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History of the bachelor party – customs, development, modernization

History of the bachelor party - customs
dancing people celebrate a bachelor party in traditional costume

Whether alone or together with your partner, saying goodbye to being single in preparation for your wedding is simply part of the process for most people.
But what is the history of the bachelor party? What are the customs? And what does a classic wedding reception look like these days?

History of the wedding reception

There is much and little to say about the historical origin at the same time. Celebrations to prepare couples for marriage have been known since ancient Greece. The Polterabend itself finds its origin, however, in the North German, as well as in the Scandinavian area, from where the custom has spread.

Quite originally, the polterabend was actually about poltering – throwing clay pots on the floor. The symbolism behind it is much discussed. Historians often see this as a sacrificial rite, as the saying “broken glass brings good luck” plays a significant role here. “Shards” in pottery, in fact, does not refer to broken things, but to clay vessels that were once commonly used for storing food.
The noise is supposed to drive away evil spirits at the same time to pave the way for early love happiness. Some historians even see the smashing of the vessels as a metaphor for defloration on the wedding night.

The classic bachelor party used to take place the night right before the wedding and was accompanied by all sorts of customs.

The customs for the “Polterabend”

Besides the aforementioned smashing of pottery, there were and are all sorts of customs that give polterabend its meaning. . There is the burning of the groom’s pants to symbolize his departure from life as a bachelor, or the custom of nailing the bride’s shoes to a tree to prevent cold feet.

The ceremonial sweeping of the broken pieces by the bride and groom, however, is found in almost all poltergeist customs – whether out of symbolism or pure pragmatism, one may of course choose.

In some areas, including for example parts of Lower Austria, Tyrol and sometimes Vienna, traditions can be found again, such as balancing together over a wooden plank or even sawing through a tree trunk in partnership.

The “Polterabend” (=Bachelor Party) today

History of the wedding reception - the bachelor party today
Modern bachelor party

Of course, the customs at the bachelor party are no longer as strict as they were back then. Not only have movies like “Hangover” made the bachelor/bachelorette party more and more common in Europe, but most couples want something more personal to celebrate their entrance into married life.

The Polterabend as such is actually a couple event, but that is purely a question of words. Especially in Austria, many also speak of “rumbling” at the event committed by the groom or the bride alone.

It’s worth noting, however, that the traditional custom of smashing crockery in particular is increasingly out of fashion – after all, such celebrations can often get out of hand, and many party venues and organizers are quite critical of the potentially laborious clean-up work.

Nowadays, even many a poltergeist likes to resort to costume and disguise – whether classic or daring. If you’ve ever been to Schwedenplatz, you’ve probably seen a poor groom-to-be in a Borat swimsuit. So here, too, there are no limits to the imagination.

Travel, games, costumes, pranks – anything goes as long as it’s fun!

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