There's a new bachelorette capital, and it's not Vegas

Locals say an abundance of party boats, beauty salons and rowdy music venues bring in 300-400 bachelorette parties every weekend to Nashville, Tennessee.

Posted: May 1, 2019 2:10 PM
Updated: May 1, 2019 2:10 PM

It's 11 a.m. and already hot as blazes when Ray Smitherman's truck pulls into the parking lot behind the bar.

The truck -- er, party barge -- has been outfitted to look like a boat. Cushioned benches line the periphery of the truck bed, and there's enough space for a gaggle of women plus their accoutrements.

A group of friends, their bare arms weighted down with six packs, bottles of liquor and other party favors, are ready to get this shindig started.

This is Nashville -- bachelorette capital of the world -- and the masses travel here to party.

For many bachelorettes, it all starts here, in one of Smitherman's Nashville Party Barges. Smitherman, who came to Nashville to be part of the music scene, says he's still a songwriter but admits that the party barge took over as his bill-paying career.

The business started with one limousine and has morphed into a fleet of five vehicles that are available for booking for two-hour stints anytime from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

After giving a brief rundown of what's on deck (they'll go through midtown and downtown where the main bar scene lives, and they'll learn a little bit about Nashville along the way), Smitherman hits the gas, and the girls commence drinking.

The bachelorette party — called a hen do in the UK — is ostensibly for the bride-to-be, but more often than not, it's just an excuse for friends to party.

Rowdy Nashville

Las Vegas has long held the mythical bachelorette capital crown, but Nashville insiders — and all of the women planning parties in said city — say Vegas is losing its sheen.

Party-goers are flocking to Tennessee in droves, and local business owners are into it.

Ryan Budden, who founded a concierge service designed to cater to these groups (he works with both men and women), Bachelor Party Nashville, is banking on things continuing in this upward direction/trajectory.

"Statistically, we now host a greater volume of bachelorette parties than Las Vegas does. Las Vegas does more money each year in bachelor and bachelorette parties," Budden says, aware of the way the price deferential has given his hometown a leg up, and not mad about it.

It's likely that Nashville's accessible price point is a contributing factor to the rising scene, but it's not the only reason the Southern city's bachelorette scene is thriving.

Nashville is all about openness and having a good time with everyone else around you, according to Budden who sees a distinct lack of exclusivity.

Broadway, the city's music center, is where most bachelorettes will wind up at some point during the weekend. This is where they'll find the city's honky tonk bars, described by Budden as "epic scale, large, live music venue," a conducive environment for just kicking back and having fun with friends and maybe even some locals too.

Make no mistake though: Having a bachelorette party in Nashville can be as quirky and eclectic as the bride-to-be and her pals wish.

The Nashville Party Barge and the river cruise offerings are a vehicle, literally, for getting exposed to Nashville's myriad offerings. If you think it, Budden's team can probably make it happen. From strip-tease lessons to gun range shoots to pig roasts, Nashville is here for it.

Hey, good-looking

While mileage varies from group to group, with some girls donning kitschy T-shirts or similar versions of the same dress in any color but white — that's reserved for the bride-to-be, of course — there's one constant: Getting ready to go out.

For many of Nashville's bachelorettes, primping is best left in the capable hands of others.

A perfectly coiffed Leslie Embry, owner of The Blowout Co., (with three locations in Nashville and one in Chattanooga) has an easy understanding of why bachelorette blowouts are a thing: "Everyone's always in a good mood because you feel beautiful when you leave here."

(The free Champagne probably doesn't hurt either.)

The salon specializes in blowouts and other pampering mainstays such as manicures and professional makeup application; the latter is especially helpful for surviving the incredulous humidity.

The salon has its regulars (some women who never do their own hair, in fact, Embry whispers), and then it has its bachelorettes.

"We get a lot of people from Michigan and Ohio, New York. We obviously get a lot from out in L.A., Texas. We have a lot of Canadians, also, that come here. There was just a group in here from Connecticut. Really all over," Embry says, ticking off a growing list of places.

Budden's groups have been more international: They worked with two parties from Australia last summer, and Smitherman says his bachelorettes come from all over the world — Denmark, Brazil, Germany. In high season, from about March 1 through the end of October, Smitherman's barge requests outnumber barge operators.

This is Nashville

You might bump into a country music star, but you won't be mowed down by paparazzi. Cowboy boots and cut-offs are absolutely acceptable attire for a night on the town.

The vibe from tourists and locals alike is welcoming. It's a friendly town, says Embry. "It feels really local and you can walk around, and feel safe down on Broadway."

The best Nashville experience may be the first one, according to Smitherman.

"We've had some crazy parties..." he says, trailing off, not sure how much he should share.

He doesn't have to say it, but the unspoken words linger in the air anyway: What happens in Nashville stays in Nashville.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Jones13851242
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Holmes267987
Smith264050
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Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
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Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
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Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 819597

Reported Deaths: 15406
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147901924
Mobile725791338
Madison52306697
Shelby37597350
Baldwin37245552
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Montgomery34106740
Lee23526246
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Autauga10043148
Jackson9871184
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Dale8897185
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Tallapoosa7084198
Escambia6772134
Covington6712183
Chilton6641162
Russell636659
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion5005127
Dallas4973200
Pike4795106
Clarke475584
Geneva4571127
Winston4516103
Lawrence4321117
Bibb425186
Barbour357776
Marengo338090
Monroe331464
Randolph329764
Butler326396
Pickens316284
Henry312666
Hale311388
Cherokee302860
Fayette292880
Washington251551
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245275
Clay243368
Macon234663
Lamar224147
Conecuh186153
Coosa180240
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