Chances are that at some point in your life, you'll be asked to stand up as Maid of Honor at a friend or relative's wedding. And while the travails of bridesmaidery are vast and varied, one of the more tricky feats involved in being the Maid of Honor is planning a bachelorette party that isn't embarrassing while it's occurring. With wedding season careening toward us, let's doff our penis hats and learn how to plan a premarital party that's fun rather than friendship-ruining.
Get your ducks in a row
Don't schedule the party too far in front of the big day, but don't wait until the last minute, either. Courtney McDevitt, a San Francisco attorney and blogger who has attended 13 bachelorette parties, planned 4 on her own, co-planned 1, and faked another (her own, as a stunt during one spring break), says a good time frame is anywhere from six weeks to a month before the wedding. A bachelorette party scheduled too early can feel anticlimactic, whereas one scheduled right before a wedding can bump up against the bride's nerves, and might interfere with pre-wedding dieting or exercise. (Not that I'm endorsing bridal boot camp or any such weight loss practice that has its own show on WE, but, you know, people do the whole pre-wedding diet thing often, so it would be disingenuous to pretend it didn't happen.) And forget the whole night-before-the-wedding thing. Nothing worse than being hung over on a day you know you'll spend being stared at by people and photographed.
Do your best to accommodate, but don't kill yourself
If the wedding party is spread far and wide, it can be near-impossible to schedule a bash that everyone can attend. Ariel Meadow Stallings, author of Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides says she's noticed that a lot of brides are choosing to forego the tradition altogether... and that's okay.
While I absolutely don't think there's any way to have a bachelorette party that's too small (up to and including not having one at all), I do think the party shouldn't overshadow your wedding — and that includes feeling like such a hassle to plan that you don't have time to plan the actual wedding.
If, despite logistical barriers, it's important for the bride to get together with her girl friends before her big day, plan far enough in advance that most people will have their schedules clear, and then don't beat yourself up if not everyone can make it. McDevitt recommends getting a short list from the bride of people who absolutely must be there and work around their schedules to set a date as far as 6 to 8 months ahead of time. If you want to schedule an event that doubles as a ladies-only vacation, try scheduling a bachelorette weekend.
Be sensitive to other people's budgetary constraints, and don't make the bride pay for anything
According to theKnot, while it's customary that a host pays for a bridal shower, the attendees pay for the bachelorette party themselves — and the bride doesn't pay for anything. If you're organizing, the soiree, make sure attendees know this, and be sensitive to what they can afford in order to avoid embarrassment and hurt feelings. A wedding party consisting of mostly 24-year-old recent college graduates with roommates aren't going to be able to afford to spend the same kind of money as a group of 32-year-olds with professional degrees and condos. And don't force anyone to be there — the wedding party is already expending considerable time and cost to help the bride celebrate, and costs can really add up. Says Stallings,
I think if bridesmaids are seriously geographically diverse, it's worth considering whether you even need to have a bachelorette. Your bridesmaids are likely already paying for their dresses and travel to your wedding — the last thing you want to do is have them incur even more costs.
Get away from strippers, penises, and gay bars (unless that's what the bride wants)
The bachelorette party is supposed to be a time for the bride to hang out and relax with her girl friends, and unless the bride specifically requests that the theme for her party be An Evening of Cocks (because some ladies really love that stuff, and more power to 'em), try something different. Says McDevitt,
No penis straws, no penis headbands, no cake cut into the shape of a penis, frosted with flesh-colored icing and decorated with chocolate sprinkles on the balls. When you really stop and think about it, you're not actually using penis paraphanalia because it's turning you on or even because you think it's funny - you're doing it because it's what you think a bachelorette party is "supposed" to be about...when, if a bachelorette party is actually derivative of a bachelor party, and therefore supposed to be about a woman doing the things she might want to do but not be able to do after she's married.
I have a bit of a bias against the cutesy, precious sexuality of bachelor/bachelorette parties. While I fully support rip-away pants, I'd rather see my friends in a pair than pay some random beefcake to waggle around in them. The other downer from my friends' points of view: I wouldn't be embarrassed by a penis-shaped water bottle or wearing my bra on the outside of my clothing. I have virtually no shame (I've been shushed in public for telling jokes that involve vas deferens, analingus, and bloody pus) and it's an accomplishment to embarrass me or gross me out. My friends would have had to organize a bachelorette party that would be illegal in several states for me to blush even a little bit, and where's the fun in that?
In that spirit, McDevitt suggests a spa day or fancy food. Stallings suggests getting a vigorous day at the paintball course, an erotic drawing class, a scavenger hunt, an ugly dress party, karaoke, or a cooking class. "I'm seeing the whole concept of bachelorette parties being completely rewritten. Not all brides feel like they need to have a girly-girl party, and when they do, they're structured around the interests of the women involved (instead of a template of what the party should look like)."
If I were planning my own bachelorette party, I'd rent a suite at a fancy hotel and have a giant slumber party night of playing Girl Talk, watching Teen Witch, eating candy and popcorn, and sleeping in sleeping bags. It be just like when I was 9, but way more booze-soaked. A college friend had afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton as part of her bacheloretteapalooza, which was a fun change of pace. Get creative!
If you've got a whole weekend to fill with activities, it may be tempting to stuff it full of all sorts of fun things. But that's a mistake. McDevitt suggests leaving plenty of buffer time between activities — and expecting that people may want to nap at some point, too. Plan one "big night" (usually the first night) where everyone gets together and rages against the bringing up of the bar lights. And after that, take it easy. And be sneaky about dinner reservations. "Always tell people dinner reservations are an hour earlier than they actually are," says McDevitt.
Remember, this is supposed to be fun for the bride
Schedule things that she'll like, with people she loves, and so the rules for who must be there and what must be done are fluid, according to The Knot. If she wants her mother there, invite her. If not, don't. If she loves strippers, head to a strip club. If she doesn't, respect her aversion to strange crotches. This is a time for you to show your friend a good time. Says Stallings,
Don't treat it as your "last hurrah." Plus, there's that whole "one last hurrah" issue, with actions that would otherwise be against the rules being somewhat sanctioned and okay at bachelor/bachelorette parties. If you want permission to make out with male strippers, you should probably just work that into your relationship — not use a party as an excuse.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about the whole "do all your bad stuff the night before getting hitched, cuz then your life ends!" modality. If you or your fiancé like eating penis cakes, drinking with your buddies, going to strip clubs, or wearing day-glow wigs to clubs, well, then, I hope you're marrying someone who's going to slap on a wig, head to the strip club, and eat a penis cake with you on every anniversary.
The best bachelorette parties are the ones where the focus is on the bride having some time to relax, to not have to worry about wedding planning or that work thing or the laundry or whether or not her husband called his mom for her birthday; where the bride gets to spend some awesome time with her girls; and where there bride's childhood and college friends get to meet and love her new grown-up friends.
No penis straws necessary.