Whereas some wedding rituals—throwing rice, wearing something borrowed—are merely symbolic, the bachelorette party serves a real purpose: It’s an opportunity for a bride and her close friends to celebrate the impending nuptials, let loose, and perhaps most importantly, spend time with one another outside the company of men.

Photographer Dina Litovsky attended more than 40 such parties in three years, capturing both their sexier and more intimate moments, to learn about the tradition. “It’s a ubiquitous ritual for the modern American woman getting married,” she says. “But there is a lot of ignorance as well as stereotypes about it.”

While the bachelorette party dates back to the late 19th century, it wasn’t recognized and celebrated as a wedding rite of passage until the 1970s, when women wanted their own version of the raucous bachelor party institution. Today it’s the parties’ boozy taboo practices that fascinate Litovsky. “A ritual attempting to reinforce relationships among women is performed in a conventionally atypical female way,” she says, highlighting the “sexual games” and “indulgent drinking” underlying each party.

But above all else, it’s the way bachelorette parties continue to bond the women in attendance. “I find that the wildness exhibited at the bachelorette party is a kind of reaction to the chauvinistic attitudes of the culture,” she says. “For a lot of girls, the bachelorette party is a get-out-of-jail card—one or two nights where they can break gender roles with impunity.”

Whereas some wedding rituals—throwing rice, wearing something borrowed—are merely symbolic, the bachelorette party serves a real purpose: It’s an opportunity for a bride and her close friends to celebrate the impending nuptials, let loose, and perhaps most importantly, spend time with one another outside the company of men.

Photographer Dina Litovsky attended more than 40 such parties in three years, capturing both their sexier and more intimate moments, to learn about the tradition. “It’s a ubiquitous ritual for the modern American woman getting married,” she says. “But there is a lot of ignorance as well as stereotypes about it.”

While the bachelorette party dates back to the late 19th century, it wasn’t recognized and celebrated as a wedding rite of passage until the 1970s, when women wanted their own version of the raucous bachelor party institution. Today it’s the parties’ boozy taboo practices that fascinate Litovsky. “A ritual attempting to reinforce relationships among women is performed in a conventionally atypical female way,” she says, highlighting the “sexual games” and “indulgent drinking” underlying each party.

But above all else, it’s the way bachelorette parties continue to bond the women in attendance. “I find that the wildness exhibited at the bachelorette party is a kind of reaction to the chauvinistic attitudes of the culture,” she says. “For a lot of girls, the bachelorette party is a get-out-of-jail card—one or two nights where they can break gender roles with impunity.”

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