A bachelorette party is typically (though not always) exactly what it sounds like; often referred to as a doe, hens’ night or stagette, it involves a gathering of the female members of the wedding party gathering to celebrate the bride shortly before the wedding itself. This can take any number of forms, ranging from an old-school slumber party to the equivalent of a raunchy bachelor party.

A brief history

Years ago, it was common for the male ritual of prenuptial celebration to be far more egregious than anything the women were expected to plan. In fact, some wedding historians suggest that the only female pre-wedding party was typically the bridal shower. Others indicate that brides or maids of honour hosted a tea for bridesmaids and female relations prior to the wedding, and that these were largely astonishingly classy affairs.

It is also widely speculated that the birth of the modern bachelorette party (i.e. equal in nature and purpose to a bachelor party) was during the latter half of the 20th century. In recent years, as one website points out, both brides- and grooms to be have learned that getting hopelessly drunk (and subsequently hungover so soon before the wedding -- particularly if the party is held the day before, as it almost always was) is not a terribly good idea. As such, the tradition of having the bachelor(ette) party some time in advance was born.

Now, this is not to say that any possibility of alcohol-related illness or embarassment disappeared as more and more women opted to hold their bachelorette parties well in advance of their wedding. To this day, urban legends about brides-to-be being impregnated by strippers and giving birth to babies of different races than either them or their husbands nine months after their weddings continue to persist.

It is perhaps because of the abundance of said urban legends that one bachelorette party resource estimates that fewer than one in five bachelorette parties even involve strippers. They may involve copious amounts of alcohol, penis-shaped pasta, hats, random plastic objects and t-shirts with Life Savers sewn on in strategic places, but fewer bachelorette parties than you'd think actually involve strippers. It may be the case, however, that those 20 per cent of bachelorette parties are the ones that I'm told wind up videotaped and circulated online.

Then again, those who search for bachelorette party footage on the internet are probably not seeking some of the other sorts of entertainment that have become popular. Or maybe the surging popularity of said footage has turned women off having sweaty naked people dance around them shortly before their weddings.

While bachelorette parties themselves remain popular, the stereotypical wild boozefests are supposedly waning in popularity. Many women are opting to go on pub crawls or out for dinner, then meeting up with the groom and his posse for a co-ed pre-wedding bash. Others are ditching the party scene entirely, opting to enjoy days at a spa, a relaxing night out (dinner and a movie) or a throwback to their teenage years with an old-school slumber party. Others still are ditching the notion of an extra pre-wedding bash in favour of a much larger, ornate and more involved bridal shower/party.

The move away from the stereotypical raunch is thought to have been sparked by a number of things, among them the fact that many brides are choosing to include younger family members in their bridal parties and don't want to exclude them from bridal party events. It's also thought that both partners might not want to spend the rest of their lives wondering what went on "that night."

Generally speaking, a bachelorette party can consist of just about anything, be held at any time and involve anyone -- for instance, whereas the bride's mother and future mother-in-law would never have been invited to a more "traditional" bachelorette party, they would probably be perfectly welcome at a spa day, picnic or dinner party.

The obvious benefit of this (relatively new) freedom regarding bachelor parties is that there's something for every possible type of bride, which brings us to...

Bachelorette party etiquette

Yes, there is etiquette related to bachelorette parties. No, I didn't make any of this up. No, I've never been to a bachelorette party. But I've heard enough stories to know what never to do. Read on.

Planning a bachelorette party?

Keep the following things in mind -- and remember that I'm not making this stuff up. There are hardcore wedding etiquette types who make millions selling books about what you should and should not do surrounding everything wedding-related, from cake to ceremony, strippers, to speeches.

This is about the bride. No matter how good of a party planner you may be, this entire day is about your friend who's about to embark on an entirely new lifestyle. Are you a party animal planning a bachelorette party for a prude? Suck it up and respect her, even though you'd never dream of having this sort of bachelorette party yourself. A prude planning for a party animal? Suck that up too. Get help if necessary. Remember not to ever plan anything that the bride will find humiliating or discomforting. This is supposed to be about fun. Consult with her about what she'd like, who she wants there and whether or not she wants her fiance involved (as I said, co-ed parties are big).

The bride is about to get married. Even if she's down with a night of alcohol-soaked hijinx or strippers (or both), it's important to remember that she shouldn't be feeling any pressure to commit any kind of act with any individual to whom she is not engaged (or even with any individual to whom she is engaged, for that matter, unless she wants to) -- especially from her friends. No matter how good of an idea making out with that stranger seems at the time, she will feel guilty about it in the morning and so will you. Remember: there are a number of urban legends surrounding bachelor(ette) parties, but relationships have been destroyed because of what's gone on at parties such as these. Neither you nor anyone else who attends the party wants that on your conscience.

You're taking the bride out. Barring any special circumstances (a bachelorette roadtrip, for instance) it is generally considered to be unreasonable to expect the bride to pay much of her own expenses. That said, it is unreasonable to expect the maid of honour (or whoever is organizing the event) to foot the entire bill. Most bridal parties deal with the financial matters ahead of time by each chipping in a certain amount and asking any other guests -- except the bride -- to do the same.

The guest of honour?

Yes, lady, it is your night. But you have a few things to remember as well.

Your friends are doing this for you. You have every right to speak up about what you absolutely do not want and what interests you, but remember that these people have already gone through gown fittings and other pre-wedding rituals with and for you. If you're dead set against strippers, clubbing, pub crawls or anything else that's even remotely raunchy, say so -- but don't be a diva.

These things are expensive. Yeah, I just said that it's expected that they'll give you a night on the town, but it certainly won't hurt to offer to chip in. If they refuse (and they probably will), remember that standard wedding etiquette indicates that the bride give each of her attendants a gift as a token of her appreciation for their support and friendship.

Don't worry about your mother. If mom is telling you that nice girls don't have bachelorette parties, tell her it's just a night out with your friends. In the event that it is just a nice night out with your friends, feel free to invite her. Mom won't say no to dinner, a movie or a day at the spa. And if your big night is scheduled to be slightly more frisky, you might want to consider sharing a spa day or something similar with her.

A guest?

Like I said before, don't pressure the bride into doing anything with anyone. Feel free to encourage her to have a second slice of chocolate cake, by all means, but you know what I mean.

Pay your share. If the bridesmaids and guests are splitting the night's cost, make sure you pony up. The maid of honour traditionally winds up paying the difference if the bill comes up short, and she's probably already the hardest working person in the bridal party.

Have fun. You may well be sick of the sight of the bride by this point. Chin up, it's almost over. And this is probably the least stressful of the pre-wedding events. Try to help the bride have fun, too; it'll be nerves galore from this point on.

Less conventional* ideas

  • karaoke
  • tea party
  • comedy club
  • casino
  • yours?

  • Resources:

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