You're getting married because you love the one you're with. So, when it comes to the bachelor and bachelorette parties, forgo the outdated “last-night-of-freedom”/strip club and all-male revue/blackout-drunk clichés in favor of a celebration that's both fun and a custom fit.

And yes, brides- and-grooms-to-be, this advice is directed at you, too. Today's couples are more involved in planning their own pre-wedding party, helping to select the destination and activities. It's important that the bride or groom tell their maid of honor or best man what they do and especially what they don't want. If you want a surprise party, that's fine; but you want to be surprised in a good way, so if you don't want strippers, say so early on.

After that, it's all about personalizing the party, says Kate Chynoweth, creator of “The Bachelorette Party Kit: All You Need For a Smashing Night Out” (Chronicle Books, 2007). “Before the MOH or bridesmaid team starts to plan in earnest, they should have a brainstorming session about what the bride enjoys,” Chynoweth says. “Is she addicted to reading her horoscope? Hire an astrologer and have a fun house party with great cocktails. Does she love trying new things? Schedule an afternoon lesson for rock climbing or kick boxing, and then indulge her with champagne and dinner out.”

Indeed, it's absolutely OK to do something that may not seem like a typical “party,” such as wine and cheese tasting, bowling, karaoke, a scavenger hunt, an old-fashioned sleepover, crafting, poker, golf, river rafting, or a private class about cooking, pottery, making jewelry or pole dancing. Or opt for a simple-but-sumptuous soirée with a day at the spa followed by an amazing meal, or a ballgame and then cigars and high-end liquor at a lounge.

Want even more quality time with your closest friends? If everyone on the invite-list has the interest, vacation days and finances for it, then a destination party might be just the ticket. A weekend at the beach or heading back to the guest-of-honor's college town where you can hit all his or her old stomping grounds. Does he or she love gambling? Make classic cool again with a trip to Vegas, Atlantic City, Lake Tahoe or New Orleans. The skies really are the limit, from skiing in Utah or New York for a Broadway show.

Whether the fêtes will be near or far, feel free to combine them for a his and hers event. A dual-purpose party can be especially helpful and enjoyable if most of the wedding party is made up of couples. And if it's a G-rated event, you may even want to ask the moms or dads to join in!

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