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Brides-to-Be Turn the Tables With Racier Last Nights Out
By NICHOLAS KULISH
Jason Edwards and his friends had a fairly staid evening before his wedding in Antigua, Guatemala, last month. The 26-year-old Florida dental student drank tequila and smoked Cuban cigars with several generations of both his and his bride's families.
Arriving at a second bar where they planned to wind up the night, they found the upper floor occupied by his fiancee, at her own much-rowdier bachelorette party. The men were barred entry to the upstairs portion --where the bride danced on a table with the bartenders and, at one point, with a group of Danish tourists.
"It's something we're not used to, so it was very exciting and very fun, a real let-loose occasion," says Ana Edwards, Mr. Edwards's wife, a 26-year-old psychology doctoral student.
A lot has changed since Tom Hanks's classic comedy "Bachelor Party" set the standard for all-boys fun in 1984. Now, it's the "Sex and the City" era, and prospective brides and their friends have claimed the rights to the wildest behavior in the nights leading up to the nuptials.
Many men have toned down the randy side of their last nights of freedom, forgoing exotic dancers in favor of golf, baseball games, fishing or even cooking school. Women, meanwhile, have developed a whole new set of rituals that are bawdy enough to make men blush.
"I guess girls maybe feel like they should even the score a little bit and do something as outrageous as the guys do," says Christina Hartman, a 25-year-old living in New York who organized a bash in June.
It featured a popular fixture of modern bachelorette parties: a racy scavenger hunt. First the bride had to ask half a dozen men for condoms they might have in their wallets. She came up empty-handed. But she had more success getting the next item on her list: a pair of men's underwear. The gentleman she chose simply removed his trousers and his undershorts in the middle of the bar, according to Ms. Hartman, who took possession of the shorts. "I carried them around in my back pocket for the rest of the night as incentive to get other guys to do things on our list," she says.
Bride Chrissy Lieberman's night out in Phoenix featured a 3-foot-tall erotic "monument" made of Rice Krispies Treats. After noshing on that for a while at a friend's apartment, the 16 women piled into a shuttle bus, where they watched pornographic videos on the monitors while they were whisked away to a strip club.
As the roles of men and women in the work force and everyday life become more similar, the traditions that sent a man out for an evening of bacchanalia and left his soon-to-be wife at a dainty bridal shower have crumbled. "Women in the last couple years have come up in the world in a lot of other parts of their lives, especially economically," says Melinda Gallagher, president and founder of Cake LLC, a New York company that creates erotic entertainment for women. Ms. Gallagher, who studied human sexuality at New York University, calls sexual assertiveness a lagging indicator of success in other realms.
"The craziness of today's bachelorette parties is indicative of the fact that women are more secure with their sexuality than ever before," says Julie Blair Riekse, who made a man drink out of his shoe at the party before her marriage.
Women celebrating pending nuptials "are more active in game playing and getting wild, and have caught up with guys in hiring exotic dancers," says Alan Lasky, a vice president at I-Volution Inc. in Los Angeles. The company runs the Web sites Bachelorpartyfun.com and Bachelorettepartyfun.com, which are paraphernalia stores for such parties. He says women purchase four times as many naughty novelty items as men do.
Among the products: the Deluxe Condom Veil, a veil decorated with colored condoms and other lewd items; the Erotic Bachelorette Lei, which is strung with condoms, mints, lubricants and an unusually shaped pacifier; and Stud Playing Cards. I-Volution employees track the movements of the sites' 12,000 visitors each day and find the interest in male-revue dancers and erotic gadgetry running extremely high among female event planners. Bachelors, on the other hand, are more interested in party information like the top 20 drinks and jokes for the occasion, the company says.
The new look of bachelorette bashes is showing up in pop culture. TV ads by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority feature a bridal party that moves from the strip club to the wedding, where an exotic dancer is seated next to the bride's mother. The makers of the popular touring show "Tony n' Tina's Wedding" now have opened a new interactive off-Broadway show called "Birdy's Bachelorette Party" in New York. Vivendi Universal SA's Universal Pictures paid $200,000 to screenwriter Meghan McCarthy for a female version of Mr. Hanks's film to be called "The Bachelorette." Even old grocery-shelf standby Hellmann's mayonnaise poked fun at the trend in a television commercial. The spot shows male strippers at a party getting ignored for the vegetable dip.
Jason Edwards offers one explanation for the ascendance of ladies' nights: Women have a knack for planning that extends to every aspect of the wedding. The bridesmaids and friends "planned things and took it upon themselves to organize activities," he says.
Americans spend about $60 billion annually on 2.4 million weddings, according to the Association for Wedding Professionals International of Sacramento, Calif. Like china patterns and flower arrangements, the bachelorette party has to be perfect for the whole marital event -- from buildup to honeymoon -- to be considered perfect, too.
"Our generation is accepting of the fact that women lead single lives much like men do, and a marriage means the end of something for the woman -- not just the man," says Alison Crocker, who organized a party in May that rampaged through downtown Boston bars. "I've been to many where the woman acts unlike her usual self, and I really believe it's become something where she feels she must outdo her husband."
Write to Nicholas Kulish at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated September 3, 2002
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