Can a party be fun without debauchery?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2006

Last weekend I did not write a column. I was off Friday through Sunday to entertain a good friend of mine who is getting married next month. She came down from Ohio, along with her maid of honor and another bridesmaid (I am one, too) for her bachelorette shindig.

I thought I might submit something on Saturday after Friday’s night of pre-wedding debauchery, tell the tale of a bride-to-be sewing her wild oats (without any graphic details, of course). Problem was, there was no debauchery. None of any kind, in fact. Not Friday night. Not Saturday night.

I was disappointed.

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It’s not that I wanted the bride to do anything terribly inappropriate, but I did expect her to get a little bit silly. Like wearing a tiara, or T-shirt proclaiming the end of her single status, or with little lifesavers that strangers would be able to bite off in return for beer money to keep the party going. Because that’s what bachelorette parties are supposed to be about, so I’ve heard.

But it was all very proper. Lazy days at the beach, nice dinners in the evening. One short night of dancing.

Don’t get me wrong. We had a good time, and the bride left saying she had fun, which I suppose is what matters most. On the whole, I behaved quite appropriately on my bachelorette trip last year to Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Maybe that means we’re a prudish group.

I’m curious, though, why we felt it was important to even have a bachelorette fete. Weren’t such shenanigans typically reserved for the bachelors? Nowadays, you can find a bajillion Web sites devoted to planning the ultimate ladies’ last night out.

And newspaper articles point to a trend of more laid-back parties. More and more women are finding ways to have fun that don’t necessarily include a night of booze or half-naked men. Earlier this month, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review pointed to the fact that brides are getting married at an older age these days (an average of 25). In 1981, the average age of brides was 20.

The extra years means most women have more disposable income, as do their friends, who likely are spread out across the country.

That was the case with our group. As I said, two came from Ohio, another from northern Virginia. When the bachelorette plans began to take shape, we discussed heading to Vegas or back to Put-in-Bay. For those of who don’t know, and might be interested, Put-in-Bay is on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, off the coast of northern Ohio. It is home to the nation’s third-tallest monument and the world’s longest bar. You get around the island by walking or renting golf carts. It’s a quaint, safe place to have a great time.

Ours was an all-girl affair, but a June article in The Boston Globe noted that co-ed bachelorette parties quickly are becoming the norm, as people marry older and foot more of the bill for all the wedding festivities. I had considered something along those lines for my party, because one of my oldest, closest friends is a guy I’ve known since before I could talk. But I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, being the only guy with a bunch of girls, not to mention the logistics of lodging.

My mom could not understand our need to take a full-blown trip. What happened to one wild night at a bar? Well, as previously mentioned, not all party-goers live in the same city, so if you’re going to travel for one night of partying, why not make a weekend of it? Still, she thought it was a little over the top when my sister-in-law decided we’d all head to Chicago for her bachelorette party in 2003.

That was a great time, even though it was in March, so the Windy City was freezing. Not exactly conducive to skimpy club attire. But certainly a great place for sightseeing.

A few of us dropped into Tiffany’s one afternoon (just browsing, of course) and spent the rest of the day at the Shedd Aquarium. That was a fascinating place, with an indoor amphitheater surrounded by giant windows, so the water from the dolphin tank looked like it was never-ending, merging with Lake Michigan outside the glass.

OK, looking back, I’ve changed my own mind. All the parties I’ve been involved in were a blast without including anything that would fall under the definition of debauchery, or even drunkenness, for that matter. Just taking a few days off to have fun with the gals (and/or guys n whatever tickles your pickle) is all you need. Really, it should be about a group of friends making great memories for the bride-to-be.