In the last decade, the bachelorette party has evolved from a unique celebration into a ubiquitous rite of passage for the American bride. Through this ritual, the bride-to-be is initiated into a role of a wife by her friends in a fascinating twist on traditional gender roles. The women celebrate their friend’s commitment by engaging in a ‘masculine’ behavior, signifying that a woman has as much sexual freedom to lose as her partner. A ritual attempting to reinforce relationships among women is performed in a conventionally atypical female way- through a night of sexual games and indulgent drinking.
Though it is considered a part of the wedding process, it is in some ways a world apart from it as it is only institutionalized event that reflects a possible ambivalence of the bride about partying with single life. With roots in the feminist culture of the 1970s, this custom reflects an often contradictory female image in today’s culture. There is a reward in being both a virginal bride in white and a sexual vixen open to “sanctioned debauchery”. The cultural encouragement of the woman to uncover her sexuality is echoed in the commercial symbols of the bachelorette party- the highly sexualized accessories and toys.
In my attempt to understand the ritual itself, I also hope to get a deeper understanding of the women taking part in it – both their interpersonal relationships and their psychological state at this very sensitive and complex moment of their lives. I am exploring the bachelorette party as rite of passage and as a curious ritual of friendship and status, intimacy and consumerism.