Who actually flies to Vegas for a bachelor party? I’m not being mean or judgmental here. I really want to know. Who has that kind of money to spend on a friend? I mean, if you’re living in LA and Vegas is only 4 car hours away, make like The Hangover and have a good (and hopefully more responsible) time. It was hard to suspend my disbelief when the gals in Bridesmaids boarded a plane to Vegas from Chicago. Maybe the flights are cheap from O’Hare?

Over at The Atlantic, Alia Wong’s critical eye turned to these extravagant bachelor(ette) parties, and other new party trends in her article “The Over-Celebration of Life Events.” The article is a breakdown of how life in 2018 has become a series of parties heretofore not celebrated by our parents and grandparents. Here’s how Wong describes it:

For American 20- and 30-somethings, who are in the thick of the milestone-heavy phase of early adulthood, it has become common to have multiple celebratory events to honor landmarks such as births and weddings. A busy wedding-season calendar for a young adult in 2018 is often peppered with commitments—not just the weddings themselves, but a marathon of additional parties that sandwich the ceremonies. At its most extreme, that marathon may be an indulgent prix fixe menu whose dishes include, say, a ritzy engagement party, bachelor(ette) weekends in Las Vegas and Nashville, a bridal-party lunch, a rehearsal dinner and pre-wedding bar night, and an after-wedding couple’s shower (in addition, of course, to the wedding and the reception).

Lavish weddings had become trendy in the United States by the 1990s, according to Beth Montemurro, a sociology professor at Penn State University at Abington and the author of the 2006 book Something Old, Something Bold. And this shift instigated a sort of celebratory creep, not only stretching traditional celebrations like weddings and births into multiple events, but inspiring celebrations for life events that historically passed without much fanfare: things like divorces, job departures, pets’ birthdays, and asking someone to prom (now known as a “promposal”).

“Celebration creep” is a great term, one that connotes all the financial and relational strains that go with it. Does one bring a present to the gender-reveal party? Does every promposal require a flash mob? I’m reminded of the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Parr of the Incredibles, where Mr. Incredible resists having to attend his son’s “graduation” from fourth grade. “It’s not a graduation. He’s moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade” he says to his exasperated wife. “It’s a ceremony” she protests. “It’s psychotic!” he shouts. Luckily, Wong enlists the help of experts in the official protocol for these events:

Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute, the self-proclaimed etiquette “authority” that for decades has “maintained” and “evolved” the decorum governing American society, stresses that nontraditional events such as gender-reveal parties by definition are not a “have-to” and thus don’t come with a set etiquette. But it’s hard to avoid the pressure when these once unconventional parties start to feel, well, conventional. “The more you add these [parties] in until they become institutionalized, the more it creates this anxiety about what’s right and how much celebrating there should be for these events…”

What’s the cause behind celebration creep? Wong suggests that part of it may be globalization. West Virginians are falling in love with Californians, which makes it hard to have just one wedding reception. Not everyone could afford the beachfront ceremony backlit by a Maui sunset, so the wedding party flies to Hawaii and the big party is put on hold till they get back home. But the most likely culprit would be, to nobody’s surprise, social media:

These parties wouldn’t be so popular if it weren’t for the exposure they get on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where others see them and, perhaps, then feel inclined to throw their own. Social media can amplify forces such as ego, peer pressure, and FOMO. Perhaps America’s young adults are celebrating so much because they’re accustomed to packaging the events of their life into narratives for their virtual networks. “Social media has unleashed an era of disclosure and access transforming the intimate phases of pregnancy into public knowledge; the gender-reveal marks one of the more pivotal points in this public process,” Gieseler wrote in her 2017 study.

The visibility of such parties online can also make the celebration of life events seem like a game, “in terms of who’s going to win the most social-media currency, who’s going to gain all the ‘likes,’ the views, the video-sharing numbers,” Gieseler told me. There’s a consumerist element to these parties, not just in how they are broadcast to be consumed online, but in the expense they create for both hosts and guests. While presents might not be expected at gender reveals or pet birthday parties, attendees might bring them anyway to avoid showing up empty-handed. Destination bachelorette parties and wedding showers can feel like obligatory, unreasonable additional expenditures for guests. “Now that we’re starting to spread those things through social media, it really becomes this consumerist phenomenon,” Gieseler says.

Social media numbers and conspicuous consumption? Sounds like measurement to me. What’s better than a grandfather’s tears at the gender reveal? Owning proof and showing the world you have an authentically loving grandfather and supportive family who are excited for your kid. What’s better than flying to Nashville with the bridesmaids? Owning proof and showing the world that you have five girlfriends who spent thousands to fly to Nashville for you. Is there anything more ripe for teen-YouTube view-counts than than the junior sniffing back emotive tears while her boyfriend asks her to prom on one knee?

Still, as much as these new parties are made for digital validation, it’s not as if we don’t enjoy them once we are there. They are, at the end of the day, fun, especially when they aren’t a financial or logistical burden. And in an increasingly disembodied age, in which economic forces and culture trends inject distance into our lives, Wong suspects these new events are also embodied rebellion against the digital divide:

Social media may also be fueling this trend in a subtler, more roundabout way. When so much socializing happens online, it may be that any excuse to gather loved ones under a single roof is more appealing than ever. And the time of life when these milestones tend to accrete is also a time of great family and work responsibilities, as well as of moving from place to place, and young adults may find themselves with less time for their friends. When your peers’ free time seems ever-shrinking, inviting friends over to hang out just because can feel like an imposition.

But asking everyone to get together might feel easier if you have a reason: a new child, a marriage, even a divorce. “When there’s an excuse to get everyone together, then you kind of have to jump on it,” says Clark, of Offbeat Bride. “Otherwise, you’re just scrolling, looking at everyone’s baby pictures from your living room, and that can get very sad.”

So maybe I shouldn’t be so down on new parties. If they are, as Wong suggests, events thrown in desperation to build community, it’s all part of coping with the brave new world we live in. There are plenty of worse wedding gifts to receive than a weekend in Nashville with a handful of your closest pals. Even promposals are easier to stomach if they’re understood as a component of the teen pregnancy and sex recession.

After all, who knows what you’ll miss out on when you turn down an invitation? There was that one time that a king threw a party for his son and nobody showed up. They had to manage the farm, keep up with business, take care of work. One couple just got married and were too tired to party again. Other invited guests were so put out by the invitation, they even went and shot the messenger. Still, the king found guests for his party, skipping the invited dignitaries and going straight for the unremarkable townsfolk. I hear tell that party was unparalleled. The food was excellent, the booze was top shelf. I hear it went on for an eternity.