The announcement that a friend or family member is engaged should be a time to celebrate. But in the past decade, the evolution of the humble bachelorette or hen party – from a night in the club to a week-long holiday somewhere exotic – can mean that someone else finding The One means you need to start a new savings account.
Obviously most brides would dread the thought of causing their friends and relatives stress (financial or otherwise), but many brides and bridesmaids risk getting wrapped up in the excitement of it all. So what should you do to ensure you don't piss off your gal pals in the process?
Women who've been to good, bad and downright ugly bachelorette shindigs share their tips.
Don't feel obliged to mix family and friends at the same event. One of the hallmarks of bachelorette parties (that sets them apart from many other social occasions) is the mixed bag of guests that can include your friends and your elderly mother-in-law. But you shouldn't feel obliged to invite both. Emily*, 24, from London, says: "The worst I went on - [the bride's] mother was petrified of people drinking, so stood watching us. And the mother-in-law downed a bottle of rum and wasn't well (as you can imagine). I got handed a bucket and was told to deal with her. The evening was ruined."
Don't invite people you know won't enjoy the atmosphere. Kimberley*, 31, from Manchester, who has been to 12 bachelorette dos (and turned down invitations to an equal number) says: "I've been on one where everyone was constantly being reprimanded by a mother-in-law for being too drunk, and another where the best man's wife, who nobody knew, came along and was an absolute nightmare. She didn't like any of the food, didn't want to talk to anyone – it was a shame, as it dampened the whole thing and she was only invited out of politeness anyway! The best bachelorette parties are ones where you feel super-comfortable with most other people there."
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Don't stress too much about every little detail. Determined not to disappoint the bride, many bridal parties go into full overdrive on the planning front. But this can lead to full-scale WhatsApp group wars. Emily says: "Overplanning something can kill it before it has happened, and not everyone works the same way, so a plan for one is a stress for another. The best hen party I went on was lovely and calm, and everyone just wanted a good time."
Do let the natural organisers take the lead. If you know that organisation isn't your maid of honour's forte, then don't pressure her into being responsible for sorting everything out. Instead, let the guests decide among themselves. Sophie*, 34, who is somewhat of a bachelorette-do veteran (having been to 10 in the U.K. and abroad) says: "I can't help but get involved, because I'm very organised."
Don't let people get too drunk. Okay, so this one might be hard to control. But for lots of people, it can be the thing that ruins an otherwise perfect weekend away. Lauren*, 29, says: "I once went to a bachelorette party where we stayed in yurts and I didn't know anyone except the bride, so I had to share a bed with a complete stranger. She happened to be the girl who drank too much and then wet herself in the night... she didn't say anything and just left the next day."
Don't force your guests to do things they don't want to. There's a difference between trying to get your friends in the party spirit, and forcing fun for the sake of it. Kimberley says: "I've been on bachelorette dos where the bride has thrown a fit because people didn't want to do 10 shots in a row, or people dared to slope off to bed at 2am when she wanted them to stay up till 4. It felt more like she just wanted a fun story to tell..."
Don't feel like you have to do the traditional 'bachelorette' stuff. Wearing an 'L' plate on your favourite dress and having to carry a giant inflatable penis around in public will probably not be your finest hour. But don't feel like you have to do all these things if you won't enjoy them at all. Grace*, 40, says: "My best bachelorette's included no nightclubs or tackiness; it was just a group of girls having fun: we got two hot-tub lodges in the middle of nowhere, brought loads of food, the fiancé donated two cases of prosecco, and we put cheesy music on to dance."
Don't assume everyone has the same budget. You might have budgeted to spend loads on your bachelorette party, but remember not everyone will have the same amount of cash to splash – money can end up being a big source of resentment. Kimberley says: "I've been asked to attend bachelorette dos that were five days long, which is a massive chunk of annual leave, not to mention the price."
In summary, there are many ways to have a bachelorette party. But at the end of the day, the focus should be on sending off the bride-to-be into matrimony in a way that suits her. The shindigs can get out of hand. So focus on letting the bride – and her loved ones – have a good time in a way that suits them and their budgets.