The Psychology of the Bachelor Party

men at bar with girl in fishnet stockings

07 Apr 2020

What is the point of a bachelor party?

My bachelor party is coming up, and while my fiancé and I have the type of relationship where we talk openly about these things and set expectations (links other than this type are not recommended for marriage, by the way), I fear Brides readers might become worried by the many articles describing bachelor parties as booze-addled stripper fests. So here’s the truth.

His Friends Are There for Themselves, Not Your Fiancé

He’s a nice guy, sure, but we just want to party. Saying “goodbye” to the groom on his “last night of freedom” is our excuse to gather for some quality male bonding in the form of drinking and replicating the socially irresponsible behaviours that forged our friendships back in high school or college. We mock the groom, taunt him for all he’s about to give up, and call it a roast to justify it — just like the good old days!

“Booze-Addled” Is a Reasonable Description

Yes, we drink precisely as much as you think. A bachelor party is just a bender masquerading as a legitimate celebration, where any minor event is cause for drinking.

“Sex Fest” Is Not So Much

Sex is a significant component always associated with bachelor parties, but it’s typically the idea of sex than actual sex. The guys who are already married or in relationships watch and live vicariously as the single guys try to pick up girls. The only guys try to goad the attached guys into doing something they shouldn’t — and this is where we remind you to tell your guy what makes you uncomfortable before turning him loose in the wild. But it’s more drinking than anything else, in case you were worried.

stripper heals on stage with pole

“Horrifying Mess” Might be Most Accurate

In college, it was easy to eat trash and slam cheap beers for 48 hours straight. That was called “the weekend.” Now? That spicy chicken sandwich isn’t nearly as good going down as we remember, and it’s sure to be even worse coming back up. This doesn’t stop us from going for the gusto all the same, and the results are foul. Nobody showers, the floors are covered with empty beer cans and hot dog bits, and the entire place smells like stale cigarettes, gym socks, and shame.

There’s Always “That Guy”

Even though we’re all drunk, one idiot will inevitably take it too far and force everyone to treat him like a baby and make sure he doesn’t get arrested. Eventually, we all start to hope he actually does get arrested. Also, the girls should probably be able to guess who that guy is. Don’t let your guy be that guy.

Someone Will Get Hurt

This will perhaps happen during a drunken belly flop contest, arm wrestling match, or go-kart crash. Most likely, after a fight breaks out for no immediately apparent reason.

guys drinking and smoking cigars

Bros Will Be Bros

There will be many almost-too-long-for-comfort bro hugs and “I LOVE YOU MAN” s, possibly following the fight as mentioned above but most likely, again, for no immediately apparent reason.

So as you can see, you have very little to worry about. As long as your guy returns from the bachelor party hungover, stinking, and bereft of all dignity, you can be sure he had the time of his life.

Even if they don’t seem super involved in the wedding-planning process, grooms are going through the same life-changing experience as their brides-to-be. Enter: The Plunge. The site helps the engaged guy navigate his wedding from a man’s point of view.

A bachelor party is an initiation into marriage, which, in modern times, is mostly understood as a celebration, by the groom’s male friends, of the groom’s last days of ‘freedom.’ In the U.K., it tends to be called a stag (stag night, stag do, stag party…), and in Australia, a buck. The equivalent rite for the bride, attended by the bride’s female friends, is the bachelorette or hen party.

The original meaning of ‘bachelor’ in English is ‘a young knight who follows the banner of another.’ ‘Stag’ and ‘hen’ used to be slang for ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ The stag, standing proud and alone, has long been a symbol of virility, with stags, and men with antlers, being a common motif in cave paintings. Cernunnos, the Celtic god of life and fertility, and a symbol of the masculine, featured the body of a warrior and the horns of a stag. The stag’s antlers, which point to the gods above, serve to attract mates and fend off rivals: mirroring the cycle of life and death, they grow and fall back each year, transmutation from soft, pulsing velvet into a hard horn.

Olds like to say that youth is wasted on the young. Just as bachelor parties, you might have noticed, are lost on the no-longer bachelor. And because this isn’t Mad Men, and your friend technically should’ve stopped acting single a week after meeting his partner-to-be, he shouldn’t be treating the event as “one last weekend of freedom” or some gray-area-flirtatious horseshit like that. That’s a good thing! But it leads to an idea I’ve been considering for a while: Why not shift the bachelor party off of the coupled-up and onto the single—that is, the actual bachelors? They’re the ones whose freedom to roam in a bar and make out with someone cute should be egged on and cheered, right? Let me tell a quick story that illustrates at least part of the point I’m making about the version of this whole thing that I, 31 and almost married myself, encounter exclusively now.

Bachelor parties have a reputation for being raunchy and raucous (which we can probably thank Hollywood for). 

But when it comes down to it, bachelor parties are really about a groom-to-be celebrating a momentous occasion with his closest friends and family, which is pretty sweet.

Don’t get me wrong: I very much enjoy going to restaurants and bars with friends. But it misses the point of what I think this selfishly once-in-your-life event used to pitch toward: that is, propping one friend up and endeavoring to chase the night on their behalf. If the bachelor in question is still single, it’s more fun for everyone, right? For the dude of honor. For the buddies who just need a weekend away from their Nest apps. For the generous bartenders and friendly single ladies at the honky-tonks in Nashville who just want to dance with someone who’s not going to be sweating through his guilty almost-married conscience all night. Single life is sometimes hard and sometimes smooth, but either way, one day it’s gone. That’s what’s worth marking, sealing off, and celebrating while it lasts.

If you wish to throw yourself and your bachelordom a party, make these three assurances to your friends: (1) This is instead of a traditional stag party later; (2) you will not make them pay for your steak; (3) they will have more fun than they will with a bunch of married dudes sitting around a cabin on a mountain.

But they won’t need assurances; they will jump at the opportunity to reclaim what this is—a kick-ass weekend with your closest friends like the sort you used to have more than once every marriage.