Wedding season is coming. Are bachelorette parties the best way to celebrate or the worst?
A writer who loves the bachelorette bacchanalia and a writer who dreads it make their cases.
May 31, 2021
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Bachelorettes celebrate the female friendships that precede the trip down the aisle
By Erika Hardison
So, you’ve decided you’re ready to get married. As you prepare to embark on your perfect day, you realize one crucial question concerns something that won’t occur at the wedding at all: Should you have a bachelorette party?
The answer is yes. I am here to tell you to embrace your last nights of being single with your friends!
Just like your future spouse, you had a life full of relationships that predate your upcoming marriage. I can't think of a better way to recap all those horrible first dates, bar nights and summer flings than with my friends who have known me the longest.
According to a study conducted by wedding planning website The Knot, roughly 78 percent of couples have bachelorette parties, with some holding gender-inclusive parties. That makes them the most popular pre-wedding event, over engagement parties, showers and stag parties.
That makes sense: Bachelorette parties serve as a reminder that sisterhood is an intricate part of a woman’s life. Our friends — whether married, involved, divorced or happily single —all contribute to our lives and help make us complete. Women's friendships with other women make us better, more well-rounded people. And there’s no doubt that those friendships have helped us become better partners as well.
In the article "Sex symbols: The bachelorette party as a window to change in women's sexual expression," Beth Montemurro, professor of sociology and psychological and social sciences at Penn State Abington, detailed the correlation between the rise of bachelorette parties and the gender revolution.
There was a time where women didn't think they were giving up anything once they decided to get married, according to her paper. But now it’s clear that women have thriving single lives that come to an end when they wed, and it’s important to acknowledge and hold on to that — and bachelorette parties are a great way to do so.
Still, you shouldn’t look at your bachelorette party as just saying goodbye to your single life but rather as a celebration of evolving relationships with your girlfriends as well. They've been there when you dated people they thought weren't good enough, and they were the first people you called when you got engaged. They might have even helped your future spouse plan the engagement, including advice on picking out a ring.
And sisterhood is a bond that’s not easily broken. Even when we find ourselves having new life experiences like becoming parents or getting married, it's not uncommon for us to rely on our girlfriends for support.
I don’t want you to be one of those married women who misses her friends after she gets married. After the honeymoon stage is over and you and your spouse have settled into a monotonous routine, you’re going to want to add some excitement and fun to your life again. I want you to embrace your bachelorette party and view it as a bond to ensure that your relationships remain strong.
Not sure what type of bachelorette party you should have? Well, trust your maid of honor to handle that. Your friends often know you better than you know yourself. If they want to plan a destination trip, go along with the flow! Or you can take a walk on the wild side and have an adult toy party or a cannabis retreat, where you and your party eat cannabis-infused goods and enjoy being pampered. Whatever you choose, just know you deserve it and you shouldn't feel bad for having one.
The bachelorette parties I've attended have come in all shapes and sizes — and they’ve all been a blast and full of good times. For the most part, the women I've been in company with have used these parties to tease men. Isn't that enough reason to have a bachelorette party? Now, go shake a tailfeather and paint the city red with your best friends.
Erika Hardison is a freelance journalist, aspiring novelist and founder of Fabulize magazine, an online and print destination for Black feminist nerds. She recently wrote her first comic, “Entanglement,” which can be seen in the Noir Is The New Black graphic novel anthology. You can find her on Twitter posting memes at @mzyummydread.
Bachelorette parties force me to play a character I hate. Pass.
By Nicole Audrey Spector
As I’ve gotten older, and a little bit wiser, my friends stopped asking me to be a bridesmaid. This is smart, because bridesmaids go to bachelorette parties — and I am nobody’s ideal bachelorette guest.
I would have arrived too late, left too early, looked miserable in my “Squad” tiara and taken all the candy from the giddily gutted Pecker Bat and Balls Piñata. I would have eaten all the cheese on the charcuterie board, read aloud my book proposal in the bar and had a panic attack in the escape room. I’d also be shelling out money I didn’t have and complaining about it every time it was my turn to lay down my credit card.
Or maybe I would have had a really good time. But in the past this has not been my experience.
Of the many bachelorette parties I attended in my 20s (all cishet, I must add), I can think of only one that was enjoyable, and it broke the rules right out of the gate by inviting men. It also involved a murder mystery game in which I pretended to be a sailor, which is always a plus. The other bachelorette parties prompted me to pretend to be someone else, too — but never for fun. Or at least, not fun for me.
Who is this character I feel obliged to play at bachelorette parties? She seems to be a cross between a sorority girl gone wild and a selfless bestie who would pee on your foot if you got stung by a jellyfish. She’s loud and wasted and talks about the best sex positions for a future of absolute monogamy — all while donning necessary bachelorette paraphernalia which, according to The Knot, includes “Team Bride” water bottles and a selfie stick.
There’s nothing inherently bad about this woman; I just don’t want to be her. Yet (and this could be due to my own limited imagination and people-pleasing problems), that’s who I feel pressured to imitate (poorly) on these next-level ladies nights.
To an extent, my bachelorette aversion is quite personal. But there’s more to this than just coerced crassness and binge drinking. It’s the toxic trope lurking beneath the tulle: that women should celebrate the last night of their friend’s “freedom.”
Let’s break that sentence down like a women’s history major who has smoked a lot of weed: Women should celebrate the last night of their friend’s freedom.
To be fair, when bachelorette parties took off in the 1960s, a woman couldn’t get a credit card or attend certain Ivy League schools. Bachelorette parties only became popular because women of that era wanted to show that, just like men (who’ve been having bachelor parties since the 5th century B.C.), they too could enjoy a debauched night with their closest friends ahead of their big day. It was at once both a symbol of the sexual revolution and an acknowledgment of patriarchy.
Today, we’ve lost that rebellious spirit even as the patriarchal stereotypes remain strong. We’re not actually giving the finger to the patriarchy when we throw on our “I Do Crew” tees and play prosecco pong. Perhaps we would have been doing so a half-century ago, when we were first reading “The Feminine Mystique” and had just emerged from six seasons of Ricky telling Lucy that she couldn’t be in the show.
The parties also don’t really have anything to do with a virginal bride’s final countdown, since most of us have already had sex before our wedding night. Additionally, the Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 44 have lived with a partner without being married, and according to Gallup, only 29 percent of U.S. adults even think it’s critical that couples with children be legally married.
Obviously I won’t be having a bachelorette party. Indeed, that ship has sailed. Three years ago, around the time I was getting married, a few friends offered to plan one for me. I declined, citing only one reason: the money. According to The Knot, a bachelorette party costs an average of $317 per person, and that’s just if you want to party for one day. A three-day weekend affair sets you back nearly $800 on average. The price tag, coupled with all of the reasons above, made a party seem both unfair and unnecessary.
It’s worth mentioning that my husband did not have a bachelor party. The idea of one is probably even more repulsive to him than a bachelorette party is to me. Ultimately, I’d like to see an end to all these gendered, pre-wedding festivities. But if they make you happy, then I’m happy for you — I really am! But if you’d rather not play a pink, sexualized version of pin the you-know-what on the where, come join me. I’ll be where I always am, eating lunch, alone, in the library, dreaming about divorce parties.
Nicole Audrey Spector is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, The Atlantic, The New Yorker and more.