If you feel like your life is beginning to resemble a scene from one of "The Hangover" films, it very well may be. Seemingly never-ending, over-the-top bachelor and bachelorette parties have become a real-life phenomenon and trend.
What was once a ritual evening with friends before one’s wedding has in recent years evolved into multi-day excursions set in far-flung locales that rival honeymoons in terms of time and cost for attendees, according to industry experts.
“Bachelor and bachelorette parties are no longer single-night outings,” Jamie Miles, editor of wedding resource TheKnot.com, told ABC News. “We are seeing more destination parties centered around an event. Maybe you’re going to New Orleans for Jazz Fest or Palm Springs for Coachella. It’s all about an experience that’s unique to what your interests are.”
Shan-lyn Ma, CEO and co-founder of wedding registry app Zola, found herself traveling from New York to Miami for just such a weekend in the run-up to a friend getting married.
"I went to a bachelorette party that was a three-day celebration at the W Hotel in South Beach,” Ma said. “The event started with dinner at a fancy restaurant in the hotel immediately after we landed. We then went to Liv, a hot Miami Club, for drinking and dancing until dawn.”
And that was only the beginning.
“The next day was full of cocktails and brunch by the pool for the entire morning and a bridal shower involving lingerie gifts back in the suite that same afternoon,” she continued. “On the last day, we went shopping together for gold sequin dresses and then went to dinner at a popular Miami restaurant. It was a fun but exhausting and expensive celebration -- not to mention, I still had to buy a wedding gift afterwards.”
The airline tickets alone for such events can be prohibitive. A recent Priceline survey on the subject of bachelor- and bachelorette-related travel found nearly one in three party-goers have spent upwards of $850 or more on travel costs alone for these types of festivities. This is especially true for a subsection of men and women that have taken the fetes international.
“My friend had her bachelorette party in Belize. BELIZE,” a New Jersey woman who wished to remain anonymous said in an email. “The bride took care of arranging most of the trip; hooked us up with a travel guide and a killer house to rent. Once you landed on the main island, you had to take a six-seater puddle jumper to your own caye [island]. We also had to rent a golf cart just to get back and forth from our house, which was super remote, into town.”
She estimated that the total cost of the celebration had run her $2,000.
After initially being deterred by the steep price, she justified the expense by rationalizing that it was the vacation of a lifetime. The group of five women took day trips to see the Mayan ruins, spent an afternoon inner tubing through pitch-black caves, and went on a scuba dive in The Great Blue Hole, a world-renowned submarine sinkhole off the coast.
“We cooked lobster some local fisherman caught for us illegally, drank a crazy amount of rum and hung with the locals,” she said. “It was a blast, and definitely worth it, but nothing I'd ever do again.”
Part of the reason to-be-weds are even suggesting such outrageous excursions is that their age range has shifted, noted Miles.
“Couples are getting married a lot older than they used to, with the average age of brides at 29 and the average age of grooms now 31,” said Miles. “And I think that really informs this trend of why these destination bachelor parties are happening. It’s a little more of a mature outing. The people involved are a little more established, as opposed to straight out of college.”
But what if the “once-in-a-lifetime” bachelor party is one of multiple wedding-related outings that you’ve been invited to?
“Last year I had six friends who were getting married,” said a Pennsylvania man who also wished not to be named. “So there were a few vacation-style bachelor parties in Las Vegas and in Philadelphia, but I couldn’t go to all of them because after a while it exceeded my budget. One party out in Colorado I really wanted to go to, but the timing just worked out that I had no money left.”
This is also not an unusual occurrence, according to the Priceline.com survey, which found that 45% of respondents decided to skip a bachelor/bachelorette party due to trip costs.
Declining an invitation is always preferable to racking up bills on a credit card, cautions The Knot. Your friends will understand.
“I certainly hope people aren’t going into debt for the bachelor or bachelorette party,” said Miles. “People really are excited for these things but the reality is that friends and family don’t always live near each other anymore and you’ll probably have to travel for the wedding as well. If money is tight, it’s worth expressing that early on. It gives the host more time to plan something that everyone can do.”