How to Schedule, Plan, and Win Bachelorette Party

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The inception of the bachelor party is weirdly credited to the Spartans. Who knew? Bachelorette parties, however, came into vogue in the US in the 1960s, aka the time when women were like, “You know all this dude stuff? We’re over it.” Well, kind of. The idea of having “one last night of being single” is both reviled and celebrated, but in general it seems the modern bachelorette/bachelor parties are just an excuse for a group of friends to get together, drink (or not), and indulge in mostly well-behaved shenanigans… right? (Though if you’re wondering what a bachelor party would look like if dudes celebrated like the ladies… vaginas everywhere might be the answer.)

Bachelorette parties can feel kind of scary and/or gross, but it’s worth considering that you might really love a chance to get together with your best friends for a night of celebrating… you before the wedding. Luckily, there are as many ways to have a bachelorette party as there are people who want to have them. And I guarantee you can have an amazing one, even if plastic penis decorations are in no way your thing.

To save you the hassle of Googling the whole Internet for dubious advice on “bachelorette party etiquette,” and “bachelorette party ideas that are reasonably feminist and not totally gross,” we decided to create a master guide. So, here’s what you need to know if you’re planning or hosting a bachelorette party. You know, one that is actually awesome.

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so you’re going to host the party

For the record, no one can make you host a bachelorette, no matter what your role is in the wedding. (However! If you’re the person getting married, this is a good time to stop and forward this link to your bestie who offered to help out, because you seriously have enough on your plate.) But assuming you’ve found yourself here because you’re voluntarily in charge of hosting a badass party for your friend’s best ladies (or figuring out what kind of party you want for your squad in the first place), here’s what you need to know:

The bride makes the guest list: This makes sense, right? Sure, you’re planning, but it’s her party and she can… make the list if she wants to. Unless she specifically delegates this responsibility, it’s wise to lead your planning chats with, “So who do you want to invite?”

Budgets matter: They’re not always fun, but budgets exist for a reason. If it even happens, the bachelorette party is one event in a string of events that culminate in a wedding, and that wedding is probably costing something everyone involved would define as “OMG TOO MUCH.” So! Start by asking your friend what she thinks a realistic budget is for the people involved, and try to stick with it. If your guest list is all poor grad students, sticking them with a $1,000 bill for a weekend of fun isn’t going to win you any friends.

You can’t make people travel: FYI, even if the bride love, love, loves someone and really wants them there, you can’t make anyone travel to attend the party before the wedding. Also, some friends will decline the bachelorette party invite for budget reasons (while pretending it’s for a different reason), so keep that in mind. In other words, be kind with declines.

Pick a date and stick with it: It doesn’t have to be the night before the wedding—and if you’re drinking, it probably shouldn’t be. But once you’ve picked your date and people have made plans, that’s it.

Communicate clearly: If guests are expected to pay for something, make sure they know it. If you want them to dress a certain way, tell them. Oftentimes, not everyone in the group knows everyone else, so make it easy on them if you can. On that note, make sure you’re aware of the “odd man out”—aka the friend no one else really knows—and reach out to that person.

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what kind of bachelorette party should i have?

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to sit down and get choosy. What kind of bachelorette party are you even thinking of hosting? Here are a few of our favorite ideas.

Go outside: I’m pretty sure that for most people, the phrase “bachelorette party” conjures up images of a group of women in a bar/pub/restaurant, chatting over cocktails. That’s a fabulous image, and probably lots of fun, but your party doesn’t have to be indoors. Consider a kayaking or camping trip (or something like group whale watching!). APW’s editor-in-chief went clay pigeon shooting with her girlfriends (rave reviews), so feel free to get creative.

Sing it: Traditional karaoke makes me nervous, but I’m slowly beginning to love private room karaoke. The concept is excellent: You rent a room with friends for an hour or two, and have drinks and snacks while taking turns singing songs (and belting out a few particularly epic group choices). That way you don’t have to wait for a stranger to finish his or her song, you set your own pace and momentum, and you don’t have to sit through some of the truly awful options out there. I mean, unless you want to.

Go out during the daytime: Your party doesn’t have to be at night! Picnics are super sweet ways to get together and enjoy the daytime hours while also maintaining a festive mood, and they’re easy to plan around various work schedules. Set up a spot in a park (bonus points if it has a spot for grilling or cooking), let everyone know what time you’ll be there, and have people drop in and out and stay as long as they can. If guests have kids or you’re celebrating with older family, this option is particularly family-friendly.

Throw in some sports: If you all live in a city with a major or minor league team (or both!), head out to the game! Between soccer, football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, there’s usually something just about any time of year for anyone who likes sports. Bonus points: depending on where you live, this can be a pretty low-cost option for everyone.

Become seafarers: If you happen to live near a port and cruises are your thing, there are all kinds of weekend cruise options available to you. Obviously a two- or three-day trip at sea is a bit longer than most bachelorette parties, but if you all have the time, interest, and funds… invite me.

Staycations are still vacations: Of course, you don’t have to leave home to have an awesome time; rent a hotel room or a house on Airbnb and stay in town! I personally love Airbnb for all of the truly unique spots you can find, but hotels are just as fun. Pick up some wine and cheese, veg out, and have fun being a tourist in your own city. Plus, if everyone’s local, it’ll be super easy for folks to leave if they’re not into spending the night.

People over twelve can love scavenger hunts, too: Unfortunately, it seems like scavenger hunts stop being a party feature by age twelve. I’m not sure why this happens, but I don’t think it has to. Plan a hunt that involves places that are meaningful (like the cafe where the couple first met, the first class you had together in college, etc.) and enjoy spending the day working through clues that (hopefully) lead to something fun.

Hang with the group: No one says you have to have a separate fete. If the couple has tons of mutual friends that all want to celebrate together, make it happen! There are hundreds of ways you could spin this: a bonfire night with s’mores, rigging up a DIY outdoor movie theater with blankets and a projector, or meeting up at a favorite pizza spot are a few.

Let the Internet help you: If the guests you’d like to invite are far-flung across many state lines (or country lines), why not Skype a bachelorette party? Sure, you won’t be able to get your champagne-laced hugging on, but you can still provide a celebration with all the nearest and dearest… wherever they live.

Meet in the middle: If everyone lives on opposite coasts and you’re not sold on the Skype idea mentioned earlier, find a city that’s in between you all and meet there. You don’t have to think big—there are quite a few small towns that have their own brands of charm.

No booze, no problem: Wherever you celebrate, alcohol and wedding prep tend to go together for a lot of people. If you (or your friends) don’t drink (or aren’t old enough), the best-laid plan may be to skip anything involving drinks completely. Go horseback riding, have everyone sign up for a spa day, or find an amazing dessert spot—and enjoy!

Slumber party: Remember how great slumber parties used to be? Ask everyone to bring sleeping bags to your place, and spend the night watching movies, chatting, and making home videos. Somehow, after you get married, slumber parties often become a thing of the past, so get your kicks now.

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bachelorette party planning: your timeline

Okay, so you’ve got your date, and you’ve got your invite list. What’s next?

Three to four months before the bachelorette party: Girl, it’s time to chat. This is when you sit down with the bride-to-be and quiz her. You need to know what she wants, how she wants it, and when she wants it. And you need real answers, not “Oh, whatever is fine,” unless whatever is actually fine. Does she want something upscale and swanky? Drinks and a movie? A baseball game and popcorn? Strippers and penis cake? Find out. Also relevant: Where is the line? Like maybe a penis cake would be kind of funny at the end of the night, if she’s drunk, but a mostly naked dude gyrating around her face might not. You guys are friends, right? Okay, so ask those questions.

Also? Set the date.

Three months before: Make a guest list, and make sure it’s solid. After you confirm, feel free to send Evite save the dates and get any major issues out of the way, and then you can move on to the smaller details: necessary reservations, tickets, and, um, cake orders.

Two months before: If drinking is involved at all, decided how people will get to and fro, even if the party is at someone’s house. The last thing you need is to release drunken bridesmaids-to-be on the night after a few hours of revelry, right? Look into hiring a car to drive you around, pricing Ubers, or whatever: just make sure people are safe.

One month before: Start sketching out the details of the night. Are you going on a pub crawl? Seeing a movie? Bowling followed by drinks? Whatever the plan, it’s a good idea to have a general timeline in mind—whether or not you stick to it.

The week before: This is all about CONFIRMATION. Double-check that everyone who says they’re going to be there actually plans to be, that all of your reservations still exist, and that you know exactly what you need.

The night before: Text everyone who is attending to triple-check, make sure the bride is on board, and get ready. You’re going to own this.

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And now, you party

At this point, you’re basically a pro at planning this thing. A bachelorette party doesn’t have to be over-sexualized if you don’t want it to be—each party can be just as quirky as your group of friends is. The point of the party is to have fun, bond, and make the bride feel loved… which may or may not include penis straws.

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