Bachelorette Parties

Today's fetes are more than just another girls' night out

When wedding planner Ivy Robinson of Charlotte, NC, spent five days in New Orleans for her bachelorette party, she thought her friends had struck upon a novel idea. Now, just two and a half years later, she’s amazed that sophisticated affairs like hers are becoming the norm among the brides she works with. "Bachelorette parties have evolved beyond just going out on the town," she says. "There’s a huge trend to be elaborate—they’re like a pre-honeymoon without the groom!"

Ann Donlon enjoyed just such a respite from her hectic pre-wedding life in San Francisco by having a four-night bachelorette party with seven of her best friends at Amansala Resort’s all-inclusive Bikini Boot Camp in Mexico. The name sounds a little more intense—and spartan—than the reality: an eco-chic retreat combining delicious meals, yoga and cardio classes, massages, thatched cabanas and plenty of time for bonding. "We’re all really close and wanted to escape for a while," says Ann. "And we’re all kind of neurotic about health and exercise!"

These days, brides-to-be who decide that the stereotypical bachelorette party—dinner, drinks, embarrassing "adult entertainment"—just doesn’t suit their style aren’t forgoing the chance to spend some quality time with their best friends before giving up their single status. They simply plan (or request) an event that better reflects their taste. Oenophiles sip their way through winery tours, fashionistas design purses at DIY studios and, yes, fitness enthusiasts seek out holistic hideaways.

Turning the bachelorette party into a fun but edifying affair is gaining popularity with many brides, especially among one circle of friends in New York City. Jocelynn Hyde Cheng wanted to tie her love of the ocean into her bachelorette weekend last June, and the Surf Diva school in La Jolla, CA, was the perfect solution. "Only two girls had ever surfed before," says Jocelynn, "so some were a little intimidated. But everyone loved it!" All the women were treated by Jocelynn to welcome bags full of treats like boy-shorts with surfboard appliqués, lip balm, sunscreen and other goodies that would come in handy during their private surfing lessons with female instructors (also Jocelynn’s treat). "My friends insisted on taking care of everything—the hotel, the car and dinner Saturday night—but when you’re making people travel for this and the wedding, which was in Vancouver... I wanted to surprise them."

At the party was bridesmaid Natasha Zaizeff, who was getting married a few months later. "You get to the age where you start going to a lot of bachelorettes," she says. "It’s fun to do something more than just go to dinner or a karaoke bar."

So nine of her friends rented a studio in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood and split the cost of hiring three professional (and, yes, male) dancers to tutor them. Decked out in frilly skirts, fishnet stockings, beads and bangles, the revelers eventually "coerced" their young instructors to move on with them to dinner at a Cuban hot spot in SoHo. After a rousing game of truth or dare on their way to an after-dinner salsa club, a second, unplanned dance lesson continued into the wee hours. "Hopefully we’re creating a trend," says Natasha of parties like hers and Jocelynn’s. In fact, another friend’s bachelorette evening soon after included a striptease lesson at the Penthouse Executive Club, followed by dinner and dancing.

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