In Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare famously wrote: “When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.” The iconic line, written in the late 1500s, has had a lasting impact on young men for centuries. With the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, these inspiring words can truly resonate with gay men who now have the possibility to wed. To bachelor party or not to bachelor party—that is the question.
Marriage is fairly new to the gay couple in a legal capacity, and the accompanying, pre-wedding bachelor party is a pastime to consider when tying the knot. A tradition for the groom, the bachelor party has been celebrated longer than one would believe—thousands of years, to be exact. Records show that ancient Spartans around the fifth century BCE were the first to honor the groom’s last night as an unwed man, usually with a dinner and a toast. Later, “bachelor” appeared in reference to an unmarried man in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. Chaucer, speculated by scholars to have been homosexual, was also one of the first authors to use the term “gay” in possible reference to homosexuality in “The Pardoner’s Tale,” so there’s a vague, unexplored link.
It wasn’t until 1922 when the term “bachelor party” was first published (Chamber’s Journal of Literature, Science, and Arts), describing a “jolly old” party in Scotland. Bachelor party is also referenced with a slang term in different countries (“buck” party in Australia, “stag” party in the UK, etc). While these parties for the groom were first experienced with a certain level of decency, bachelor parties in America have proven to be wild, often drunken affairs. A certain stigma surrounds a bachelor party now, where party buses, strippers, shots, maybe blindfolds, and lots of booze anchor a growing tradition, with typical, low-brow behaviors depicted in classic movies (like Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks in 1984 and The Hangover in 2010). The message: the more you don’t remember, the better your bachelor party was. Stag nights can be low-key and intimate, however, and many groom’s best men are known to take the event to a mature level, helping to honor the gay groom-to-be’s last, unmarried nights with a mild, less-boozy affair shortly before he gets hitched.