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The Party Primer

The Party Ride's "Princess Stephanie" has a smoke machine.  

Held:Four to six weeks before the wedding
Hosted by:Maid of honor
Gifts Required

Coed Cocktails
If the idea of a super-girlie shower feels about as outdated as a whalebone corset, then ask for an at-home, coed party instead (just don’t be hokey and call it a Jack-and-Jill). Hire a caterer; A Casa is a company whose mission is to help Manhattan hostesses throw parties in cramped quarters (from $26 per person; 136 E. 36th St., nr. Third Ave.; 212-683-3064; Keep the party to two hours; serve eight passed hors d’oeuvre like mini empanadas or risotto croquettes with Serrano ham; offer beer (one case for twenty guests), wine (one case), and a signature drink served from pitchers (mojitos or sangria works well). For the sheen of real glassware, factor in an extra $150 or so (calculate two glasses per guest), and if you need to bring in any tables and chairs, that’s another $125 (try Party Rentals; 201-727-4700; A Casa provides a cooking-and-serving crew (from $25 an hour per server; for a party of twenty, budget for five hours of help). Dispense with the drawn-out gift-opening routine, but do provide guests with some gift-getting guidance. Have a gender-neutral gift theme, like “our bar” (presents could be wine, barware, stemware) or “our honeymoon” (snorkel gear and wetsuits for a beach honeymoon; binoculars and a digital camera for a safari). It’s far more interesting, and less fifties, than getting a bunch of mixing bowls and cooking mitts.

Girls’ Beach Getaway
Go to Montauk for the weekend with your bridesmaids and girlfriends (the ideal group size is no more than ten). Book adjoining rooms at the seaside Gurney’s Inn and Spa (from $437 per double room; 290 Old Montauk Highway; 631-668-3365; Take lessons from local surfing legend Tony Caramanico, who provides wetsuits and boards ($100 per person per hour; 631-668-9371; e-mail: After sufficient swimming and sunbathing, take the party to Estia Cantina in nearby Amagansett, walking distance from the hotel (177 Main St.; 631-267-6320). A Mexican joint with an adjacent bar space ideal for a private dinner, it has amazing organic salmon mole, seviche, and tacos, and a list of 130 tequilas (the key to any successful party, for sure). Next day, once you’ve had enough of the sunbathe-swim cycle on repeat, do dinner at the outdoor Clam Bar (2025 Montauk Highway, Amagansett; 631-267-6348). Later, go to Cyril’s Fish House, where you can pair frozen drinks with oysters on the half shell (1474 Montauk Highway, Amagansett; 631-267-7993). Depending on how many banana coladas you consume, on day three have a hangover brunch of homemade bisque and fries at Lobster Roll, or “Lunch” to the initiated (1980 Montauk Highway, Amagansett; 631-267-3740), or go on a morning sail around Sag Harbor and Shelter Island aboard the 50-foot Gulfstar ($700 for four hours; 631-901-8928;

Robe-And-Slippers Party
Go to Cornelia Day Spa for an afternoon of beauty treatments (663 Fifth Ave., nr. 52nd St., eighth fl.; 212-871-3050; private rooms for groups of five available, but pricing is all à la carte). Lunch in the open-air rooftop garden and hang out between treatments in matching terry cloth. Get facials, foot baths, and full-body massages—they even have prenatal massages for pregnant bridesmaids. Alternately, request a nocturnal spa party. Meet for dinner at the detail-perfect Belgian boîte B Cafe (240 E. 75th St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-249-3300) for moules frites. Then head to the spa in the Fresh store for cupcakes, bubbly, and massages ($50 per person; 1367 Third Ave., at 78th St.; 212-585-3400). Customized makeup bags from Bergdorf Goodman’s Leontine Linens (from $100) make ideal favors. Expensive, yes, but everyone can fill theirs with Fresh products, as the $50-per-head cost is redeemable in goods from the store. Once you have your collective spa-buzz on, float over to a bar nearby: American Trash (1471 First Ave., nr. 77th St.; 212-988-9008) has all the cheap beer, raucous music, and fun clientele you’d expect from the name, while the quieter, more intimate Auction House (300 E. 89th St., at Second Ave.; 212-427-4458) is a neighborhood favorite known for not attracting the postcollegiate hordes.

Glorified Brunch
Reserve the Wine Room at Freemans for a group of thirteen (end of Freeman Alley, nr. Rivington St.; 212-420-0012). Get the $50-a-head prix fixe for buckwheat pancakes and at least one game item (wild-boar terrine, anyone?). Drinks are pay as you go, and the house specials include a delish Yankee mint julep and zesty New York Sour, a twist on the Tom Collins, just the ticket for speeding along the gift-opening ritual. For a larger party, book the Cacoa Bar, the Parisian-style pâtisserie in the back of Soho’s MarieBelle chocolate shop. Reserve the private room for up to 35 ladies, for a sweet breakfast of espresso, hot chocolate, fruit, and pastries (from $48 per person, plus an additional $100 per hour; 484 Broome St., nr. Wooster St.; 212-925-6999). If a sentimental slideshow of your single life is what you’ve always wanted on display for your shower, borrow their projector and have a viewing party (MarieBelle often shows old silent movies for ambience). Drop hints to your bridesmaids: is a cheap DIY option; Milk and Honey Productions will put a professional photomontage together (from $1,500; ).


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