Drinking games, strippers, and phallic party favors. These three things in conjunction are hallmarks of the modern bachelorette party — but it wasn’t always this way.
Bridal showers have had their place in pre-marriage celebrations in some form or another since at least as early as the 15th century, but the history of the bawdy bachelorette party we know today is not a long one.
Before we can get to the history of the bachelorette party, though, we have to delve into the history of the bachelor party.
Let’s lay down some facts:
- 5th century BC – The Spartans hold parties for their to-be-wed friends, consisting of dinner and a toast.
- 14th century – The term “bachelor” first comes into popular use as describing an unmarried man thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.”
- 1896 – A “stag party” thrown by Herbert Barnum Seeley for his brother is raided by police after hearing rumors that a nude belly dancer would be performing.
- 1922 – First documented use of the term “bachelor party” in the Scottish publication Chambers’s Journal of Literature, Science and Arts.
Forty years go by, and in this time women hold bridal showers, where their female friends and family “shower” the bride with gifts and ultimately prepare the bride for the gender norms associated with the role of “wife.”
Times were changing, though, and by the 1960s, the sexual revolution was in full swing. Brides-to-be were embracing their sexuality and swapping bridal showers for rowdy bachelorette parties — though the term “bachelorette party” wouldn’t become popular until the 1980s.
By the mid-1980s to 1990s, the bachelorette party had officially cemented itself as a pre-marital tradition, culturally significant as a symbol of sexual freedom — and another step toward gender equality.
Today, brides and their bridal parties have more choices than ever when it comes to throwing an awesome bachelorette party, whether they’re looking for a wild, booze-fueled pub crawl, a laid-back night in with the girls, or anything in-between.
These bachelorette parties — once claimed to be a “last hoorah” and final night of “freedom” for the bride — serve as a way for the bride to connect and bond with the women in her bridal party, and give the opportunity for a well-deserved reprieve from the stresses of wedding planning.
If that reprieve also happens to involve a stripper in a pop-out cake, so be it.