The Thinking Man’s Guide to Bachelor Parties

Whom to invite, where to have it, and more.

Click hereto read more from Slate’s wedding issue.

It is undesirable to plan one’s own bachelor party, or “BP.” Instead, the bachelor ought to suggest some ideas to trusted friends and let them do what they will—crucial to creating the essential elements of surprise and plausible deniability. Thus, filing this piece 50 hours before my BP commences, I don’t know exactly what will happen there. If everything goes successfully, I never will. But whatever they have planned, it must have taken some special effort, since, having been around the block and returned, I’m quite aware that the wedding industry is woefully underserving the sophisticated bridegroom-elect.

Consider that Emily Post has not had anything fresh to say on the subject since 1922. “The groom’s farewell dinner is exactly like any other ‘man’s dinner,’ ” she lied, continuing, “Usually there is music of some sort, or ‘Neapolitans’ or ‘coons’ who sing, or two or three instrumental pieces, and the dinner party itself does the singing. Often the dinner is short and all go to the theater.” The other day, I queried the adorable Neapolitans who frequent an Italian social club in my neighborhood as to whether they’d consider singing at my BP. They demurred, telling me they thought it was “real funny” that I “had the nerve” to ask, and we all enjoyed a good laugh. Tempora quid faciunt!

And yet, plus ça change: In a new book titled Bachelor Party Confidential: A Real-Life Peek Behind the Closed-Door Tradition, David Boyer traces the origins of the BP to ancient Sparta, where soldiers would toast one another at elaborate feasts and “the soon-to-be-wed pledged his continued loyalty to his brothers-in-arms.” This remains the heart of the matter. Despite what some vulgarians would have you believe, the ritual is not about “one last night of freedom,” it is a buoyant affirmation of solidarity. These men are your brothers, your eternal comrades, and, after this party, maybe even your co-defendants.

But Boyer’s approach is descriptive, rather than prescriptive, and his survey is far too ecumenical to be of practical use. Many ex-bachelors he interviewed spent their final moment of singlehood engaged in camping, paintball, or Dungeons & Dragons. These are, like playing Barbie, worthy pastimes, but the modern gentleman craves something more substantial. While you might correctly venture to a sporting event as one element of the fete—a Triple Crown race, say, or a carefully selected cockfight—the crux of the BP is enjoying lively conversation with other men keenly interested in society, literature, and the arts. Naturally, “the arts” include exotic dancing: The bachelor should be teased, humiliated, and possibly oil-wrestled by a professional ecdysiast. Some of you may object on feminist grounds, but strippers claim to find their work empowering, and this is no time for a debate. It is sufficiently progressive to treat the dancers with respect and to tip generously.

The ideal BP would closely resemble a salon among Thomas De Quincey, P.J. O’Rourke, Christophers Hitchens and Moltisanti, Robert Mitchum, Stanford White, Keith Richards, and Frank the Tank, with entertainment provided by the 12 most open-minded Rockettes. Neither Boyer nor Maxim can help you get to that level. Nor can I; there are many lacunae in my body of knowledge—the rules of baccarat, for instance—that disqualify me. But, in the fashion of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, author of the superlative My Dinner Party Book, please allow me to tender some further notes toward a successful BP.

No way is this the night before the wedding. For one thing, there’s that rehearsal dinner for 125 at your mother-in-law’s country club, and someone might notice. Take pains to ensure that the host(s) schedule the BP for 8 to 10 weeks before the ceremony—this is the point at which the invitations are about to go out, and you, the standard bobo groom, will feel the most tense, frustrated, harried, bored, self-alienated, etc. Clicking on the gift registry only offers so much opportunity for release: You need a breather. Schedule the main party for Saturday. Schedule a pre-party for Friday. Get tragicomically wasted on Friday, to encourage a spirit of moderation during the focal event. Remember, a proper BP should be merely hazardous, not acutely dangerous. Think Fellini’s Satyricon, not Vidal’s Caligula.

Guest List
You’ve worked hard to get where you are—the weekends at the office, the merciless social-climbing. Your circle of friends reflects your station in the world. I should hope you count among them a practicing attorney, a hedge-fund manager with an infrared AmEx, and a physician. (In a jam, any quack with a prescription license will do, but proctology specialists can be a great comfort, and veterinarians also have their uses.) Avoid reporters: They’ve a horrid ratio of drinks consumed to rounds bought. Sadly, given my profession, I was obliged to invite a handful to the TPBP. On the brighter side, I’m calling in an FBI agent with a juris doctorate, significant medical-emergency experience, and a proficiency in Thai kickboxing, and also an architect who once made a bong from a Mickey Mouse fishbowl. 

You’ll want to eat something. After Friday, you might not be able to, but you’ll want to. Go for the glamour and grease of a classic steakhouse. It’s quite convivial to share side orders—or at least to watch the other members of your party pass the creamed spinach—and your fellow patrons will delight in overhearing your friends’ fond reminiscences about the time that girl in college did that thing with the cup. You should order the filet mignon, medium rare. While no sauce goes with a fine filet quite like a red-wine reduction with dried cherries, when you throw that back up, it will look like coagulated blood, so stick with the Bernaise.

Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” always plays well at these affairs, as do Kelis’ “Milkshake,” Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away,” and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Adventuresome sorts might consider a trip overseas, or at least to Montreal, home of Club Super Sexe and its DJ, who brings the most charming Quebecois lilt to such phrases as “Lesbian show, lesbian show!” Amsterdam, Ixtapa, Reykjavik, and Cartegena have also become popular, but who can keep up with extradition treaties? Why not see America first? There’s always New Orleans, a jaunt with a humanitarian vibe: The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina may have slipped from the front pages, but the ladies of Larry Flynt’s Barely Legal Club still need your support. Those of you planning a summertime event in the Hamptons should bear in mind high-season hassles—the notorious traffic, the scarcity of great oysters, the fact that Long Island strippers are hideously susceptible to sunburn in early July. Those of you going to Las Vegas manifestly lack imagination. No, New York City, more than ever, is the best place to have a bachelor party: In the fall of 2001, celebrating the pending nuptials of a college chum, I had occasion to admire the American flags management had installed on either side of the main stage at Scores and found myself so moved by New Yorkers’ collective courage that I started misting up. That, or I had some body glitter in my eyes.