. We stocked up at Costco for snacks and alcohol for the weekend. And yes, at one point we gave the bride some extreme lingerie, phallic lollipops, and some handcuffs. But for about $100 per person we had a weekend of fun, got to celebrate our friend, and now we have an awesome 2012 calendar to boot.
So let's stop assuming that there is only one version of what a bachelorette party should be. It's time the purpose of the bachelorette party be refashioned to make sense for the modern bride.
Here are some tips to help you plan a modern bachelorette party that is fun and relevant.
1. Know Your Friend
Instead of reverting back to old clichés, figure out what's unique to your friend and make that the centerpiece of the event. Ask the bride what she's always wanted to do that she hasn't done yet in life and see if there's a way to make that happen. Don't make any assumptions and involve the bride early and often in the planning stages.
2. Consider Expense
If all the girls are professionals in their 30s, your options are going to be different than if they are a bunch of graduate students in their early 20s. I know this seems obvious, but somehow people always get lazy on this and figure well she's only getting married once so we need to go all out. While this may be true, you don't want to leave lingering bad memories about how much the event cost, when the fact is a lot of money is not required for a great time. Suggest different hotel options or insist on pooling everyone's money together to buy gifts for the bride instead of insisting everyone bring something individually. Having more friends there is always more fun than anything money can buy.
3. Don't Make It About You
As much as I didn't want to see a male stripper, if the bride had wanted it, I would have given it to her. Maybe you do really want to watch porn with all of your friends. But if your bride doesn't, it's out. We can get carried away with planning what we think would be great. It's about her, not you. Don't lose sight of that.
4. Involve All the Girls Attending in the Planning
As much fun as I knew I would have with an 80's glam photo shoot, it wouldn't have worked if the bride's other friends weren't going to be into it. Once you have a list of invitees, get suggestions from everyone and check with them before making reservations for any event.
5. Some of My Favorite Suggestions for the Modern Bachelorette Party
Wine Tasting - If she loves wine, go wine tasting in Napa.
Food Crawl - If she's a foodie, rent a limo and do a food crawl of different courses at the best restaurants around town.
Scavenger Hunt - Involve people from the bride's childhood such as teachers, coaches, and friends' parents and have the bride try to figure out clues that lead her to all the people.
Photo Shoot - Dress up like Stepford Wives. Dress up like men. Have every girl bring a picture of herself and the bride and recreate the poses from days past.
Sex Seminar - Have an expert in tantra come to your house and give everyone lessons.
Defy Death - If she's an adrenaline junkie, go sky diving.
Cook and Bake - Have a dinner party together and bake cookies in the shape of male genitalia and have a competition to see who made the most lifelike one.
Competitive Games - Try laser tag, go carts, or just organize a game of tag around town.
If You All Grew Up Together - Go on a tour of favorite old haunts. Go back to your high school and find her locker. Drive to the parking lot where the bride had her first kiss. Go back to the street you all used to play on.
Make Pottery - Go to Color Me Mine or any of those places where you bake clay pottery and then paint on it. Have every girl make something (appropriateness optional) there and then give it to the bride.
Spa Day - Book treatments at a local spa. If it's too expensive, give yourselves manicures and pedicures at home, and have someone teach you how to give massages so you can all give them to each other.
Make A Film - Re-tell the story of your friendships by reenacting the day you and the bride met. Or have everyone go in a room by themselves and do a reality TV-type confessional and then watch them all together.
The list is endless. Think about the bride. Find out what she wants. And for the love of God, if it has to be a stripper, try to keep the bride in check. The only thing worse than a stripper at a bachelorette party, is a stripper who is still around after the bachelorette party has ended!
To get inspired you can purchase our 2012 bachelorette calendar here on Etsy
All photos by Kessia Embry Photography.