When I asked one of my closest and oldest friends to be my maid of honor earlier this year, I was completely confident she would be the support system I needed as I inched closer to my wedding day this September. I’ve known her since high school, and she’s always been organized, reliable, and goal-driven. Anything I put in her hands, I remember thinking, will be taken care of and I won’t have to worry about it.
As is customary, I asked her if she would take the lead in planning my bachelorette party. Over the course of several weeks, we talked about the guest list, possible locations, and potential themes and activities. Ultimately, I picked New York City as my bachelorette destination—I love the city’s energy, and I wanted to have options beyond sitting poolside with a fruity cocktail in hand (fun as that may be, of course). I was envisioning a weekend of wine tasting, fine dining, and boutique shopping, with a little yoga or Pilates sprinkled into the mix. I saw my girls and I strutting through the streets, taking the city by storm or, you know, whatever. Looking back now, I was clearly picturing a scene from a romantic comedy more than I was picturing real life—that is, until real life caught up with me.
About two months after I “proposed” to my maid of honor, she delivered some surprising news: She wouldn't be able to attend my bachelorette party, the very event she was in the beginning stages of organizing. She explained that she’d been hit with several unexpected expenses that were setting her back financially. It would be hard for her to even be able to attend the wedding, let alone my bachelorette.
“Do you hate me?” she asked. “Of course not,” I responded. It was the truth. I could never hate her—we’ve been through far too much together for a party to fracture our relationship that severely. I offered to pay for her share of things, but she didn’t feel comfortable with that option. She felt embarrassed by the whole situation, and she promised to “make it up” to me one day.
I did my best to placate this already uncomfortable moment while we were talking on the phone. I assured her that it would be okay. I would figure out whether I still wanted to move forward with the planning process. She offered to continue organizing it on my behalf, which I appreciated.
What I didn’t say in our conversation was that yeah, I was pretty crushed. I was disappointed. I had always imagined having this movie-like, last-night-of-debauchery-with-my-girls experience for my bachelorette. And I very specifically knew who I wanted there with me. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that having my bachelorette party without my maid of honor felt kind of, well, pointless. She was supposed to be the anchor, the glue that held everything—and everyone—together. Despite being disappointed, I wasn’t angry or upset. I understood why she couldn’t make it work and, if anything, I was glad she told me earlier on rather than at the last minute.
At this point, the plan is to skip the tradition altogether and figure out an alternative means of saying farewell to my days of singlehood. So far I’ve entertained a few ideas, like attending a wellness retreat (the Arizona desert is calling my name), running off to a remote island (I visited Cat Island in the Bahamas earlier this year and it would be perfect for unplugging for a few days), and taking my mom on some kind of mother-daughter getaway (we’ve never traveled together as adults). What I have decided on is that I will be competing in my first sprint triathlon at the end of August, about a month before my wedding day. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years now, so why not right before I get married? While juggling the responsibilities of triathlon training and wedding planning might get a little chaotic, I’m excited to do something all in the name of celebrating myself.
And at its core, that’s precisely what the bachelorette party tradition is all about—celebrating the bride however she chooses to be celebrated. What my experience has taught me is that while plans may change and evolve from what you originally imagined, plan B (or C or D) can still be fun, rewarding, and maybe—just maybe—even better than plan A, anyway.
See more: The Zero-Drama Guide to Bridesmaids