A Last Hurrah a Year After the Wedding

It was the ideal bachelorette party scene.

Last month, on a blue-sky day in North Miami Beach, a group of women gathered for a celebration on a rented Vista Cruiser Yacht. Alexis Lushia-Schwartz, who works for a financial technology company in Chicago, wore a white bathing suit with “bride” emblazoned in gold letters. Her friends’ bathing suits were black and said, “bride squad.” Their matching sun hats had their names inscribed in cursive letters.

For four hours they drank bottles of rosé and prosecco and danced to music played through the boat’s speaker system. They frolicked on a sandbar and jumped into the water. Other boats, recognizing the occasion, honked their horns and congratulated Ms. Lushia-Schwartz on what they believed to be her upcoming wedding.

Their mistake was understandable. Bachelorette parties traditionally occur before the wedding. But Ms. Lushia-Schwartz, 37, was married in August 2020 in a 10-person backyard ceremony at her aunt’s house in Bloomfield, Mich.

“I wore my wedding ring and band all weekend, so I think people were slightly confused,” she said. “My answer to anyone who asked was we got married eight months ago, and I wanted to have a small celebration post marriage. Everybody still seemed excited for us.”

The coronavirus has not just thrown wedding ceremonies and receptions into disarray but the traditions that come before them, like bachelorette parties and bridal showers. Brides and grooms who decided to elope or have microweddings during the pandemic are now rescheduling the events usually leading up to their vows.

“We postponed our wedding twice, and I didn’t even get to wear my dress for the backyard wedding,” Ms. Lushia-Schwartz said. “Being able to do this one celebration, even if it was a mini or late version of it, was really special for me.”

Even before the pandemic, some brides, grooms and even invited guests asked themselves: What do these events really mean? If their historical purpose — a bachelorette party is the last hurrah and a bridal shower is to give gifts and advice needed to build a home — is now mute because the bride has already tied the knot, what purpose do they serve? Do they need to evolve or not exist at all?

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“It’s about modernizing traditions where they need to be modernized,” said Myka Meier, the owner of Beaumont Etiquette, a New York-based company that provides private and group classes on business and social etiquette. “We shouldn’t be throwing parties because that is what we are supposed to do. It’s OK to change it up.”

For Jamie Judy, 25, a speech language pathologist who lives in Portsmouth, Va., the point of a bachelorette party or a bridal shower is to bring friends and family members together in one place. “The bachelorette party isn’t about the last hurrah,” she said. “It’s about making those memories with my girlfriends and feeling so special and loved.”

That, she figured, she can do any time, even after her wedding. So in early April, almost a year after she said her vows in the backyard of her childhood home in Chesapeake, Va., she and five girlfriends flew to Nashville for what they called a “wifelorette” party. They drank mimosas on a party barge, danced to live music, and stayed up all night talking at their Airbnb.

“Going into it, I was a little worried because I was already married, and I didn’t know if it would be weird to wear a sash that says bride-to-be,” she said. “But then I realized me and my husband both deserve to have some fun.”

“That is not the point of a bachelorette anymore,” she added. “It’s about getting to spend time with your close girlfriends.”

Those that look at prewedding events as a chance to spend quality time with loved ones have placed greater value on them after the pandemic. “When I canceled my original bachelorette party, the world was in such an uncertain place,” Ms. Lushia-Schwartz said. “The fact that I can even see my girlfriends and feel part of this bridal tradition was probably even more special for me because of the pandemic.”

The wedding-planning website Zola recently polled 200 engaged couples and released the results in April 2021. One in three responded that wedding showers and other events are now more important and meaningful than ever.

Many guests of these events seem to agree. Nicky Fournier, 41, of Havre de Grace, Md., happily attended her cousin’s bridal shower at a yacht club in Niantic, Conn., a year after her wedding last spring. “It was important to her to experience a bridal shower,” she said. “It’s unfair that the pandemic should take that away.”

But if there is no practical purpose to these prewedding events — if couples don’t need a last night out or dishes for their new home — some guests are asking why even bother? Or if they do, why do they have to be so expensive and involve gifts?

Michelle Quiroz, a 27-year-old auditor in Chicago, doesn’t see a problem with getting to toast a new bride, whether it’s before or after a wedding. “It’s about celebrating this person in their new journey,” she said.

But she was taken aback when a college friend sent her a registry for her bridal shower that included expensive gift options. “This couple have been together since 2013,” she said. “I know where he works. I know where she works. They can pay for this. Why are they asking for me to buy them such an expensive thing?”

Ms. Quiroz says she would feel this way without the pandemic. But current limitations made matters worse because it meant she wasn’t invited to the wedding, and the bridal shower was a drive-through. “There wasn’t even this fun social event that I was going to get to attend,” she said. “It rubbed me the wrong way.”

Ms. Meier of Beaumont Etiquette encourages clients to think through their communication with their guests and consider a no-gifts policy. “Yes, these events are about the bride, but they are also about the guests and their needs,” she said. “I think if you are throwing a party after your wedding, the no-gifting message is important. It does kind of make guests question, why are you throwing this party?”

Some couples, though, simply decide to put off their weddings altogether. Elizabeth Lombardi, 29, a software developer in Ontario, Canada, has been living with her fiancé for six years. “We don’t expect much of a change once we have a signed marriage license,” she said. “Because we are already so committed to each other the wedding is more about that celebration with our family and friends and loved ones.”

Even before they started thinking about postponing their wedding from June 2021 to June 2022, the question of whether or not to still host a bachelorette party or a bridal shower was a major concern for Ms. Lombardi. She couldn’t imagine having to navigate the questions that would arise if she decided to host those events after the fact. Would it seem silly? Would it feel like gift grabbing? Would people even come?

“I kept thinking about a bachelorette party, and maybe that’s just a girls’ night out and you could still do that,” she said. “But a bridal shower, the purpose seems to prepare someone for marriage, and that one seems odder to do after.”

The couple decided to postpone their wedding and wedding events to June 2022. “Growing up you go to your events for your friends and relatives, and you think about how yours would be, and you get this idea about how it would go,” she said. “I really like the idea I had in my head, and I am still clinging onto that tradition.”

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