The Wedding Series – The Bachelorette Party

Last Girlfriend Fling Before She Wears A Wedding Ring

Unlike the bachelor party, which has been around for centuries, the bachelorette party is a fairly recent development, in line with the Western world’s evolution of women’s equality over the last few centuries (although we women still have a long way to go, baby!). And why shouldn’t women celebrate their last single days just as men have always done? No reason at all.

But…does the bachelorette party have to follow the same formula as the bachelor party (which, as I mentioned in last week’s entry, should evolve past the stereotype)? While the bachelorette party is to a great degree another example of the leveling of the playing field between women and men, its intent is to have one last gathering as a single woman with one’s girlfriends to confirm the bonds of friendship as the bride’s life changes. It seems, though, that many women simply follow the male idea of what a last fling as a single person should be before taking those marriage vows — indulging in all things sexual, from attending a male strip show to party favors in the shapes of various parts of the male anatomy. As the bride, if that’s truly your thing, go for it, but not because it’s expected. And, as the bride’s honor attendant who is organizing the party, don’t assume anything; find out what the bride would prefer to do on her last single outing.

It’s About the Bride and Her Friends 

The bachelorette party can be as extravagant or modest as the bride wishes and her best friends can afford in time and money. They can be anything from a simple movie night potluck sleepover to a resort weekend. The special aspect of the bachelorette party is that it’s a gathering of the bride’s very closest friends, which usually includes her attendants to mark the passing of her single status. It’s a time to recreate some old memories or make some new ones as you mark one of the major passages of life. As the bride is about to seal the deal with the man of her dreams, it seems odd to spend time ogling strange men who are taking off their clothes or watching blue movies.

That said, if male exotic dancers are the bride’s preference, then that should be the theme of her party — but only if that’s really what she wants and not because it follows the pattern of the popular image of the bachelor party. Women don’t need to follow what men have done or do; they should feel free to start their own trends. For example, the movies also like to influence how we behave, or reflect how producers believe real people behave. Take, for example, the manner in which bachelorette parties are depicted in movies such as The ProposalBride Wars and Bridesmaids.

In any event, the bride’s bachelorette party — like the groom’s bachelor party — should be tasteful and reflect the bride’s personality, interests and desires. And the organizer should plan a party that the bride will love, not what she thinks the bachelorette party should be.

My advice to the bride and her honor attendant is the same as that for the groom and best man, i.e.:

  • As the maid/matron of honor or other honor attendant you are responsible for the bride — her well-being, comfort and getting her ready on the day of the wedding, calm and happy,
  • As the bride, you should maintain the decorum of a woman about to marry the love of your life, keeping him uppermost in your mind.
Surprise! (Or Maybe Not)
It is so tempting to plan a surprise party. The suspense and anticipation is great fun for the organizers. But, it’s wise to remember that in most cases the bride has a time table for her wedding planning and is already a bit stressed, especially as the date of the wedding draws near. In addition, you don’t want to cause the bride to think that her friends forgot about her wish for a bachelorette party, or become nervous because she has caught on that the absence of chatter means a surprise is in the offing. There are times for surprises, but wedding events are usually not the proper occasions. Such affairs as showers and bachelorette parties are better done in consultation with the bride. There are so many moving parts to planning a pre-wedding event that the bride really should be involved, and consulting the groom and the mother-of-the-bride are smart moves as well because they can often advise on dates, venues, the bride’s wishes and other helpful details.
When There Are Two Brides

As mentioned last week, lesbian brides might decide to pass on straight wedding customs, including the bachelorette party. Resources include The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Weddings by Tess Ayers and Paul Brown and Wedding Wire’s GayWeddings.com.

The key to planning lesbian bachelorette parties is to find out what each bride desires; one might want one, one might not — or they might prefer different kinds of parties. Now that marriage equality is a reality, the rules of etiquette are evolving for same-sex couples and likely will affect straight wedding etiquette. The key is to know your brides and show respect and consideration for everyone’s individuality and preferences for celebrating, and keep the lines of communication open.

Etiquette and Time Line

Typically, the bride’s honor attendant, i.e., her maid/matron of honor, organizes the bachelorette party after determining what the bride prefers. Generally the bride’s closest friends are invited, but anyone the bride wishes to be there should be invited. The MOH should ensure that the bride’s desire is uppermost — within reason — and that the proceedings are tasteful and appropriate. This is especially true if the mothers of the bride and groom are invited. Photos should be taken, but not any that could compromise the bride or her guests. What happens at the bachelorette party stays at the bachelorette party and not on social media!

Sometimes the bachelor and bachelorette parties are combined, with both bride and groom being fêted by their closest friends, also ranging from very formal to very casual either over an afternoon, evening or weekend.

Keep in mind, as well, that a bachelor party is not mandated or required. If the bride doesn’t wish to have one or is ambivalent or there is not enough time to hold one there need not be one. And, of course, the bride should never request or insist on one. However, it is considerate for the MOH to ask the bride if she would like one.

The bachelorette party should be held at least two weeks before the wedding to allow time for recovery, assuming there will be some drinking involved. There is no value or joy in stressing the bride, groom or the mothers of the bride and groom because the bride is exhausted just before her big day.

Invitations should match the occasion. If the party is formal the invitations should be formal; if it’s informal or casual, invitations may be emailed, texted or phoned. Use your creativity to word the invitations and include the basics: what, when, where, why and if necessary, how.

The bachelorette party should be a joyous occasion that the bride and her besties can look back on fondly for years to come. Taking the time to plan properly will be worth the effort!

Until next time,

Jeanne

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