This year, when my friend Gina announced she really, really wanted a bachelorette party, I was determined to Make It Happen. Because confession time: even though I work in weddings, I’ve never been to a bachelorette party that wasn’t my own informal shin-ding. My friends generally don’t have the money (or inclination) to have those cool parties in an amazing location where everyone wears matching “Bridesmaid” swimsuits. So I was all in. And when I found out that The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly was willing to help me throw the party, I was beyond delighted.
There was one catch. I had planned the basics of a party: a nice dinner, a nice location, beautiful Shutterfly paper goods, done and done. Then Gina told me that she really wanted a theme for her bachelorette. And that theme was Game of Thrones. And she also wanted a slumber party / pool party vibe. So, even though I’m the only person in my circle who has not seen Game of Thrones, I was suddenly tasked with throwing a Game of Thrones Pool Party. Which… is not… a thing.
But for Gina, I was willing to attempt it. Gina has been one of my best friends since she was sixteen. She’s worked really hard to find someone that really makes her happy, and she waded through a lot of misery in her twenties in the process of figuring out who she was and what she wanted and needed. Also? She’s that kind of friend who’s always so damn delighted when someone does something nice. And her crew is my crew from way, way back… and how often do you get a chance to leave the responsibilities of adulthood behind and get the whole crew back together again. (Particularly when we’re headed toward forty…. though clearly we don’t look any different than the two twenty-somethings who brought their young vibes to the party. Cough.)
So when The Wedding Shop offered to help us throw Gina a bachelorette, we vowed to make it the best bachelorette that had ever happened. We planned a huge opening night dinner, and Shutterfly’s gorgeous customizable products kicked that up about fifteen notches. (People kept asking me where I got the calligraphy done, and I’d be like, “Well, on The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly…”) And beyond that, I was able to make my crew the coolest possible presents, thanks to the amazing personalized products that The Wedding Shop offers. (All weekend long people would ask me, “But where did you get THIS!?” And I’d say, “The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly.” “But how about THAT?” “Y’all, also The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly.”)
So we started by finding some dragon floaties online (because clearly that’s how you start planning a Game of Thrones pool party), and then turned to The Wedding Shop to create products that simply did not exist (like the wine glass above), because y’all, a Game of Thrones pool party is not exactly a standard bachelorette party theme.
What happened was that we had one of the best, most soul-fulfilling weekends imaginable. We started the weekend with a gorgeous, leisurely, totally on theme dinner. We hung out in the pool for endless hours having the kind of heart-to-hearts that I only ever seem to have with people who have been helping me wrestle with my problems since I was a teenager. We played games, we laughed till we cried, and we got one of those magical weekends outside of time, where you just get to be together. (Note: As evidenced below, whiskey is for sipping, not shooting.)
And full disclosure. This weekend had as many cool details as it did, because I do this for a living. And while I’m sharing what I learned—along with some amazing presents I was able to give folks, thanks to The Wedding Shop, and my tireless power with a sewing needle—you can apply one or more of these tips if you have a lower budget or a lot less energy to devote to the project. (And you can and should pick and choose what you choose to do, because you’ll go crazy if you try to do everything. Trust me, I nearly did. Though it was worth it in the end.) Because the real thing that makes a bachelorette party work well is love. The rest is just gravy.
But with The Wedding Shop, it was some damn good gravy. So with thanks to The Wedding Shop for making this all happen, here are eleven tips for throwing a thoughtful, meaningful, and really damn fun bachelorette party.
Eleven Tips For The Best Bachelorette Party Ever
Let People Know What To Expect
No matter how your group knows each other, it can be a little terrifying to throw yourself on someone else’s mercy for a whole weekend. And tense people do not make for relaxed guests. So to kick off the weekend, we used The Wedding Shop’s tri-fold invitation design, where you can (bless them) upload a design of your own. The quality was amazing. And (as will prove to be the theme) there is very little out there in the world designed for a Game of Thrones bachelorette pool party. So to pull this off, we needed to get creative. For this invite we used a photo of Gina from her engagement shoot, along with a product shot of a dragon floaty. (Look, sometimes you gotta make it work.)
In the invite, I included a (rough) itinerary, along with a suggested packing list and a list of what we would have on hand. (I decided that we’d all be better off if we started with a fully stocked fridge.)
When people showed up, I had this lovely itinerary printed up, so everyone could have a guide to the weekend on hand.
That said, try to keep things fluid. The weekend in Palm Springs ended up being a SCORCHING 116 degrees. That means we very quickly scrapped our plans for an afternoon at the pool at The Ace Hotel. (Plus, a few folks really were not into that activity, even in normal weather, so we decided to reroute to vintage shopping at The Frippery and lunch.)
Create A Moment (But It Doesn’t Have To Be At A Bar)
The classic bachelorette party moment is putting your girl in one of those “Bride To Be” sashes, and taking her somewhere to get wildly trashed. Even though I had a pretty low-key, nontraditional bachelorette, I was put through a version of this particular ritual… and to be honest, it just ended up with me being sexually harassed in public. Not ideal.
So when Gina told me that she really wanted more of a dinner party vibe, I was very down for the plan.
Since the theme was Game of Thrones, and the majority of the party grew up doing Renaissance Faire together as kids, I knew exactly what to lean into. Swords and blood. I kid, I kid. Kind of. But I did get everyone tiny letter opener swords and had place cards made for all of us in a beautiful oxblood with white calligraphy.
My sword now lives on my desk, and my Simple Watercolor place card has a place of honor in my planner, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who hung onto those mementos for dear life.
The Wedding Shop has an impeccable collection of designs for day-of wedding products. They’ve got everything from place cards to menus to programs. And I learned at this party that their stuff surprises and delights everyone. I got endless compliments on everything from the fonts to colors, and I almost couldn’t bear to tell them that I’d just modified an online template and hit print. (And it was super affordable, to boot.) When it came to dinner, we kept it simple. We placed a huge order from a local Mexican restaurant, poured a lot of wine, and got the weekend started in style. (And made Gina feel special.) Plus, then this happened.
Gifts Are More Than Just Gifts
Since we were working with The Wedding Shop to pull this weekend together, I knew that I wanted to do gift bags. The Wedding Shop has impeccable personalized tote bags (that come in various sizes), and lucky for me, they have one that comes with a palm tree on it. Perfection.
I tried to figure out things that would be fun and affordable to buy six of (cute sunglasses, face masks, a dragon drink floaty).
But the undisputed winners in the gift category were the personalized gifts I made with The Wedding Shop. Did I make everyone a shot glass with their friend’s face on it? I did. Am I unreasonably proud of said shot-glass? I am. I’ve been known to refer to it as a “work of art.” (And it turns out the groom is quite fond of his.)
But I also used The Wedding Shop to make a product I knew I really wanted. Mugs with Game of Thrones quotes on them. But not just any old mugs. I dug through troves of GOT quotes till I found one that seemed perfect for each one of the guests. (Obviously, the Queen mug above went to Gina.)
And that’s where the gifting got really good. Because I’d thoughtfully picked a quote for each person, when the guests opened up their gift bags, they were totally and completely delighted in a way that started the weekend off right. Above you’ll see Gina asking, “BUT HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT MUG WAS PERFECT FOR JESS?” Because, that was always the plan. Turns out, a little thought and some personalized gifts go a long way.
Making Something Never Goes Amiss
The true blessing of The Wedding Shop is that you can give people personalized gifts, without driving yourself crazy doing so. But making it easy for myself is not exactly in my DNA. And this is a crowd full of artists, graphic designers, and costumers. Which meant that I was hopeful that if I went a little bit overboard, people would appreciate my hard work.
By which I mean to say, I spent an entire month sewing sequins on six sun hats, so we could have GOT themed pool attire. And while I did really hope that this crowd would appreciate my labor (and many pricked fingers), I also let go and made peace with the fact that maybe nobody would be into it but me.
Except, as it turned out, the other ladies loved the hats. And they didn’t just love the hats, they fully appreciated that I’d put a ton of work into each and every one of them. And I could tell it made them feel loved and appreciated, which was the best possible way to start the weekend together.
Do Something Just For Your Guest Of Honor
On a whim at the last minute, I decided to throw together a guest book for Gina, with their engagement photos. It was easy enough to do, since The Wedding Shop has a bunch of super stylish template pages that you can use to put these together.
I didn’t think too much about it; it just seemed like a nice gift to be able to give. Maddie took engagement photos for Gina earlier in the year, they were super cute, and I was happy for an excuse to show them off.
Spoiler: Gina loved it. Like, loved it loved it, I found her gushing over it with her sister in her bedroom hours later. So lesson learned. Making presents for everyone ended up surprisingly meaningful and a really great way to start the weekend. But making something that was just about Gina and her relationship was something that made the weekend extra special for her, and I’m so glad I did it.
Treat Yo’ People
For me, one of the nicest part of this weekend was that I was able to treat a group of people who I love, who really deserve it, and who don’t often get to treat themselves. While swag bags are part of my regular professional life, I know that they are a surprise and a delight to people that work in more normal jobs. Same with excellent trips to Palm Springs. And as part of that, I knew that I wanted to make sure that people were able to relax and feel taken care of. (While I was also able to relax.) And a simple way to do that was to stock the fridge, so we’d have snacks and breakfast food on hand.
And water. Lots of water. Did I mention it was 116 degrees?
If I’m being super honest with you, I bought a bunch of Boom Chicka Pop because it was cute (not to mention relatively healthy). But it also turned out to be delicious, and we consumed copious amounts of it while tipsy by the pool.
It Does Not Have To Be NAked
Google “bachelorette party decor,” and you’re going to end up with more anatomy-based decor than you ever wanted in your life, and perhaps a fair amount of matching bathing suits. Well, we’ve been the weird drama kids who rolled deep for the last twenty years, and that wasn’t going to change for this bachelorette. Add to the fact that most of us are in our mid- to late-thirties, and well past our wild drinking and bikini wearing days, and that was exactly nobody at this party’s style.
The goal of this party was for us to get a weekend off from our very real responsibility-filled lives and celebrate our life-long friend finding someone who makes her very happy. But our goal was also to do it our way. In a way that felt meaningful to all of us and allowed us to go into the wedding with a renewed sense of connection and joy. That did not involve any kind of decorative anatomy-based decor.
Though as it turned out, it did involve a variety of miss-sized items. These donuts were supposed to be full sized, as were the goblets. But instead we ended up with mini donuts and mini goblets that perfectly matched each other. Which is as good a metaphor as any for this friend group. In high school we were all a little bit of a misfit from the culture we grew up in, but we fit perfectly together.
Rent an AirBNB
There are a ton of ways you can host a bachelorette. You can host it in your hometown. You can go somewhere and get hotel rooms. You can take some sort of lavish trip. But my advice, if you can swing it, is to rent a nice Airbnb. (This one fit all of us, and it was the same price as a single nice hotel room—not six.) It’s more affordable and can be plenty swank. But more to the point it really allows you to spend quality time with each other.
I threw in a few small on-theme decorations in the form of my favorite ever Shutterfly acrylic blocks that I order as gifts on every special occasion now. (Note to self, I still need to order a set of these with my kids’ faces for my own kitchen window sill.) And if you’re wondering if I snuck that photo of me in a bathing suit onto Gina’s bedside table, the answer is OBVIOUSLY YES.
While most of us at the party knew each other very, very well, there were a few new members of the group. So I had a few planned activities to get us all comfortable with each other. Since you already know that I am the kind of friend that would make Gina a giant blanket with her and Lucas’s faces on it, it should come as no surprise to you that I also made her a puzzle featuring a collage of her, the pool at the Airbnb, and a dragon floaty. Everyone was weirded out, because it looked like I’d taken the photo at the party, but I’m just that kind of magician.
And after we played “puzzle with the guest of honor’s face on it,” we also played Cads About Matrimony, and I can confirm that a great time was had by all. (And we did in fact, get kind of drunk.)
Allow For As Much Downtime As Possible
When I was planning this party, Maddie gave her best bachelorette party advice which was this: the down time is more fun than the activities, so plan for a lot of it. Given that we had a pool and we were in Palm Springs, that seemed wise.
(Did I also make “Bring Me My Drink” napkins? Obviously.)
And as it turned out, we ended up enjoying our downtime so much, that we forgot to do other things we had planned, because we decided we’d all rather just hang out in the pool and, well, drink.
We planned on a movie night, and then promptly forgot to do it. We bought everything we needed for s’mores, but then again, it was 116 degrees. (We did ponder just putting the s’mores out on the sidewalk in the beginning of the day and seeing what happened.) We even talked about going to Drag Queen Karaoke, something everyone in that crew is super into… but we couldn’t manage to get ourselves out of the pool. Just as well.
Enjoy Just Being Together
I had an amazing time that weekend, and I know Gina did too, along with pretty much everyone else. And the good time wasn’t because the party looked cute (though it did), or even because I was able to make thoughtful gifts (though that didn’t hurt). The party was great because a bunch of people who love each other, got together in one place and joked and laughed and talked about really deep things while hanging out in floaties, and even cried. The good kind of crying.
And if I do say so myself, we looked pretty good while doing it.
This post was sponsored by The Wedding Shop by Shutterfly. Shop for your wedding from top to bottom, starting with save the dates and invitations, to day-of decor and wedding party gifts, all the way through to wedding albums and prints. Click here to explore everything The Wedding Shop has to offer.