Who threw the first-ever bachelor/bachelorette party? When did the tradition officially begin and how has it changed over the years? Who was that OG trailblazing BACH to first cut a penis out of construction paper?
What follows here is a (somewhat drunk) history of bachelor and bachelorette parties. If you’re feeling like a purist, you can work in some of these traditions for your own BACH party and honor those who partied before you. If nothing else, these are some historical tidbits to share with your friends while you’re pre-gaming. They’ll likely tell you to please shut up and order the Uber.
Still, we think you’ll enjoy!
Once upon a time, in 5th Century B.C. Greece...
Pre-wedding parties are reported as far back as the time of the Spartans. Yep, like, shredded Gerard Butler in the movie 300 Spartans:
They didn’t call them bachelor parties at the time. Credit for coining the word ‘bachelor’ goes to Geoffrey Chaucer, author of the Canterbury Tales, first published in the 14th century. But we digress.
The festivities in Sparta mark the first semblance of a modern BACH party. At these celebrations, the soon-to-be-wed Spartan warrior would shake off those pre-wedding jitters the night before his big day and pledge his undying commitment and loyalty to his brothers-in-arms.
Imagine: Dudes, real talk: I’m not gonna flake out when Xerxes and his massive Persian army start clamoring at our gates. Bros first, always. For reals.
Of course, there’s still an element of this to bachelor parties today. You just have to replace that Xerxes and his Persian army bit with Fantasy Football draft day.
The Dark Ages of BACH parties: 5th century B.C. to 1896
We couldn’t uncover much information about what happened to BACH festivities between the time of the ancient Greeks and the late 19th century.
Obviously we know people were drinking heavily and throwing down during those several thousand years.
We like to imagine the parties would have looked like certain scenes from time period movies.
P.T. Barnum’s grandson throws the first recorded ‘Stag Party’ in 1896
In 1896, P.T. Barnum’s grandson, Herbert Barnum Seeley, threw a raucous party for his brother at Sherry’s in New York City. This became immortalized (and scandalized) as the ‘Awful Seeley Dinner.’ The highlight of the night was a famous belly dancer, nicknamed ‘Little Egypt,’ who performed naked and, rumor has it, entered the party by leaping out of a whipped cream pie.
In the early hours of the morning, the party was dissolved by a police officer. Furious, the Seeley Family brought the officer before the police board to be charged with “conduct unbecoming to an officer of the law.” Power move.
The Awful Seeley Dinner is significant because it shed light on the secretive nature of bachelor parties. Makes you wonder how many of these lewd and lively parties were happening at the time behind closed doors.
BACH parties in the 19th and early 20th century: A gentleman’s sendoff ceremony, presumably
The pre-wedding parties for men were, on paper, relatively tame and civil affairs for the first half of the 20th century. Black tie dinners the night before the wedding organized by the father of the groom (or bride), featuring toasts and speeches on behalf of the groom.
Here’s to you, old sport.
Fun fact: In 1922, the term, ‘bachelor party’ was first published in William Chambers’s Journal of Literature, Science, and Arts and was described as a jolly old party. If these jolly old parties were happening -- and they must have been in the roaring 20s -- they were kept under wraps. Some things never change, huh? 🙄
BACH parties make it to Hollywood and pave the way for Charlie Sheen
Fifty years after Herbert Barnum Seeley’s legendary party, the actor Jimmy Stewart -- famous for his role in It’s a Wonderful Life -- threw the first widely reported bachelor party in Hollywood. The celebration featured a little person dressed as a baby who attempted to pee on Jimmy Stewart, allegedly, setting the tone for the debauchery that would follow and continue to this day.
Women fight for their right to BACH Party
It wasn’t until the sexual revolution of the 1960s that women began to enjoy a proper BACH party experience. Before, pre-wedding festivities were limited to the bridal shower.
Some authors have even tied the cultural significance of a bachelorette party to gender equality. In the 1960s, women started getting together the night before the wedding to honor and celebrate the bride-to-be. These parties went by different names: hens party, stagette, doe party, a girl’s night out. It took until the 1980s, however, for the more modern and rowdy bachelorette party to truly take off.
We’re still relatively early in BACH history for women. In fact, the first book on planning a bachelorette party wasn’t published until 1998! We’re honored to blaze this trail with y’all.
Iconic BACH party movies make the festivities mainstream
The Hangover, Bridesmaids, What Happens in Vegas, American Wedding -- the list of quote-worthy BACH movies goes on and on. If anything, it’s an indication of what a big deal the BACH party has become today: a special event completely separate from the wedding, often taking place weeks or months before.
What started as a single night ceremony in 5th Century ancient Greece is now a weekend-long festivity of celebrations and partying in honor of the bride-to-be, groom, or both at the same time.
BACH parties today
Today a BACH party is really whatever you want it to be. Yes, it sometimes features a weekend trip to a fun destination with your besties -- and it can involve at least one night of heavy drinking -- but the possibilities are pretty much endless. It’s about creating a fun and special trip for the BACH and celebrating a lifetime of friendship.
We’re excited and humbled to play a small part in writing the future of pre-wedding celebrations with the BACH Fam!
Love and claws,