Bachelorette Party Primer: What It's Like for a Bride in her 20s, 30s and 40s

I am getting married in late March, and I recently returned from a lovely weekend in Savannah with three of my bridesmaids, a trip that could more accurately be described as a bridesmaids weekend than a bachelorette party. At age 32, I’m the last of my group to get married, and one friend has already gotten divorced. I’ve been to many a bachelorette party in my day, and mine was vastly different from the wild weekends of my past spent doing cheap tequila shot after cheap tequila shot — for one, I actually remember what we did.

We arrived at the historic mansion we'd rented on a Thursday evening, and spent the night sipping on champagne and catching up. We’d all decided we could only party hard for one night, and on Friday we went for massages and blow outs before going for cocktails and tapas at a rooftop bar. Then we headed over to my favorite dueling piano bar. I removed my customary tiara and veil before entering so that I wouldn't be pulled up on stage to take a shot from between the legs of one of the piano players, a tradition I was well aware of and told my bridesmaids I absolutely wanted to avoid. We drank vodka cocktails while two of the bridesmaids took turns stepping out of the bar on to call their husbands and the third limited her alcohol consumption so she could take her sleeping pill that night. There were no strippers. There were no party favors shaped like penises. And the weekend turned out exactly the way I wanted.

Two of my bridesmaids were married much younger than I, one of them at 22. We compared notes about each of our bachelorette parties and all those we'd attended throughout the years, and arrived at a primer what a bachelorette party is like for a bride of any age.

When you’re 20-24…

You and 25 of your closest friends head out for a wild night on the town. The only problem is at least a couple of your friends are too young to get into the bar you had your heart set on, and you curse them for not having quality fake IDs. Since everyone is broke, you’re stuck drinking buckets of beer and cheap shots. If you’re lucky, a cute group of guys has noticed your posse in bachelorette-themed sashes and feather boas and sent over some drinks that don't taste like industrial strength cleaning solution. But who cares? You're too drunk to taste anything and this point anyway. It’s more than a little possible the cute tiara on your head will end up in the bar toilet by the end of the night as you kneel down and cling to its rim for dear life. At least all those sugary drinks won’t be going to your hips. You wake up the next morning (OK, afternoon) and think to yourself, "Last night was epic!"

When you’re 25-29…

You still think you’re young and can party all night. Your friends pool the little bit of money they’re making from their entry-level jobs and rent a zebra-striped limo. There’s champagne all around — it’s the cheap stuff that tastes like simple syrup, but you feel sophisticated holding that skinny glass of bubbly goodness. Next, you have a decent dinner at a tapas restaurant and the pitchers of sangria are flowing. Someone orders a round of tequila shots for the table, and the guys at the adjacent table join in for a second round. There might have been a third and fourth round, but the details are getting fuzzy. By the time you’re at the first dance club, grinding up against your girls on the dance floor, you’ve completely lost count of how much you've had to drink. The plan was to bar hop until the town shut down at 4 a.m...but your entire group is sloppy drunk by midnight because they just can’t hold their liquor like the good old days. It turns out that the pre-game was in fact the whole game.

When you’re 30-34…

Turning 30 gave you not only the wisdom that you are no longer 22 and capable of raising hell all night, but also the clarity to see you don’t want your bachelorette party to be a big blur of tequila shots and fishbowl drinks consumed through a penis-shaped straw. On top of that, your friends (or at least the select group you decide to invite) finally all have real jobs and can afford to go away for an entire weekend. There are massages and mimosas and an afternoon by the pool. That night, you get drunk enough to sing up on the stage at the karaoke bar — alone! — but remember to drink a glass of water and take an Ibuprofen before bed to fend off a hangover. When you get home you let your fiancé look through the pictures from the weekend, as there’s no potentially incriminating evidence. You were smart enough to only put those on your friend’s phone, and thankfully she kept her promise to not broadcast them on Facebook.

When you’re over 35…

There’s not a penis-shaped anything anywhere in sight, and thank goodness. All your friends are already married with kids, so there’s no going away for the weekend. Your maid of honor plans a lovely evening at her house immediately following your bridal shower, which is fine, because you don’t need one last night out as a single — You made it into your mid-30s without getting married. You’re an expert on being single. Your friends whipped up amazing food (thank you, Pinterest!), and someone had a case of your favorite wine shipped in from the winery in California. Just when you start to bore of hearing about how this one’s husband never does the dishes and that one’s son used permanent markers to create a masterpiece on his bedroom wall last week, you notice that some of the moms who haven’t had a girls night out in quite a while are running outside butt-naked to jump in the pool. The party is on!

Some of these shenanigans might have actually happened at my friends’ bachelorette parties, but I’m pretty sure we’ve destroyed all the evidence. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If my divorced bridesmaid who’s over 40 got engaged next week, I’d probably be booking a stripper and buying penis-shaped everything….because, well, she’d like that. And me? Despite trying to save face by blaming it on my age, I’ve always really wanted that relaxed, subdued weekend in Savannah.

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