Why Bachelorette Parties Shouldn't Be So Expensive (Or Phallic)

Recently, I opened the evite for my best friend’s bachelorette party. Despite an intriguing brunch-time boat ride and the possibility of hot tubbing at a rented San Francisco flat, my eyes focused only on the number: $250. That's $250 — not including food, drinks, or transportation, or the weekend’s lingerie and/or gag gifts. Call me the cynic (or the single one) but paying for a party of plastic penis straws and too many Sex on the Beaches isn’t the way I want to celebrate my best friend’s decision to marry the man of her dreams.

Bachelorette parties are not an age old tradition we like to think it is; they are a fairly recent phenomena fueled by a growing industry. Ask your parents — bachelorette parties were not an expected party of the celebration back in their day. ( Cosmo didn’t even publish an article on the trend until 1998 .)

In her book, Something Old, Something Bold: Bridal Showers and Bachelorette Parties , Associate Professor of Sociology at Penn State University Dr. Beth Montemurro reports that the infamous night of loud (and drunken) galavanting didn’t become an expected part of wedding planning until the 1990s.

“From strip clubs and dance clubs to limousine companies and trolley rentals, capitalists have recognized engaged women and their friends as potential customers and have encouraged bachelorette parties as a means of increasing their revenue,” Montemurro writes.

The parties became a statement of women’s sexual independence, according to Montemurro, as women began giving lingerie as gifts at bridal showers in the 1970’s. But as a crown-clad bride-to-be slurs her words and sucks on a penis lollipop, are we parading a perceived freedom by promoting sexual deviance on the bride-to-be’s big bash? And when did our ability to invest financially in the outrageous demands of the one night out begin to equate how much we love our friend?

As I shop for plastic penis straw or look up penis cake recipes I wonder: what are we really celebrating here?

Yes, I always “like” my friends’ engagement Facebook announcements illustrated with tear filled photos, often videos, of the ring and romantic story. But internally, I’m seeing dollar signs and starting to panic.

Search "bachelorette party" on Pinterest: it's all hangover kits, liquor lollipops, perfect party playlists, and drinking games. Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it’s stupid. And yes, it’s expensive. All we need is an extra $150 for craft supplies, and a live-in Martha Stewart wearing a pastel pink apron to help us assemble it all. Maid of honors use the sites to pin, post, and search for the best games, gags and ideas. It’s keeping up with the Mrs. Joneses-to-be.

“Lavishness in the bachelorette party is not just about how much money was spent but also about material display and the apparent need for the bachelorette party to be an event with many elements, rather than just a regular night out,” Montemurro writes. “Careful planning and effort is undertaken in order to create a memorable and sometimes unique once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

According to the 2012 Real Weddings Survey, 77 percent of brides have a bachelorette party. In a 2010 survey, Real Weddings found the average cost for bridesmaids to be $300. Glamour found Las Vegas (duh), New York City, Miami, Napa Valley and Austin to be the top cities for destination bachelorette parties.

What’s wrong with a pajama party braiding each others’ hair, drinking cheap wine, and watching Sex and the City? I want to be telling my best friend how much I love her (and not as I hold her hair back).

Those costs add up quickly. Costs that, for most twenty somethings, involve serious budgeting. Twenty seven is the average age for a bride, and ironically enough, a study released by the Department of Education reported that more than half of 27-year-old college grads still face debt from student loans and that many are in jobs they hope will help them springboard into greater careers.

Money does not equal how much we love our girlfriends. Yet our April, May, and June weekends are full of nuptial-related events — and we’re all charging the costs for the gifts and event planning we do for each.

Yes, I always “like” my friends’ engagement Facebook announcements illustrated with tear filled photos, often videos, of the ring and romantic story. But internally, I’m seeing dollar signs and starting to panic.

What’s wrong with a pajama party braiding each others’ hair, drinking cheap wine, and watching Sex and the City? I want to be telling my best friend how much I love her (and not as I hold her hair back). I want to rejoice in womanhood and the fact that she’s about to start a new chapter with the guy I think is perfect for her. I want to unpack the memories from childhood and tease her about old boyfriends. I want all of us women to connect without the backdrop of blasting bass, drunken guys, and sex toy jokes.

But the only time I’ll have the choice, I suppose, is when it’s my turn to wear the veil.

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Image: Cat, m.e.c.