The bachelorette party is a great way for the bride and her closest friends and family to celebrate together before the wedding. The bachelorette party can also be a wonderful way for different members of the wedding party to get to know one another before the wedding (and isn’t every wedding more fun when you know more people?). In addition to games and celebrations, it’s also a nice time for the group to discuss the bride’s vision for her big day, and how to best support her at the wedding.
Typically, the bachelorette party includes the wedding party and close friends and family. The guest list should be drawn up by the person hosting the bachelorette party—who is often the maid of honor—but every guest should be approved by the bride. The goal is for the group to be socially amicable and aid in the fun of the party, so we want people in attendance that the bride is truly comfortable with.
Also, if you make the party too big, you risk hurting friends and family who are not invited. To avoid playing social politics, keep it intimate and limited to the close friends and appropriate family members of the bride.
There is no obligation to invite bridesmaids who aren’t old enough to join in on the activities. If one of the bridesmaids is, for example, a teenage sister, the best approach is to include her in other pre-wedding events, such as the wedding shower or engagement party. If there is pressure or desire to be more inclusive, then the wedding party might decide to host a two-night event, or a dinner party before the older bridesmaids leave for the second act of the bachelorette party.
If the wedding party includes a disliked, but soon to be sister-in-law, for example, there’s little recourse for the host of the bachelorette party. It’s pretty rude to not invite a bridesmaid to the bachelorette party, and presumably, conversations about difficult relationships already happened before the bride asking this individual to be her bridesmaid. At this stage in the game, it’s best to extend the invitation to everyone. Whatever the prior social relationships, the bridesmaids should make a sincere and true effort to include everyone. This event is about the bride, and that means giving her fun and drama-free event that she’ll look back on fondly.
Some guidance will say that the maid of honor, or whoever is planning the bachelorette party, should foot the bill. That arrangement is rarely in play today, where a bachelorette weekend can be a multi-night affair and involve many moving parts. Rather, it’s customary for all the bridesmaids to split the cost of activities, including any meals, classes, or travel. Typically, the bride will pay for her transportation to the event (such as her airplane ticket, if heading out of town), and lodging.
The best rule of thumb is that the bride should cover any expenses that incur before she travels, such as her travel and the booking of her hotel room, but once she arrives, the cost of the day-to-day activities should not be her concern.
The host of the bachelorette party, therefore, needs to be truly sensitive and aware of budget variations among guests. Do not make any assumptions about what people can, or cannot, afford. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the friend with the cushy job and wealthy parents might be supporting a younger relative, or battling an expensive health issue—we just don’t know! So, be upfront, candid, and matter-of-fact about money—it's simply bad bachelorette party etiquette not to. If one bridesmaid cannot afford a certain activity, and another bridesmaid wants to cover for her, then that would be appropriate.
The bachelorette party should take place about three months before the wedding, though scheduling needs might push this date sooner or later. You want the party to be close enough to the wedding date that the excitement carries over, and it serves as an appropriate preamble to the wedding festivities. But, you also don’t want it so close to the event that the bride is already overwhelmed with details and planning for her wedding itself.
Now, if the bachelorette party is intended to be more of a night out with friends who are already in town for the wedding day, then it can be planned for the same weekend as the wedding. But, if the bachelorette party is more of a structured, overnight affair, then aim for something around four months to four weeks before the big day itself.
Otherwise, aim for a weekend that is most amiable to the schedules of the guests and the bride, and start planning early.
Whether it’s a small seaside town, a city with raging nightlife, or the home of one of the bridesmaids’, the location will set the tone for the event. The bachelorette party should take place in a location that serves the budget, vision, and goals of the party. If everyone invited lives in Baltimore, for example, then think of East Coast locations before you send the entire wedding party to Napa Valley in California. You don’t have to book an expensive, out-of-town location to have the bachelorette party of your dreams. Think locally, think creatively, and think about what location best serves the needs of the party. There are a million bachelorette party ideas out there, but the right one is the one that meets the bride's wants and needs.
Gifts are given at the wedding shower, not the bachelorette party. Some bridesmaids will go all out with matching robes, t-shirts, or pajamas; and there might even be sashes or tiaras. Some brides love this sort of attention, while others will cringe when they see such props. If you think the bride will appreciate the effort, then go all out; however, if she won’t, then don’t force her to enjoy these props. And think twice about how much use matching clothing will have after the bachelorette party. That one Instagram photo of everyone in their matching swimsuits might be sweet, but not always worth the effort and expense of acquiring matching outfits. Put that energy into planning the party itself.
Other props often include funny, sexual gifts. For brides who are marrying men, this might mean penis straws, penis lipsticks, or other gag gifts. Again, use your judgment about the wishes and tastes of the bride.
Bachelorette parties, at their core, are about celebrating the bride and her partner and showering her in love and joy. The events should make the bride feel loved, and give her a good time. The events should also be somewhat focused on the wedding itself. The most important thing in planning activities and games is to not embarrass the bride or any of the guests. In trivia questions, keep the questions limited to information you know that the bride will be comfortable sharing. It’s okay to get raunchy, but if she is deeply embarrassed by some of her past sexual exploits, then don’t make them the butt of your jokes. If her fiance is very sensitive about some element of his appearance, then don’t bring it up. Be considerate, and don’t mistake insensitivity for fun.
If the party happens locally, and the bride’s partner lives nearby, then the partner might drop by at the end of the event, or for one of the trivia games. The partner can be consulted in advance for input on trivia games or other activities. This should be cleared with the bride in advance. Some brides would welcome their partner showing up, and some brides would much rather that the bachelorette party is focused on bonding with her friends and family, and talking about the partner, but not involving them in any direct way.
Planning the bachelorette party is an important part of the wedding celebration, and the event is a great time for the wedding party and close friends and family to show their love and support of the bride. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to planning the perfect bachelorette party.