By Becky Roozen Published May 12, 2004 at 5:41 AM

{image1} The bachelorette party is a tradition almost as old as the tossing of the bouquet. If the wedding reception is the time to honor the newly-married couple, then the bachelorette party is the occasion to toast the bride-to-be.

So, bridesmaids, before you have a chance to ruin your mascara with the tears you'll shed at your best friend's wedding, let your hair-sprayed 'dos down for one last ladies' night in honor of the good ol' days.

Here's the OMC's girls' guide to throwing a great bachelorette party:

First, pick a date for the big night out. Typically, most of these girl gatherings are done a few weeks before the wedding. It's best to select a date and spread the word a few months in advance, especially so out-of-towners can make arrangements.

Keep in mind that someone (and it's not the bachelorette) has to fork up the green for the munchies, margaritas, strippers and the snazzy ride. Tradition leaves the maid of honor with the responsibility of paying the bill, but there are more thrifty ways of dealing with the price tag. Encourage each attendee to make a contribution, or just split the expenses equally.

If you don't know who to invite, first look at the women who will be standing up at the altar. Add a few high school, college and work cohorts until you have a well-mixed crew of the bride's most loyal ladies.

"Good friends and relatives are a perfect mix," says 24-year old Sarah Spitzack. Remember, the smaller the group the easier it is to keep track of everyone.

Newlywed Kristin Bruess advises gearing the party toward the bachelorette's personality.

"If the bride-to-be has an outgoing personality, show her the time of her life on the party scene. If she is not a big partier, consider a comedy club or somewhere she will not feel like she has to reach a drinking quota."

Begin the soiree with dinner and a gift opening. If the guest of honor isn't the partying type, this can be the main event of the evening. And don't make the restaurant a last-minute decision: Make sure to call a week or two in advance to reserve enough space to accommodate your group.

Not every bride-to-be will want to paint the town red, however. Instead, organize a meal at one of the girls' homes or have dinner catered.

"It (is) nice to have a more casual dinner so more socializing can take place," says Kimmy Laabs, Bruess' party planner.

If you plan to hit the town after dinner, your best bet is to have someone outside the party to drive.

"I recommend renting some sort of transportation so that the night does not turn sour by a drinking and driving incident," says Bruess. For her night out, they rented a Lincoln Navigator limousine.

"It was so awesome to be driven around the city in style," says Bruess. "We just got to sit back, drink some champagne, play music and dance in the limo."

"It was great because the SUV limos have karaoke in them," adds Laabs. "The price wasn't bad ($100/hour) when you split it between 16 girls. I paid a little extra, being the maid of honor."

Try Milwaukee Limo Service (1-888-736-3254) or Majestic Limousine (262-253-2222) in Germantown for Lincoln Navigator limos.

To avoid driving entirely, consider staying overnight in a downtown hotel.

"We started out at a hotel which was down by all the bars," says UW-Eau Claire senior Dana Smith. "This way, anybody who needed a place to crash had the option to stay there."

With your transportation details secure, it's time to let loose. One idea is to give the girl in the spotlight a list of missions she must accomplish by bar time.

Lauren Janke, 22, for example, watched her soon-to-be sister-in-law kiss a guy with the same name as her fiancé, confiscate another man's underwear and search for a Josh Groban to serenade her with "You've Lost That Loving Feeling."

Wearing homemade T-shirts is another trendy way for bachelorette partiers to distinguish themselves from the regulars in sardine-packed bars.

Laabs says she had them made for the entire group, with each singling out the bride-to-be. Hers read, "It's my party so spoil me rotten." Another bachelorette wore one covered in unwrapped Lifesavers. Her groupies hunted down men to play the name of the game, "Suck for a buck." (She made about $50 that night!)

Milwaukee has no shortage of bars, but Water Street has become a perennial favorite for bachelorette parties.

Bruess wrapped up her party at Eve (718 N. Milwaukee St.). "The adrenaline is at its peak at that point, and it is such a blast to let loose and dance with the girls."

Bachelorette parties can definitely get a little wild. But don't stress that your friend's future husband is sitting at home, gnawing his fingernails. Says Bruess, "I knew what would be involved in his bachelor party, so he had to go easy on me."

There's no correct way to throw a bachelorette party. The only wrong thing you can do is not to have one. "It is a great way to live it up the last time with your friends before you get married. Don't waste a great night," says Spitzack.