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Woman in bridal veil with another woman in casino playing roulette and smiling (selective focus)In recent years, the bachelorette party has received a good amount of attention. The gals-only party is a relative newcomer, however, to the typical American wedding agenda. It is only since the mid-to-late '90s that a night on the town with girlfriends, complete with expensive dinners, flowing alcohol and male strippers, has been considered a bridal right of passage. Up until now, and despite the newness of the event, some rules have seemed to apply. One of them is, or was: Do not invite the bride's mother.

New-ish Tradition

To a number of brides in their 20s, leaving their mothers off the bachelorette guest list was a no-brainer. After all, the model for the celebration is the bachelor party. The all-male fest enjoys a long history of pre-nuptial debauchery. Many young women would feel awkward, at best, to either experience or witness a lap dance with someone's mother at the table, even a cool mom. One such cool mom, Karen Maffucci, begs to differ. Not only did the 53 year old attend her daughter's Miami bachelorette party, she planned it, right down to the supply of dollar bills for the strip show. It never occurred to Maffucci that she would be excluded from the festivities.

Beth Montemurro is a sociology professor at Penn State, Abington, and the author of the book, "Something Old, Something Bold: Bridal Showers and Bachelorette Parties." She says bachelorette parties really started to gain momentum in the late 1990s. Montemurro cites a 2003 survey published in Brides's magazine that stated that 94 percent of brides-to-be included some version of the party in their pre-wedding plans. Those early versions rarely made space for the bride's mother. This practice has led some mothers to feel left out.

Not Our Mother's Mother

A growing group of mothers in their 50s and 60s distinguish themselves as having different relationships with their daughters than they had with their mothers. They cite that they are bonded through similar attitudes, experiences and goals, and therefore earn a place at the bachelorette table. These moms feel as though there are fewer secrets, particularly about once-sensitive subjects like sex. Many daughters agree. Some members of the younger generation take the position that since they already share much of their personal lives through social media, one wild night is unlikely to reveal anything too shocking for mom to see or hear. Opponents to a mother's presence say it is intrusive. They protest that the mothers are simply trying to hold onto their youth, and are living vicariously through their daughters.

Older Traditions

There is considerable precedent for including mothers in pre-wedding plans and rituals. For centuries, a variety of cultures have prepared for the marriage ceremony with female-only activities. Some of these practices include:

  • Henna parties: This Middle Eastern ritual involves a sweet feast and henna designs intended to adorn and protect the bride.
  • Mikvah: Traditional Jewish brides are bathed under running water before an all-female celebration attended by family and friends.
  • Hindu Sangeet party: This celebration may or may not include the male members of the marriage party. It involves the playing of drums and the singing of folk songs to bid farewell to the bride before her marriage.

A primary purpose of all of these rituals, and many more across the globe, is to allow for a moment of bonding before the bride enters into her life with her partner. They acknowledge female relationships, and remind the person getting married that they have a support system among the women in their lives. Modern bachelorette parties may indeed serve a similar purpose, but often the debauchery overshadows the more subtle intent. If bachelorette parties are the contemporary stand-ins for the time-honored pre-marriage female bonding ritual, then sending Mom an invitation seems like a natural choice.

Category: Wedding Planning

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