The anatomy of a #BrideTribe boom
High Noons and higher rents as the bachelorette bonanza hits the Southwest
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Bachelorette parties: they’re a thing that happens! Increasingly, it seems, they’re happening in second- and third-tier cities across the country where the economy is tourism-dependent, the flights from major metropolitan areas are direct, and the regulations blocking Airbnb-abetted annexations of entire neighborhoods are limited in scope and toothless in enforcement.
I should know: until recently, I was a resident of Charleston, South Carolina, where you can spot roving pack of ladies decked out in dick paraphernalia most nights of the week, most months of the year. Last October, I riffed a bit about why the Holy City had become such a premiere destination for bachelorette bashes (and bachelor parties, too, which tend to be slightly less ostentatious but still very easy to spot):
The bachelor/ette trend here seemed to actually pick up last year during the pandemic, maybe because South Carolina governor/Foghorn Leghorn impersonator Henry McMaster refused to mandate masks or meaningful closures and instead declared we were “open for business.” Nearly 13,000 South Carolinians have died as a result, but Charleston’s hospitality industry—a vital engine of the state’s economy—survived. Now, with our third wave (hopefully) breaking, and vaccinations (finally) getting somewhere, the stag/hen parties are once again maskless, hammered, and out in full “Covid’s over” force on King Street.
Fun stuff. Inspired by my time observing the #bridetribes that lay sequined seige to Charleston on the regular, I’ve actually begun working on a piece of fiction about a bachelorette party gone bad in the Holy City, which I’ll be releasing via a separate newsletter project soon—subscribe here so you don’t miss it, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Anyway! As overrun with stag and hen parties though Charleston may be, it’s not the most heavily trafficked destination for the pre-marital send-offs of American millennials. That honor/curse, according to basically anybody under the age of 40 with a functioning Instagram account, as well as data from the exactly-what-it-sounds-like Bach app, is Nashville, Tennessee. Second on that list? Not Miami or Las Vegas, but Scottsdale, Arizona.
This semi-shocking factoid (as well as the Bach app data, which Fingers has not independently reviewed) comes courtesy of a truly magnificent trend piece in the New York Times this past weekend. Written by Gawker contributor Allie Jones and photographed by Cassidy Araiza, the dispatch is absolutely chock-full of delicious details, including but not limited to:
An agency that contracts out cabana boys for private pool parties that is named, simply, “Cabana Boys;”
A McMansion with an infinity pool that has been repurposed into a many-bedded bachelorette barracks with a $2,433/night price tag;
A firm that offers private Airbnb decoration packages that range from $550-$850, the most popular of which is currently the theme known as “Disco Cowgirl;”
“Lots and lots of hard seltzers,” as well as a spectacular pool-party portrait (see above) that could easily double as a High Noon advertisement;
And so on, and so forth. But morsels like these, delightful though they are, are just part of the story. The piece also functions as a field guide to the anatomy of a bachelorette party boom, highlighting how Scottsdale’s newfound popularity amongst the soon-to-be-wed has corresponded with a big leap in single-family homes listed on short-term rental sites (6,200, up from 5,400 as recently as December), whacking the already strapped housing market by taking residential units off the market for, y’know, residents, and creating unpleasant noise and transient traffic for said residents in the process. The situation has yielded so many noise complaints that the Scottsdale Police Department recently spun up “a new patrol unit dedicated exclusively to responding to grievances about short-term rentals,” reports Jones. This seems like an ineffective approach to the problem at best. A crew of cops specially dedicated to making house calls on groups of drunk women in bikinis from out of town? What could possibly go
These types of conflicts are bound to keep happening as upwardly mobile millennials and Gen Z consumers spend more of their income on travel experiences, and engineer ever-more lavish performances of once-unremarkable social rituals to capture as #content for insatiable audiences on TikTok and Instagram. The High Noon-fueled pool parties and price-gouged rosé brunches may be fun for the guys and girls throwing bachelor/ett parties in destination cities like Scottsdale, but the consequences transcend mere nuisance for the people who live there full time. Housing costs go up, neighborhoods get hollowed out. City officials begin catering policies to the demands of the energetic new cohort of entrepreneurs and opportunists who, having marketed the place as the “next Nashville” to last-hurrah-ing coeds, are now cashing in at the public’s expense. Meanwhile, piles of hard seltzer empties become a fixture in every tree well, alleyway, and storm gutter, and pedal-pubs ooze down the main drag in an ombre parade.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, including a turn as the trendy locale for America’s bachelorettes. Many of the businesses that have emerged to service the boom in Scottsdale are already looking to expand their operations to other popular cities to hedge against any slump in the Arizona city’s popularity in the future. “I really hope it doesn’t, like, plateau,” one event planner told the Times, but just in case it does, she’s also offering her services in Denver and New Orleans. The guy who runs the Bach app says Savannah is his “sleeper pick” for the next It City for bachelorette parties; others will export the concierge expertise they’ve earned stocking Scottsdale’s Sub-Zeroes with vodka-sodas to Napa Valley and Palm Springs. To the residents of those cities reading this: godspeed, and buy earplugs.
Given the rising misogyny in this country, it seems important to note that bachelorette parties, irritating though they may be, are not responsible for the changing civic life in America’s small cities. Far from it! That they have a tendency to disrupt residential neighborhoods in colorful, chaotic fashion strikes me as a symptom of powerful forces and avoidable failures (poor short-term rental regulation, lax Covid policy, car-centric urban planning, undue municipal fealty to capital…) that are obscured to the average citizen—particularly when compared with extremely visible patent-leather high heels and hot-pink racerback tanks that read “Skyler’s Last Hoe Down” in gold-foil cursive across the chest. There are vital conversations to have about how our cities develop, who develops them, and—most importantly—for whom they’re developed. That’s where the power is, and that’s where we should focus our energy.
In other words, Fingers doesn’t blame the bachelorette parties pumping “WAP” and crushing High Noons in the hot Scottsdale sun for turning the Southwestern city into a bit of a shitshow. I don’t think you should, either.
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