So, Your Best Friend Is Getting Married? Here’s How to Plan the Perfect Bachelor or Bachelorette Party

women at a bachelorette wearing gray and holding flowersThe moment when we got the call will stick in my mind forever. My friend and I were out to dinner when our cells buzzed with the news: Our oldest friend from high school was getting married, and would we be her bridesmaids?

Anyone who’s had the honor of being part of a loved one’s bridal party — especially for the first time — will be familiar with the simultaneous feelings of total elation and mild panic that come with helping to plan such a memorable experience.

Organizing a modern bachelorette party has evolved into an entirely new experience: goodbye bar crawls and pink feather boas, hello weekend trips, yoga retreats, and crafting classes. But, with all these exciting opportunities comes the added stress of decision-making and spiraling costs.

Here are the tips I picked up along the way to help you plan a bachelorette party to remember:

1. Start planning early

Believe me when I say that there is no such thing as planning too early. Bachelorette parties often involve a whole weekend, and plenty of people to coordinate, so lock down a date before everyone gets booked up. You might know exactly what you want to do, but it can take a while for people to confirm availability, so get that group chat started as soon as possible. We created a giant text thread of all invitees and tried to stick to dates when people would likely be free anyway, like public holidays, but there are plenty of free polling tools that are easy to use. The earlier you can compare calendars, the less you’ll have to scramble around before the big event.

2. Ask the bride for the guest list

It’s tempting to make all the decisions on the bride’s behalf — she has enough on her plate already, right? When it comes to the guest list, though, this should definitely come from her. It’s not worth the risk of overlooking someone she really wants there, or inviting someone she’d rather not see! Our bride had friends from college who we’d never met before, so it was helpful to get a list of names, even if we kept the rest of the planning a secret.

3. Agree on a budget

The one thing that can derail a bachelorette quicker than anything else is a disagreement about budget — that weekend of a lifetime in Vegas won’t be much fun if only two people can afford it. Be honest about how much everything will cost and consider providing alternatives so that everyone can be involved.

Weekend-long bachelorettes often involve a few separate activities, so why not provide an itinerary where guests can pick and choose when to join in? A fancy group dinner might be a little out of some guests’ price range, but that shouldn’t stop them from joining for a cocktail before or some pampering at home after. Apps like Splitwise make it easy to keep track of how much everyone has spent, so you can make sure no one is slighted with even the most complicated itinerary.

4. Remember who the day is all about

If you’re like me, you probably have a list in your head, heavily influenced by movies and TV shows, of what “should” happen at a bachelorette: truth or dare and shots, anyone? The beauty of the modern bachelorette, though, is that there are no rules. So, if your bride-to-be would cringe her way through a wild night out, plan something that she’d enjoy more. An easy way to get an idea of her preferences, without totally spoiling the surprise, is to ask for her “absolutes” — one thing she absolutely wants to do, and one thing she absolutely does not want to do. Our bride ended up suggesting the highlight of our trip — rowing out on a lake with a glass of champagne, which definitely wasn’t on my original “must-do” list!

5. Enlist the groom’s help

It’s tradition to keep the groom well away, but finding ways to involve him from a distance can make the bride feel extra special. We asked the groom to answer Newlywed Game-style questions about himself and his bride for a game, while others have recorded a special message to let her know he’s thinking of her while she’s away.

6. Plan a few surprises

As much as you may want to keep everything a total surprise, this can be tricky in reality. Some brides-to-be will provide clear instructions for their bachelorette, and you at least need them to arrange travel and turn up on the right date! Whether it’s a bottle of her favorite bubbly, a curated playlist, or a message from a friend who can’t be there, try and save a few surprises for even the most organized bride to enjoy.

7. Don’t overcomplicate it

For me, the best part of the bachelorette was getting to meet all the special people in my friend’s life before she tied the knot. Having some time just to chill and connect with each other is super important, so just because you can do a weekend that packs in everything from a bar crawl to afternoon tea and yoga doesn’t mean you should. Stick to a few things that will be really memorable and leave the company to do the rest.

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