The history of bachelor and bachelorette parties

The history of bachelor and bachelorette parties

Bachelor and bachelorettes, stereotypical nights filled with sexual props and drunk and disorderly behaviour, have been around for centuries. Although the Spartans may not have had straws shaped like male genitalia, this tradition before the wedding day has followed similar themes throughout history.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly where the modern idea of a big night out before the big day comes from. Tropes like “your last night of freedom” are more frowned upon these days, as marriage is meant to be something positive rather than a trap. However, even the most in-love couple are likely to opt for some kind of celebration of their last days of singlehood.

Bachelor Party

According to most sources, the earliest records of such parties start in the 5th Century with the Spartans. These would be strictly for the groom, where his friends would host dinners and toasts to honour him.

The tradition of a debaucherous party is picked up again in the 1800s. According to Time, circus owner P.T. Barnum’s grandson Herbert Barnum Seeley threw a bachelor party in 1896 for his brother that “was raided by police after rumours circulated that a famous belly dancer would be performing nude.”

While this sounds very much like the stripper-filled evenings most bachelor parties are thought to be, this event wasn’t called a bachelor party at the time. The first use of the term is linked to a publication in the Chambers’s Journal of Literature, Science and Arts from 1922.

By the mid-1900’s the bachelor parties we know today had started to take shape with excessive drinking, strippers, and all-around bad behaviour by the groom. These were often held the night before the wedding, which must have resulted in some horrible wedding day hangovers.


Unsurprisingly, it was much later that women were allowed to pick-up similarly drunken evenings to celebrate their upcoming nuptials. For years, the best a bride could hope for is a “shower” where she would be given presents to prepare her for the role of doting wife.

These were subdued affairs with tea and finger sandwiches, rather than champagne and dancing on bar tables.

As the sexual revolution gained momentum in the ’60s, this idealised housewife trope was fast becoming unpopular and many brides began opting for their version of a bachelor party. These included drinking, dancing, singing, a night out with your friends, and eventually a lot of penis paraphernalia.

The recognised term bachelorette party was cemented in the 80s when this became a standard of brides, although it was also accompanied by a bridal shower so the older women could celebrate as well.

A modern affair

Bachelor and Bachelorette parties are still incredibly popular although they are quickly being modified to be less gendered. May couples are opting to have shared bachelor/bachelorette parties which include both men and women, rather than one or the other. Some couples still have separate events but they aren’t “men” vs “women” but each partner’s friends.

Picture: Unsplash

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