A Guide to Bachelor Parties

Get all your questions about bachelor parties—from who is responsible for planning to what to do—in this comprehensive guide.

By Emily Forrest

What Is a Bachelor Party?

  • A bachelor party is common pre-wedding ritual that honors the groom as he celebrates his “last night(s)” as a single man with his closest buddies.
  • Traditionally a group of close male friends throw the bachelor party in the groom’s honor.
  • A bachelor party typically lasts for an entire weekend, but may also just be a single day or evening. It occurs either near the groom’s home or at a specially chosen destination.
  • Typical bachelor parties involve at least one (or a few) nice meals at restaurants, drinking and bar hopping, and some daytime activities like playing or watching live sports, hiking or fishing, or hanging by the beach or pool.

Who Throws The Bachelor Party?

While traditionally the groom’s wedding party—the man of honor and groomsmen—throw the bachelor party, really anyone who is close to the groom can plan it. If the groom has chosen to not have a wedding party, or if it’s not ideal or possible for the best man to handle this responsibility, the following people would be good candidates:

  • a sibling of the groom
  • a close cousin of the groom
  • a group of the groom’s long-time coworkers
  • a dear childhood friend of the groom

Organizing a large group of guys to make travel plans, book hotel rooms, and maneuver in and out of public spaces for a weekend takes special skills. Not every friend or relation will be the ideal person to plan a bachelor party. Here are some questions you should ask when deciding if your best man, groomsman, or other buddy or relative should throw the bachelor party:

  1. Is he close enough to the groom to know what he will want from his bachelor party experience?
  2. Is good at handling logistics, making reservations, and organizing groups of people?
  3. Does he have good communication skills?
  4. Can he keep track of costs to make sure expenses are appropriately settled up during or after the party is over?

Who Should You Invite to a Bachelor Party?

The invite list for a bachelor party is pretty much up to the groom. He should make a list of names and contact information for everyone he’d like to include in his special day or weekend, and hand it off to the bachelor party organizer(s) to send out an invitation. If the party organizers feel like being fancy, an online invitation is generally formal enough for a casual event like a bachelor party. A group email also works in lieu of formal invitations.

While most bachelor parties are all-male gatherings, there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says women can’t be invited to a groom’s weekend of honor. It’s his weekend, after all, so if he is especially close to his sister or a few female friends and wants them present, go with it. It might change the group dynamic and/or itinerary slightly, but follow the groom’s wishes.

In general, the list of bachelor party invitees will include some or all of the following people:

  • The best man
  • The groomsmen
  • Other close friends of the groom
  • Siblings, soon-to-be-siblings, or same-age relatives of the groom
  • Close co-workers of the groom who will also be invited to the wedding

Who Should You NOT Invite to a Bachelor Party?

There are only two major rules of thumb when determining who should not be put on the invitation list for a bachelor party:

  1. Anyone who would make the groom feel uncomfortable: As this celebration is all about the groom, make sure that everyone who’s invited is someone that he feels comfortable being himself (in various states) around. People like the groom’s father (or even the bride’s father), his more senior relatives, former coaches or teachers, or any buddies with whom he’s had tension or difficult relations with might not be the right candidates.
  2. Anyone who’s not also invited to the wedding: It’s a standard rule of etiquette for all pre-wedding festivities that invitations should only be sent to people who will also make the guest list for the wedding itself. Otherwise, a very awkward and uncomfortable situation may arise.

Who Pays for The Bachelor Party?

The guys who plan and attend the bachelor party—that is, everyone except the groom—typically share the costs of the night or weekend. The groom is generally treated to this revelry (or debauchery?) as a gift from his closest buds, who should cover his portion of the expenses and split them among the group.

The only exception to this practice of “groom goes free” is if the bachelor party is held at a far-off and/or expensive destination. If the decision is made to take the bachelor party to Europe or the Caribbean, for example, the groom might want to pay for his own travel or chip in for the hotel or Airbnb rental. If it’s important to him to have a luxe or exotic experience for his bachelor party, it’s a nice gesture to offer to defray the costs of that wish for his friends who want to participate but don’t have unlimited budgets.

Budgeting Tips for Bachelor Parties

The money portion of bachelor parties can get sticky, to say the least. When spirits are flying high (in more ways than one), it’s easy to throw budgetary caution to the wind: another round of shots! Let’s order the prime rib! The entrance fee to that club is totally worth it! Then, when the final tallies have been added up in the harsh light of day and everyone is told what they owe, shock and dismay may set in.

To prevent sticker shock at the end of the weekend, and to make sure everyone who attends is comfortable with the anticipated costs, follow these best practices when it comes to talking $$$ about bachelor parties.

  • The party planner(s) should do a some quick guesstimating ahead of time—like when invitations are sent, or early as plans are being formed—and provide a rough estimate for how much each dude will need to contribute financially for the weekend. This will help guys who are on tighter budgets make informed, wise decisions about whether or not they can attend.
  • Pick a few big-ticket splurges that everyone can agree on ahead of time, such as tickets to a pro sports game, a private yacht cruise for the day, or a fully loaded rental home. Then let folks choose their own level of spending for smaller things, like breakfasts and drink orders. This will allow budget-minded guys to choose cheaper options wherever it doesn’t impact the group’s activities.
  • Pick one responsible point person to be in charge of tracking the group’s shared expenses. Have him use an expense-tracking and money-sharing app, like Splitwise, to make it super easy to keep tabs on how money has been spent and who owes whom what.
  • For some easy savings, look for off-season options when picking the date of the bachelor party. September can still offer beautiful beach weather, but house rentals will be considerably cheaper after the peak season.
  • Likewise, look for cost savings in your choice of accommodations. Maybe you can stay at someone’s vacation condo or weekend cabin to save money. If you’re headed to a big city, stay somewhere that’s within walking distance of downtown to save money on transportation.

What Do You Do at a Bachelor Party?

Every bachelor party will be a little bit different, just like every groom himself. In general, the bachelor party should reflect the groom’s interests and personality. If music is his passion, try to organize the bachelor party around seeing live musical acts or, if there are musicians among his crew, devoting time to jamming late into the night. If he’s an outdoorsy guy, a bachelor party at a cabin in the woods, complete with hiking, fishing, and bonfire bonding, would be an ideal scenario.

Here are a few basic pointers on what most bachelor parties involve, to give you a general sense of what to expect:

  • Drinking: At home, in bars, at clubs, pretty much when and wherever… bachelor parties typically involve a decent amount of alcohol consumption.
  • Fun daytime activities: Think watching live sports, guided eating or drinking tours, visiting museums and cultural institutions, doing something physical like hiking, biking, or surfing, or just chilling on the beach.
  • Nice dinners out: Steakhouses are popular choices, but anything that suits the groom’s appetite (sushi, pizza, burgers, Mexican, Italian, seafood, etc.) goes.
  • Nightclubs: From standard nightclubs with DJs, dancing, and bottle service to adults-only entertainment, most bachelor parties wind up at some form of club for late-night revelry.

Creative Bachelor Party Ideas

If you’re the brains behind your buddy’s bachelor party, you can’t go wrong with a classic evening of good food, strong drinks, and great friends just hanging out and celebrating the groom. But if you’re looking to take things up a notch—or if your groom isn’t into the standard bachelor party protocol—check out some of our creative bachelor party ideas below:

  • Go to a concert or music festival
  • Rent a cabin in the woods
  • Take a road trip on Route 66
  • Go fly fishing
  • Do a backyard pig roast
  • Go hiking and/or backpacking
  • Learn to surf
  • Attend a monster truck rally
  • Float down a river in inner tubes
  • Visit a national park
  • Rent a ski cabin and hit the slopes
  • Get tickets to a pro wrestling or boxing match
  • Rent an RV and go car camping
  • Practice shooting at a rifle club or skeet range
  • Go golfing
  • Compete on an obstacle course (bonus if it involves mud)
  • Play paintball and/or laser tag
  • Schedule a guided white water rafting trip
  • Learn a hands-on skill, like woodworking
  • Access your inner child by going to batting cages and playing arcade games
  • Attend a food or wine festival
  • Rent ATVs and go off-roading

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