Bachelor and bachelorette parties may be synonymous with wild debauchery, signalling the end of singledom with outrageous antics nobody dares remember the next morning. But now that most Americans are getting married later than their parents’ generation, the reality is more: Been there, done that.
“People are shifting away from that narrative of, this is your last days as a single person,” says New York-based event planner Dawn Mauberret. Prenuptial gatherings are less and less focused on booze-filled escapades and more about escaping the pressures of modern life, with a trip centered around food and wellness activities. “It’s more about spending quality time with friends and family.”
Consider the data: The average age for a first marriage in 2018 was 27.8 years for women and 29.8 years for men, according to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. In comparison, the average age was 23.9 years and 26.1 years, respectively, in 1990.
That means most bachelors and bachelorettes have had the majority of their 20s to explore their wild sides if they wanted to. (Some don’t; studies show millennials are spending less on alcohol than previous generations.) With age comes maturity, and with maturity generally comes money, and today’s bachelor and bachelorettes want to step it up a notch — whatever that means to them.
MORE LUXURY, LONGER TRIPS
Litty Samuel, a 33-year-old executive producer at Meredith Corp. in New York, opted for a four-day international getaway for her bachelorette trip in November 2017. She and six friends visited Iceland, where they lounged in the famed Blue Lagoon, hiked to hot springs, and scuba-dived between tectonic plates. “As I grew older, I partied less and less,” she says. “The more I thought about it, I didn’t know if I want to put on a little dress and go out and wear a bunch of plastic penises around my neck. If I could get a group of girlfriends together, I wanted to hike and experience nature with them instead.”
Jenna Miller, creative director at wedding website Here Comes the Guide, says she’s seeing an uptick in the use of bespoke luxury planning services such as Bach to Basics or Luxury Bachelorette. These couples are using private jets with personal chefs to take their parties to the destinations, which may include the Saguaro Palm Springs, with its pool parties, in-house spa, and daily yoga classes, and Carneros Resort and Spa or Solage Calistoga for wine tasting.
“It’s more sophisticated than a Las Vegas pool party,” she says. “It’s more chic and kind of more adult to go to Napa and do your spa treatment.”
It’s also pricier.
The average bachelor or bachelorette party attendee spends US$537, including the cost of travel, accommodations, and gifts. And it’s even more for a luxury getaway; a destination party in New York City could cost guests more than US$1,900. (About 35 per cent of millennials have gone into debt to attend a bachelor or bachelorette party, according to a survey by Credit Karma.)
These more luxurious trips are also longer than the typical one-night party that past generations favoured. According to data from Wedding Wire, one in three bachelor or bachelorette parties take place for three or more days.
With friend groups so often dispersed geographically, a longer pre-wedding party has become a necessity of sorts, “especially if your groomsmen or bridesmaids don’t know each other,” says Jamie Chang, destination wedding planner for Mango Muse Events.
GENDER NEUTRAL, JOINT PARTIES
The strict male-female divide typical of stag and hen parties of years past is also changing.
“Something that was really important to me, and I think this goes along of being in my 30s, was that the party was made up of people from all different points in my lives,” says Jenna Citron, a 32-year-old bride in New York who works as the executive director of nonprofit Queens College Hillel. This meant that inviting her best friend Jon from high school along for her bachelorette was natural, given that he’s also a member of her bridal party.
“At my age, I couldn’t imagine going and doing a strip-club, glitter-filled drink fest. It’s not who I am,” she says of planning her four-day trip to Disney World next month, ahead of her November wedding.
“Up until recently it’s always been a very gendered affair,” Mauberret says. But now, most adults, especially those in their late 20s or 30s, have close friends of both genders.
This is especially the case with same-sex marriages, which are on the rise, with 10.2 per cent of LGBTQ Americans married to a same-sex spouse in 2017, compared to 7.9 per cent in 2015, during the months before the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage, according to a Gallup survey. In 2017, 61 per cent of same sex couples were married, up from 38 per cent before the ruling.
One in 10 couples is even opting for a joint party, says Kim Forrest, senior editor at Wedding Wire, starting the night with separate activities and then meeting up later in the evening.
“The wedding party isn’t divided up by gender [anymore], so why should your bachelor or bachelorette party be?” Forrest says. “It also opens it up to having family members be part of it.”
Brides- and grooms-to-be are also seeking out more adrenaline-boosting activities than in the past, says Nikki Clause, founder and creative planner of Fling Before the Ring. Requests for workout classes such as yoga and kickboxing are common from her female clients; recently, she arranged for a group in Detroit to attend a private aerialist class at a local circus school. “We just thought that was totally out of the box and so different,” she says.
Bachelor parties, especially, are skewing toward more adventurous themes, says Michelle Lang, president of party planning service Before the Knot.She recently planned an outing at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, where the guys went skeet shooting and fishing and rode ATVs. She’s also arranged axe-throwing and exotic car racing in Miami. Montana is a popular destination as well, Lang adds, for its horseback riding and hiking opportunities. She recommends staying at the Paws Up Resort outside Missoula.
“More actual, substantive trips,” is how Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events, sums it all up. She’s planned several nature-focused vacations in such places as Jackson Hole, Wyo., where attendees can ski and hike. If none of those options sounds appealing, some couples are choosing to skip the prenuptial getaway altogether.
“I think that with age comes being a little more wise about money and not wanting to blow their money on a bachelorette party,” Weinburg says. “At this age, maybe they’re saving to put a down payment on a house.”