The Origins of the Bachelor Party

bacheloretteRecently, my boyfriend went to Las Vegas to celebrate his close friend’s upcoming nuptials with a good old-fashioned bachelor party. As a woman, I have an outsider’s perspective of what happens at a bachelor party. I’m well aware of the general theme, but I’ll never completely know or understand what the experience entails, and in a way, I think it’s for the best. Just like guys will never completely understand the full role that girl’s night out (or girl’s night in, for that matter) plays in female friendships, the elusive bachelor party is an essential and important rite of passage for men who are entering the next phase of their life.

While these days we have a tendency to associate the bachelor party with movies like The Hangover, interestingly enough, the origins of the bachelor party weren’t always shame-inducing, alcohol-fueled free-for-alls involving sinful shenanigans. Also known as a stag party (Canada/UK), a buck’s party (Australia), or enterrement de vie de garcon (France, meaning “the burial of the life as a boy”), the basic concept of the bachelor party was a celebration marking one’s transformation from an adolescent to a family man. Story has it that the celebration/ritual originated in Sparta during 5th century BC, and soldiers gathered together before a fellow fighter’s wedding to toast him at dinner. The event served as a way to bond with friends and release any pre-wedding jitters.

While it isn’t completely clear as to when the bachelor party took a turn for the wilder side, an Oakland Tribune article seems to point to the idea that this change may have taken place during the later part of the 1800s. Apparently Victorian-era gentlemen wanted to have one last night to bid farewell to friends who they would not feel comfortable bringing over to their home after the wife moved in. It wasn’t until 1922, however, when the Scottish publication Chambers’s Journal of Literature, Science and Arts listed the term “bachelor party” as a “jolly old” party.

The term “bachelor,” which was often used to represent a young knight or student with a bachelor’s degree, came to reference an unmarried young man in Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century.  Bachelor parties were often originally black-tie dinners hosted by the groom’s father, although as time went on and the bachelor party evolved, these parties now serve as places were grooms-to-be can express their freedom and celebrate their last night of “freedom” with their friends.

But ladies, fear not: it isn’t all about your soon-to-be-husband going wild and making decisions he’ll regret the next day (well, aside from those extra shots, which he certainly is paying for now). For the most part, the bachelor party is about letting your man run with his wolf pack for the weekend. As long as you trust your partner, you should have nothing to worry about. And besides, we all know that things tend to get a lot crazier at bachelorette parties, which I’ll have to save for a future article. Stay tuned.

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