Vegas. Strippers. Phallic-shaped accessories. This is what most think of when they hear the phrase “Bachelorette Party”. My crew decided to do things a little differently for our classy bride, Jamie. Due to some scheduling complications, we landed at not one, but two out-of-town bachelorette parties, both marked with rambunctious laughter, old stories and terrible hangovers. This is the story of a Madison bachelorette party.
“I’m driving, I can’t use spot hero right now,” I snapped at the bride. Definitely what the maid of honor is supposed to do on the way to the bachelorette party.
“Don’t worry, I’ll help you find parking,” my forgiving best friend responded. Sensing my nerve, Jamie stopped whatever she was doing to scour spot hero to find me the cheapest spot possible, knowing I wasn’t settling for $20 for overnight parking.
Feeling the pressure of planning my first bachelorette party, I figuratively slapped my own cheek and reminded myself that this weekend was going to be so much fun, no matter what. An entire weekend with your best friends from all walks of life? You only get so many of those; I knew I needed to change my mood and cherish this time.
I hauled my bags down State Street and entered Jamie’s feeling a little less on edge. My pep talk had pumped me up and I was almost ready to go. Unsure of where that tension had come from, as I convinced myself I was confident in my plans for celebration, threw my stuff down and started my usual chum with Jamie as we waited for the rest of the girls to arrive.
As each one trickled through the door, one more frazzled than the next, I wondered what the hell was going on and feared – for a split second – for the rest of the weekend. Then it hit us and came pouring out of us with pools of laughter.
It’s the Mercury Retrograde! We kept shouting in each other’s faces with huge smiles, relieved we had some universal craziness to blame our own frantic states. Knowing this, we were able to shake our complete spaz within minutes and as soon as the first “cheers” came, we were all in higher spirits.
We kicked off the evening with drinks at the bride’s apartment. Lining the granite counter top were eight perfectly decorated pink and cheetah print bachelorette bags. Years working at The Male Room, a gift store where immaculate wrapping technique was part of the interview process, Jamie showed off her excellent skills with these gifts. This generous bride created survival kits full of fun stuff for her bachelorettes, including essentials like Advil and stain remover, gum and water, and your classic bachelorette shot glass. The packages were topped off with gorgeous gold Kate Spade rings with a jeweled bow, her thanks for helping her “tie the knot”.
After oohing and aahing for a good forty-five minutes over the cuteness of our bachelorette bags, Liz and I high-tailed it to the restaurant to decorate. Mercury Retrograde hit once again; when Liz tried using the Uber app to find us a ride, the driver thought we were in a completely different part of town. Communication error. Again. I immediately texted the girls to hold Jamie back.
We eventually made it to the restaurant to set up only to arrive with half of the rest of the group (Jamie not yet arrived, yet). The restaurant I chose, Han 202, a Michelin star four-course tasting menu only, was in for a real treat with this rowdy, short-dress and plastic necklace clad group. The upscale, quiet restaurant was extremely accommodating and dealt swimmingly with our loud and obnoxious lady cohort.
Dinner was supposed to be followed by a movie and a laid-back sleepover back at Jamie’s apartment as we had a 7:30a wake-up call to get to Madison early enough to catch the Capitol Square Farmer’s Market, but champagne leading to whiskey and one thing leading to a bumping cab ride holding balloons out the windows, and we ended up at the bar down the street instead. We had to show off our bride to the city of Chicago!
It’s bliss to enter a bar and have all of your drinks paid for because your friend is getting hitched. As I kept my wallet closed and danced around the room with one of my twirling girlies, I was glad we started the party in Chicago.
We awoke from our slumber party and all crawled into Jamie’s bed to rehash all the funny moments from the previous evenings festivities until project planner in me kicked in and I made us all start to get ready. If we were going to have enough time for spicy cheesy bread and photo ops of gourds, we needed to get going.
When I even hear the word Madison, my heart flutters. Four years (three technically, since I spent one living in Argentina) of college in the small midwest city and it’s kept such a large piece of my heart. When Jamie dropped the hint that she wanted to celebrate tying the knot in the city that we tore up as 18-22 year olds, I was sold before she even finished her sentence.
College was full of routines that eventually turned into traditions. For a complete Madison bachelorette party, we needed to fulfill as many as we possibly could. As we took that first entrance off the highway, we were reminded by the luscious golds, deep reds and soft greens that plastered the backdrop of the true beauty of autumn. Few places in the world have foliage like this small Wisconsin city.
We arrived at the HotelRED feeling so content to be back in our old, beautiful stomping grounds. Not much could have brought us down from our Madison-high. It helped that the spacious, two-bedroom suite that we were given had a full kitchen, living room, patio and was decorated in modern RED AND WHITE. Hello Wisconsin!
While the room itself couldn’t have been more perfect, equipped with a Keurig and snacks, the service proved even better. We took advantage of the free shuttle service and literally had a ride around town the entire weekend. We plopped our bags down, gave hugs to a friend who had flown in from Los Angeles, and hopped into the hotelRED black van waiting for the other group to arrive.
The Madison Capitol Square Farmer’s Market is famous. Really! It’s even in that 1000 Places to See Before You Die books. It’s that good. But what makes it so special to us is that it’s how we spent our Saturday mornings. Tradition #1: walk around the capitol eating spicy cheesy bread and do not think about the calories that you are ingesting. Complete.
After two rounds of walking the square, two shared cheesy breads, a dropped chili vinaigrette, multiple yellow tree selfies and eight sets of freezing fingers, we booked it into a favorite Madison establishment,The Old Fashioned, for a culinary treat – spicy Bloody Mary’s with PBR beer chasers and Spotted Cows, the New Glarus, Wisconsin-base brewery that decided not to export their beer solely to punish those who leave the state of Wisconsin.
After warming up with our cold drinks on the oversized wooden bar, we ventured to tradition #2: pitchers of Spotted Cow and popcorn on the Memorial Union Terrace. Little did you know, reader, that the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the only school left in the country that still sells alcohol at the student union. Point for Wisconsin.
On our six block walk down
memory lane State Street, those of us who had attended school here pointed out every restaurant and store that we had ever frequented, followed by an “oh my god, it’s NOODLES AND COMPANY!”. There were about 20 repetitions of “That’s new!” and a few more of, “remember, [insert restaurant that closed]? I can’t believe it’s gone!”, even if it had been gone since day two of freshman year. While I may be making a mockery of our nostalgia, I was definitely leading the pack in the game, pushing back tears remembering the good ‘ole days.
After a few pitchers and pictures, my decorating buddy, Liz, and I hopped back into that hotelRED van (who drove to the wrong terrace at first. MERCURY RETROGRADE MUCH!?) to head back to the hotel to set up the room for an afternoon of bachelorette games. I knew we’d done a good job when I heard Jamie’s squeal from the front door of the hotel room as she read one of the Sex and the City quotes we had covered the suite with, knowing there was something waiting inside.
We saved the best for game time. First, each girl purchased lingerie for the bride and Jamie had to guess who had bought her what. We got a real giggle when our most conservative friend bought the raciest piece. You can probably guess what piece we’re talking about. Then, we moved on to some more memory-induced laughter, as Jamie popped balloons that were filled with strips of paper containing a personalized hidden recollection. Game time ended with a Jamie & Brett style Cards Against Humanity. I blame this moment for the rowdiness that followed.
The afternoon in our luxurious hotelRED suite transitioned into the evening with tradition #3: dinner at Icon, the classic movie-inspired tapas bar (don’t ask what the two have to do with one another). Sitting around a table covered in gemstones and diamond-ring shot glasses, we gorged on baked goat-cheese and champagne, sent to all of us with a note from the groom.
Dinner was followed by a custom-made scavenger hunt designed just for Jamie’s party in Madison. One thing I didn’t factor in? Her Type A personality meant that she was almost ready to check everything off her list in the first twenty minutes. I was grateful when the group really pulled together to slow things down. While the rest of the night is left for “What happens in Madison, stays in Madison”, I will say that there were no tears, too many shots and one Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, Say No Evil photo.
As I hurried to park the car on Friday evening, I was worried. Afraid I hadn’t planned enough, or planned too much. Nervous that someone would be upset with some decision I had made. But it turns out, when you’re with your family, none of that matters.
Carrie said it best,
“The most important thing in life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don’t. But, in the end, they’re the people you always come home to. Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into and sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.”
**Photocredit to Hannah Lerner for the beautiful Union Terrace foliage shot!**
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