My American readers are likely not familiar with the English term “hen party”, which is what Americans sort of refer to as a bachelorette party. I say “sort of” because the English hen party has largely jumped the barriers of propriety and taken pre-wedding festivities to places that the tamer American bachelorette party would never go, with some hilarious and disturbing results.
The average American bachelorette party is (despite what you may have seen in the movie Bridesmaids a fairly tame combination of cupcakes, weak booze, and endless chatter, with maybe, possibly, sometimes if you’re daring, a Fabio-esque male stripper tossed in. By comparison, the English >hen party starts with costumes (see the photo above), from fairies, to devils, to escaped prisoners, to chickens (see above), with the bride-to-be getting the best costume, and a beauty-queen style sash of identification. Then, add in booze and lots of it, some goofy, ice-breaking party games, and when everyone is having fun, take the whole show on the road, head out to the nearest pub to initiate the pub-crawl portion of the festivities.
The hen party is much more rambunctious and boozy than the bachelorette party, and as a consequence is much more likely to end in tears and vomit than the average bachelorette party. It’s also much more likely to end in hilarity and good fun, too. So, next time some one mentions a hen party, think costumes and liquor, not cupcakes and squeals of fake delight.]]>
So when I ran across a fun and informative infographic on averages concerning bridesmaids over on Visual.ly, I had to take a closer look and share the contents with all of you.
Seems I got a couple of things in the average range when I got married. Five bridesmaids is apparently the average, and that’s exactly what I had. Oh, that includes the junior bridesmaid who, at twelve, slotted nicely into the national average of being aged nine to fourteen. I had a matron rather than maid of honor, though, unlike some 97% of brides.
I’m not sure where to put myself in the question of the 64% of brides who have their maids wear identical outfits. See, they all wore the same skirt and blouse made from the same patterns and the same fabric… but then I asked them to trim and accessorize according to personal whim rather than a specific blueprint. So there were trims ranging from pink pearl piping to a grand fall of lace over the bosom to an added Batterburg lace collar with little blue ribbon roses, an equally broad range of jewelry styles, and flat shoes that ran the gamut from ballet flats to low, slouchy boots. So they all started in the same place with the same stuff, but they weren’t identical when they got done.
As for travel, well, prices have gone way up, but I’m betting that travel to the wedding did wind up averaging close to the $300 in the infographic, because while I had two bridesmaids living in the same town with me and my junior bridesmaid lived about an hour’s drive away… I did have two bridesmaids who lived on the opposite coast from mine and who brought their husbands with them. Hey, one of them was also in the wedding party.
But just as I have to adjust for nearly twenty years, hence changes over time in both prices and custom (the bachelorette party was a pretty rare beast when I was getting married), it’s important to remember geography and culture when looking at the numbers in the infographic. With the cost of the average wedding in New York City hovering close to seventy grand, you can assume that bridesmaids will also probably wind up spending more there than, say, in Yuma, AZ. And it’s always important to keep in mind that when these averages are calculated, there are always plenty of outliers whose wedding costs were either astonishingly huge or amazingly tiny. Averages tell us about everyone and nobody in particular.
So when you choose the dress your bridesmaids will wear, remember that while the average bridesmaid today spends $150 on a dress, $50 on alterations for that dress, $50 for lingerie, $60 for jewelry, and $100 for hair and make up… it’s best to talk frankly with your proposed attendants about their specific budgets before assuming they’ll shell out $410 to look good in your wedding album. I’m just saying. And seriously, I did not ever consider for one moment making my bridesmaids get new undies for my wedding. I figured what they wore under those outfits was between them and their gods, and therefore very firmly Not My Business.
As for the price tags of the gifts the bridesmaids give you for your engagement and wedding… it’s really best not to think too hard about that. They’re already giving you support, possibly DIY as well as emotional, and they’re letting you tell them what to wear. If they choose to give more, that’s a lovely gesture, whether it’s a potato peeler or that big screen TV you’ve been hankering after.
In short, there are averages in the world of bridesmaids, and you may or may not hit some of them firmly on the head. But your bridesmaids are individual people, your relationships with them will be unique, and anyway, why would you want to aim for average? Aim for what will make you – and hopefully your bridesmaids, too – happy.
Real cops look like this:
I bring this up in light of a story last week from the Australian Broadcasting System about a bachelorette party being held at the Humpty Doo Hotel (I did not make up that name) where the constabulary were called out about a disturbance and the ladies mistook them for the strippers.
Before the police could retreat they very nearly lost their shirts… but not their sense of humor. In fact they posed with party goers and the police car. No charges were filed in the incident.
But remember, not all cops will be that understanding of being sexually assaulted in a case of drunken misidentification. Wait until after the strippers arrive to drink enough to get confused about who is who. You know, if you plan to get that wasted anyway.
If you can’t wait, have a designated stripper identifier. She can also be the designated driver.]]>
Thirty years ago, they pretty much didn’t exist. Twenty years ago, they were fairly rare. Now they seem pretty common. Still, they aren’t for everyone.
I well remember a wedding where I was the MOH about twenty years ago. One day the bride called me in a bit of a panic because the other bridesmaid was talking about whisking her off and forcing her to drink fruit daiquiris and watch male strippers. This was profoundly not the bride’s cup of tea.
Luckily, I was able to talk the other bridesmaid down from that particular ledge, and the bride was saved. I threw her a nice, quiet, game-free shower with tea and desserts instead.
Now it seems that every bridal magazine and reality show and forum more or less assumes that the bride will have some form of bachelorette party. Some of them involve hard liquor, penis-themed garb, strippers, and adult-rated scavenger hunts. Some involve pole dancing lessons. Others might be about paint ball with the girls.
Me? Well, that bride I saved from a bachelorette party was my MOH, and she knew not to even go there for me. What’s more, she wasn’t tempted. Nor were any of my other bridesmaids.
Do I morally object to bachelorette parties? No. I just haven’t met one that seemed like a good time for me. Most of them seem to be about emulating some form of typical bachelor party, and most of the things guys traditionally do at those parties are not things I want to do. Nor do I wish to wear/carry a penis in public, learn to pole dance, or participate in games that require me to drink to excess or make embarrassing requests of total strangers in public.
On the other hand, the practice is becoming far more popular. I’m guessing that there are plenty of people who’ve come up with interesting variations on the theme, just as there are now plenty of bachelor parties where nobody drinks until they pass out on the stripper.
So I’m curious. Are you being given a bachelorette party? Did you have one? Do/did you want one? What sort of party was it/will it be?
Does this appeal to you?
It’s not uncommon for bridesmaids or a maid-of-honor to accept a wedding party post without knowing what they’re getting into. That’s why there are books like Everything Bridesmaid: From Planning the Shower to Supporting the Bride, All You Need to Survive and Enjoy the Wedding and The Bridesmaid Handbook and The Bridesmaid Guide: Etiquette, Parties and Being Fabulous and even The Quintessential Wedding Guide … Maid of Honor.
In other words, while first-time maids and MOHs may not know quite what’s expected of them, there are plenty of how-tos out there ready to help. Get your dress on time, they say. Throw a bridal shower. Bustle the gown. Herd the groomsmen. Hold the bride’s bouquet. Give a speech. And so on.
But perhaps the most important to-do on the bridesmaid’s checklist should be “Consider your budget.” Brides (and grooms) put together a wedding budget, so why shouldn’t attendants put together bridesmaid budgets (and groomsman budgets)? Being part of a wedding can be expensive, depending on the wedding. It needn’t be complicated — simply ask yourself how much you expect to spend based on certain criteria.
Does the bride have upper-crust taste in clothing that could translate in your bring asked to spring for an expensive dress you’ll never wear again? In the case of a destination wedding, will you have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for airfare and accommodations in addition to your wedding day finery. Will you have to pay to have your hair styles and makeup professionally done? Are there pre-wedding events planned that will require some outlay of cash? Then it’s time to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend or can spend — be realistic, don’t be swayed by guilt or what you think everyone else can spend — and, finally, if you’re up for it, straight up ask the bride how much she expects her bridesmaids to lay out.
This is important, considering that the second most chosen response on a Savvy Sugar poll asking What’s the Most You Have Spent as a Bridesmaid? (right after “I’ve never been a bridesmaid.”) was “Well over $1,000.” You read that right, 17% of respondents have spent more than a grand preparing for and participating in someone else’s wedding. For those whose eyes are bugging out, I’ll add the the third and fourth most chosen responses were “Between $100 and $300.” and “Between $300 and $500.”
I’m lucky in that I’ve never been asked to do much as a bridesmaid or maid-of-honor other than buy a suitable dress in such-and-such a color since more often than not I’ve had to travel to participate in the weddings of faraway friends. I wouldn’t have minded, though, having to spend some money (maaaaybe up to $500?) and much more time helping the brides prepare for the big day. But thousand bucks? I think I would have had to gracefully decline unless it was a sister or my mother or someone equally important. What do you think?