Whenever I work on a lifestyle article, I start by talking my way around the town. I pop into shops and stop by parks to talk to new people. Even if I don’t end up using an individual’s quotes, most people can offer hot tips and a fresh perspective. For this wedding article, I walked around Downtown Lynchburg on a crisp spring day to find some fresh Bachelorette and Bachelor party ideas.

The Ultimate Guide to Pre-Wedding Celebrations

Originally Published in Hitched

From buck parties to hen nights to stag and doe events, a best man or maid of honor may be left wondering why pre-wedding celebrations have gone to the barnyard. But don’t be afraid of those mixed metaphors!

Marking that last night of freedom has evolved from a manly rite of passage to a variety of bachelor and bachelorette parties. Today’s party planners have moved past the Spartan revelry of conquest and temptation to a celebration of past meeting future.

Including both men and women, the best parties not only celebrate memories from single life, but also anticipate the joy of future togetherness. This spirit has spawned a host of new ideas for bachelor, bachelorette and group parties.

For the Group
The groom really can see the bride on the night before the wedding by starting with a group celebration. Stephanie Atkinson, long-time downtown Lynchburg resident, suggests that the whole wedding party start the night together. Then, they can separate into guys and gals to finish the evening. So, Atkinson recommends breaking the ice with a light activity like singing karaoke at Kegney Brothers. It will give bridal party members and friends a chance to meet before the rehearsal dinner or ceremony.

If you want the bridal party to be in sync, consider group dance classes at a local dance studio. It can even give you a chance to plan a YouTube-worthy entrance. For example, VA Dance Studio offers a “Wedding Bootcamp” package to practice some moves before the big day. Also, there are several dance halls and studios in Lynchburg where a group can dance together before the big day.

Finally, you can party like a local at Virginia Beach. Lauren MacMoyle, a Virginia Beach photographer, has several suggestions for beautiful waterfront celebrations. As a secret tip, MacMoyle suggests Croatan Beach, First Landing State Park and Beach Bagel Bakery. She explains, “Most locals don’t go to the main beach because it gets so crowded. Croatan beach is across the Rudee inlet south of the main beach, and it’s a lot quieter. There’s also a surfing area because the waves are better there.”

Similarly, First Landing State Park has “a quiet beach with plenty of hiking or biking trails.” With the natural dunes, MacMoyle suggests it as a spot to stop for photos. Finally, Beach Bagel Bakery is located slightly inland, making it less crowded than the beach-front breakfast spots.

MacMoyle also recommends spending a weekend at the boardwalk, saying, “No matter what you’re celebrating, you’ll always find something you like to do.”

For the Ladies
Set up a celebration to suit the bride by looking to her interests. Kendall Wong, graphic designer and bride-to-be, reflected on her celebration saying, “I think the primary thing that my maid of honor took into consideration for me when she planned my bridal shower was my personality and what would be most meaningful to both me and my guests. My maid of honor really put special effort and consideration into ensuring that the event was bright, fun and tasteful.” It’s easy to plan a personal event when you explore local Lynchburg.

For the active bride, consider sweating out some wedding jitters in a kickboxing class. If you’re looking for health benefits, Bruce Rubinberg, owner of FEKS Martial Arts Center, suggests starting classes four weeks before a wedding. If you simply need an active way to relieve stress, you can join in a class at any time. Dana Rubinberg, a kickboxing student since 2013, describes it as “…easy to jump in as a beginner.” This style of exercising also builds bonds from the interaction between friends as they practice, so consider making it a bridal party health goal in the weeks leading up to the big day.

For the busy bachelorette, some spa therapy will refresh and refocus. London’s Salt Spa features a unique salt cave with zero gravity chairs and fresh air full of 80 minerals. If you book the space for a party, your group can take advantage of the whole space, including catering in the reception area. The regulars prefer it for the atmosphere, which has been compared to the comfort of your living room.

For the sentimental friend, create a little art to commemorate your friendship. All Fired Up is a pottery studio where you can paint bisque pottery as a group. The owner, Vicky Ledbetter, recommends painting several pieces in the same colors so that the bride can use them in her home. For example, each friend can paint a plate with a different design in the bride’s colors. Then, she can remember her fun night out with every table setting.

For the foodie, a night in with friends can include an in-house wine consultation. Scott McCauley, wine consultant and co-owner at Magnolia Foods, recommends tasting as an opportunity to both educate and entertain. He can either bring a selection of wines to taste or make pairing suggestions based on the bride’s collection. Some couples even choose to create a wine registry based on the tasting, making it easy for guests to stock the couple’s cellar.

Cyndi Kelley, a wine pourer at Afton Mountain, recommends an in-house tasting as an easy way to start conversations and entertain without going out for the evening. She explains that bringing in a consultant, “…removes the added expense of a travel limousine…, [and]it’s more intimate.”

For the Gents
Steven Bowler, a local writer, values personalization and creativity when it comes to planning a bachelor party. He explained, “I think the activities should be tailored to the individual in a way that brings the group of friends together without compromising the integrity of the couple’s relationship. That could be anything depending on the individual: sports, drinking, swimming, games, hiking, billiards, bowling, canoeing, road trip, movies, food or music.”

For the nostalgic groom, recreate that summer camp experience by climbing a top rope system. Rise Up Climbing offers a 30-minute basic skills class so that the bachelor party can belay for each other. During climbing breaks, the observation area and party room are easy to customize with food and decorations.

Jacob Vinson, an avid adventurer, agrees that getting outside is a great way to kick off wedded bliss. He recalled, “My buddies know me well. They know I love being outdoors and am usually up for anything, so they thought zip lining would be a good time. They were right!” You can also enjoy a day on the water with a canoe tour of the James, Banister or Staunton Rivers. Tri Rivers Canoe Rental is affordable and a great way to enjoy Central Virginia’s natural beauty.

Similarly, an all-in weekend at a cabin allows a group of guys to explore nature. Mack Lloyd’s bachelor party took him out of Lynchburg and up to Appomattox where they were able to rent a cabin. Located near High Bridge Trail State park, the cabin was remote yet comfortable with several sleep spaces, televisions, a hot tub and WiFi.

For the busy bachelor, a morning at The Parlor combines gentleman’s fun with a great hot shave. With hot shaves, mugs of frosty beer, shoeshine chairs and chessboards hedged by leather chairs, the experience is special. Ralph “Chopper” Wilson, Owner and Master Barber, recommends scheduling the party for the morning of the wedding. They can host up to 15 groomsmen, and photographers are always welcome.

For the micro-brew enthusiast, an afternoon at a local brewery is an authentic experience. For example, Apocalypse Ale Works specializes in serving craft beer. You can sit inside, with a view of the tap room, or take over the back porch bringing your own food and entertainment.

From active to artistic to adventurous, personality is key to hosting a pre-wedding celebration. Just start with the bride’s or groom’s interests to plan a perfect party!