VAIL, Colo. — Strippers and all-night binge drinking weren't going to cut it for my bachelor party.
Getting married at 36, I figured my days of debauchery — the few days that ever existed — were long gone. I've been to extravagant bachelor parties in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and Miami's South Beach. I even went to one in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. They were tons of fun but not what I wanted before my wedding.
I wanted to celebrate with my friends, actually spending time with them. Given people's work schedules and young families, we don't get to hang out as much as we used to. Enter Vail. It had everything: skiing, posh hotels and big steak dinners.
"Vail is not about being wild, it's about having a phenomenal time," says Patricia McNamara, director of sales and marketing at the town's Sonnenalp resort. "Wild and Vail don't go together in the same sentence."
As couples get married older, they have more life experience, often can afford more expensive trips and may have been to many of the traditional party cities — more than once. So while Vail isn't exactly known for bachelor parties, it and other ski towns are on a small but growing list of alternative destinations for the soon-to-be wed.
Before I continue, I need to mention one other unconventional thing: I invited my fiancee and some female friends along. We all love to ski and decided this would be our big Western ski trip of the year. When the guys split off for steak and bourbon one chilly February night, the girls went out to Bol — a fancy bowling alley where they sipped Champagne while rolling strikes. Okay, I was told they rolled strikes.
A lot of people were shocked that I would invite my future wife to my bachelor party. But let's face it, we already live together. It's not like this party was meant to be a final few nights out. It was meant to celebrate our upcoming wedding.
"You don't have to respond to the event in a way that is not true to yourself," says Jamie Miles, an editor at TheKnot.com. "There's no right or wrong way to have a bachelor or bachelorette party. It's up to the couple's personality."
That was a relief to hear. See, the skiing, eating out and drinking were all fun, but so was one lazy afternoon spent in the lobby of our hotel, the Tivoli Lodge, curled up by the fireplace playing with the two resident dogs, Speedy and Jeepers. It's not the stuff Hollywood dreams up when writing the script for The Hangover.
As you get older, "your idea of partying, having a celebratory event changes," Miles says. "You're not 21 anymore."
For men, the average age for a first marriage is now nearly 29, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's four years older than it was three decades ago. Women have also seen a four-year increase in average marrying age, to 26.
There are still plenty of trips to Las Vegas, but as I asked around, I found lots of folks — at least those who could afford it — flying off to unusual spots.
When Heath Ward of New York City got married in May 2013, he decided to hold his bachelor party in Iceland. He and his friends wanted to go snowmobiling on a glacier.
"We had all been to Vegas together multiple times. Nobody was excited for that anymore. Everybody was past that point in their lives," says Ward, now 29. "People would rather spend money on something that's a little more worthwhile."
Eric Morrow also went to Vail in March with a dozen friends, his future brothers-in-law and future father-in-law. Most of his friends already like to ski and this was the perfect low-key trip for him.
"I don't love a lot of attention," says Morrow, 30. "It's kind of awkward going to a strip club with your future father-in-law."
Everybody seemed to get more out of it than the old-style bachelor party, he says. And this way, "When we're tired, we'll go to sleep."
That sounded familiar. Yes, we had a few late nights on our trip, but by the end everybody was exhausted. Two friends actually fell asleep at the spa one afternoon. So on one of the final nights, instead of trying to get in one last trip to the bar, we were in bed by 9:30 p.m. And I'm completely fine with that.