I’m currently in the middle of planning a bachelorette party. This is the second bachelorette party I’ve planned, but it’s the first bachelorette weekend away that I’ve been in charge of. And y’all? You know that Hey Ladies satire of emails women send during bachelorette party planning? It’s funny because it’s real. So, so real. And I am currently the person sending the “Hey Ladies” emails and texts, though in our case the crew is half gay men, and half women, so it’s more like, “Hey People.” And it goes a little like this:
HEY PEOPLE: How stoked are we for this bachelorette? The one and only answer that I will currently accept is “SO STOKED” because the guest of honor is on this email chain. If you are, in fact, not “so stoked,” just text me privately, mmmkay?
HEY PEOPLE: When I asked for you to give me dates that would work for this party, dates that are literally in two days or a month after the wedding were not what I was looking for. Please try again.
HEY PEOPLE: I know I’ve asked you to confirm the selected date five times, but let’s confirm again, before I drop some money. Does this date work for all of you?
HEY PEOPLE: After confirming with you not five, but six times, and then dropping a large amount of non-refundable cash, I see via my texts that one of you has booked another activity on the exact date of the bachelorette weekend and now wants to know “what the options” are. There are no options.
HEY PEOPLE. HEY PEOPLE. HEY PEOPLE.
Meg’s remaining sanity
So in short, if you’re googling, “how to plan a bachelorette party,” because the whole thing seems a tiny bit overwhelming, I’m here for you. It seems overwhelming because it is overwhelming. Nothing like organizing five to twenty-five people you don’t exactly know, trying to figure out what dates they are free, what they’re willing to spend, and how ridiculous they’re willing to be. And then trying to match that up with one of your favorite people’s expectations… which may or may not be colored by the over-the-top antics of people they don’t know on Pinterest and Instagram. Add in the actual logistics of party planning, plus collecting cash money from people, and you have yourself a full-time job.
Except, you know, you need to do this in your spare time.
But the truth is bachelorette parties are fun. They are one of the rare adult opportunities we get to get a bunch of our (girl) friends together, and just focus on having fun and each other. They allow us the opportunity for ridiculous over the top party planning and celebrating someone you adore. They are, in fact, generally worth all of the pain-in-the-ass emails and texts required to organize them. They’re also a relatively new phenomenon, which means there is very little etiquette to guide you as you plan. That’s both a blessing and a curse. It means you can make this bachelorette party what you want it to be, but it also means that the rules about what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it are fuzzy at best.
So today I’m here to break down all of the tips and tricks that will make bachelorette party planning a little less painful, and make the party a lot more fun.
How To Plan A Bachelorette Party
Who Plans This Thing?
Remember how I said there was very little etiquette about bachelorette parties? Well, that goes double for “who plans this.” The bachelorette party is are often planned by the maid of honor. But let’s be real: sometimes the MOH isn’t much of a planner, or is say, a busy mom of infant twins. In which case, it’s perfectly reasonable for a bridesmaid or other friend to step in and offer to plan the party. (In fact, if you know your MOH is not great at organizing events but loves you and wants to make you happy, it might be worth a quick conversation with her to see if she’d even want the task, and then politely let her off the hook.) If there are a group of friends or bridesmaids who are close, they may also plan the party as a group. My best advice? Figure out who your most planner-y type-A friend is, and let them run with it.
Whatever the case may be, hopefully the bride doesn’t have to plan this one. Chances are she’s got a wedding to plan.
Figure Out What People Can Afford
The first and most critical step, is to figure out what people can afford. So before you invite everyone to a long weekend in Las Vegas, think about who you’re inviting. If you need to, send private emails to get the lowdown on what people’s individual budgets look like. While it can be awkward to ask for your friend’s financials, it’s less awkward than putting them in a position where they have to tell you they can’t possibly pay for the party you’re throwing. (Ask me about the time my husband and a bunch of unemployed recent law school graduates in the middle of taking the bar were all asked to drop several thousand dollars they didn’t have on a bachelor party weekend. Not fun.)
Once you get a sense of your group’s budgets, assess your resources. In rare cases, you might have a mom or sister or MOH or mysterious benefactor who’s able to pay for a major party expense, like an Airbnb or a fancy meal out. If you have an offer like that on the table, by all means, take it. But otherwise, normally you’ll be splitting the cost of the party, so plan in a way that makes it possible for your attendees to do just that.
Decide On A Night Out Versus A Weekend Away
Not all of us can afford a bachelorette weekend that is a dress-up yacht weekend on the Amalfi Coast. (Though if you have a free spot at yours, call me, okay?) But in reality, deciding between a night on the town and a weekend away generally comes down to location. Are the people you’re inviting generally located in one place? Then a night on the town is probably the simplest, most affordable bet. But if your people are located all over the place, and most people are going to be traveling, you might as well plan on making a weekend out of it. And if everyone is going to need a place to stay, you might as well go full slumber party.
Get A Guest List From The Bride
While, in an ideal world, the bride is not gonna plan this thing (she’s got enough on her plate), do not make up the guest list yourself. It’s possible that while her mom insisted that her second cousins be bridesmaids, she may not want to kick it with them all weekend. Or maybe she wants to invite all her sorority sisters, and you don’t know any of them. Don’t make assumptions. Ask your lady of honor for her guest list (and you have full permission to bug her till she gives it to you. But this is the only thing you’re allowed to bug her about).
How Many (Single) Ladies?
Once you have a potential guest list, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart about what you want the vibe of this party to be. Do you want twenty-five women out for a night on the town? Or do you want five people doing the slumber party thing? What does the guest of honor want? What are you and the core crew realistically up for planning? How many people do you think will actually RSVP yes? If you’re planning to rent a house or Airbnb, does that limit the number of guests?
Pick A Date
Bachelorette parties can happen anywhere between four months to one month before the wedding. In some cases, they may happen the weekend of the wedding, if that’s the only time a far-flung group of people will all be in town at the same time. (Pro-tip: If you have a party happening the weekend of the wedding, limit both drinking and staying out late, because a hangover at the altar is about as fun as it sounds.)
Picking the date means coordinating with the bride and often liaising with the people that are most important to her on the guest list. If possible, pick a date that will work for her three to four very best people.
Pick a Theme or Activity
Since bachelorette parties are a reasonably new invention, there isn’t really a “traditional” version of this party. But if the idea of a crown, white sash, and decorative penises isn’t appealing to you (just typing those words made me shudder slightly), there are so, so many more options. Think about what the bride loves to do, and try to come up with a fun theme/activity/outing that incorporates things she genuinely enjoys. That could be wine tasting, dancing, or just having a movie marathon.
If you have a big group, and you want people to feel the bond, consider planning an activity that’s out of everyone’s comfort zone… but in a way they will enjoy. My bachelorette party was, by my request, a shooting party. (We went clay pigeon shooting, and it was bad ass.) Other fun activities include a dance class (maybe a pole dancing class?), Karaoke, pottery class, and the ideas go on and on (and we’ve published a whole list of nontraditional ideas for you to pick from).
Send Out An Invite
This is a bachelorette party, so nothing needs to be super formal. Once you have a date picked, it’s wise to send out some sort of save the date via text or email. Then you can formalize the thing by sending out invitations. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can send things out on paper (Minted has some great options). But Evite or Paperless Post are convenient, easy, and allow you to collect RSVPs reasonably easily. (Though like with all RSVPs, you may still need to bug people to get a response.)
Let People Know What To Expect
Once the day/night/weekend is planned, letting the guests know what to expect is key to having a good time. (And getting everyone to row together.) Figure out a basic itinerary and send it out via email. Let people know not just what is happening when, but also what the costs are and how they’re expected to pay. (Is it pay-your-own-way at the bar? Or Venmo the organizer $XX after—or before—the party? Do you need to bring cash?)
If you’re planning a weekend away, it’s not a bad idea to have hard copies of the schedule ready for everyone on arrival. People can refer to them throughout the weekend to know what to expect, and you won’t have to field a million questions about what’s next.
If you’re planning something longer than a night out, remember that the real joy of this party is getting friends from all walks of the bride’s life together and having a chance to hang out, away from the pressures of a wedding. (And for the older crowds, away from their families, kids, career, general life pressures.) So while it’s tempting to plan an event to the hilt, remember to plan for downtime.
People will want to catch up, gossip, play cards, dip their feet in the pool, stare into space, look at pictures of the wedding dress, fill in the blank. And those quiet moments may just be the ones that you remember most fondly, not the boozy dancing on the bar. (Though by all means, dance on the bar.)
Outfits and Cute Photos
Remember that advice question we fielded about the guest at the bachelorette party that was expected to bring a whole series of matching outfits? If you’re the host of the party, don’t be that person. Unless, of course, all the people on the guest list are also that person. (Aka, know your crowd.)
It’s fine to want a cute group photo in matching T-shirts, or those always awesome sun hats that say things. But keep in mind your crowd’s budget and willingness to participate in dress-up shenanigans. If you really want that photo, try to pick one easy outfit or prop. (Be in Bride Tribe T-shirts, or Troop Beverly Hills sweatshirts, or Team Bride swimsuits, or just dressing in all white.) If you’re not providing this outfit for the guests, also, please, make it affordable or something they already have in their closets.
Your Social Media Game
Once you have that cute photo, it’s going to be tempting to put it—and every other picture of the weekend—on social media. And that’s fine, if the bride in question is fine with it. If that’s your jam, make a cute hashtag. Use it for decoration, do your thing.
But remember when we talked about guest list? It’s quite possible that people who the person of honor cares about were left off the guest list. And she might not want them to see her with eight of her closest friends in matching swimsuits all over Facebook. So ask before you post, and if the event is best kept offline, make sure to communicate that to guests.
P.S. No Presents
This it the one, and possibly only wedding-related event that really, really, really doesn’t need presents. You know that cheesy line about how your presence is your present? For bachelorette parties, that could not be more true. Spending the money and taking the time to show up is more than enough.
(If as a planner you’re the kind of person who likes to go a little overboard, you can always give small gifts to the guests, or a small joint gag gift to the bride. At my party, my ladies gave me a western shirt for our day of shooting and ruffly pink underwear that I wore under my wedding dress. They were touching gifts, but not expensive… or expected.)