The thinking man's guide to bachelor parties.

Notes on nuptials.
June 11 2007 2:03 PM

The Thinking Man's Guide to Bachelor Parties

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

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Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer. Click image to expand.

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.

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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!

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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.