Whether strippers, skydiving or sipping high tea, here’s how to make it great
Last time we heard about the latest trends in hens nights, and this week we look at how to make your bachelor or bachelorette party amazing – regardless of the kind of event you’re organizing or who you’re inviting.
As well as attending my share of bachelorette parties, I myself had two parties thrown for me – one in my home country and one in my groom’s. One of those parties I loved, the other… not so much. This taught me a few things about what to do (and what not to do) to make the night fantastic.
Ask who they want
Find out who the bride or groom actually wants to join them for their last night of freedom, and whether they are seeking a big group or just their closest loved ones. No matter how well you know the guest of honor, it’s unlikely you’ll know all their friends and family, and you don’t want to leave anyone out. Also, like wedding guest lists, the guest list for a bachelor/ette party can be fraught with politics. A bride may want to invite only her friends and family, or she may want to do a little diplomacy and also invite the groom’s friends’ girlfriends and also his female friends.
Another thing to confirm is whether the bride wants to invite people like her mother, mother-in-law and older relatives (a friend of mine happily brought her hip mom, but I would have been horrified if my mother had come along to mine), as that may impact the kinds of activities for the party… the bride may not be so comfortable at a striptease class with her mother-in-law watching. Check, too, if the bride wants to keep it girls-only or also invite her male friends, and whether their is a ban on female guests inviting their boyfriends out to the dancing part of the festivities (yes, some hens guests do that).
Ask when they want it
Before you check with the guests their availability, find out from the bride and groom what dates work for them. My groom’s best man organized the date for the bachelor party with all his friends and started booking activities before checking with me; they had chosen the weekend before we would fly to my country to start wedding preparations, and I had to say no as we would need that weekend for final planning and a lot of packing. If the date of your event is part of the surprise, at least get a list of what dates not to do things. Use a website like Doodle.com to find out easily all the guests’ availability. Also regarding the date, make sure to give the guests lots of notice (at least one month), so that they don’t book up with other plans.
Lastly on timing, don’t start the stag/hen festivities too early in the day: I went to a hens night that started at 9am, and all the guests showed up rather tired and grumpy from the early wake-up. Also don’t start too early if you’re hoping for a big night; another bachelorette party I attended kicked off with an 11am winery tour, so that everyone’s alcohol levels peaked in the afternoon and they were heading home worn out by 9pm.
Ask what they want
As this clip from “Friends” illustrates nicely, no matter how well you think you know the guest of honor, you may not know what they want to do for their proverbial “last night of freedom”. Things will only end badly if you plan a quiet spa and high tea day when the guest of honor really wanted a pole-dancing class and massive night out (and vice versa). For me, I never go out clubbing anymore but my one and only desire for my hens night was to boogie the night away, and I was quite saddened when people started leaving at 11pm and I found out the organizer hadn’t planned for dancing. (We ended up not dancing at all, as no one knew good places to go.)
On a similar note, find out whether the bride/groom is pro or anti – as Phoebe calls it – “the dirty stuff”. Some people love it and expect it at a bachelor/ette party, but I myself felt we were a bit old for penis hats and the like, and I would have died of embarrassment if there had been a stripper.
Remember that everyone earns differently, and a regular night out for some might break the bank for others. Ask the head hen or stag if there is anyone that needs to be taken into consideration here, or inform the guests of your proposed costs before you book things, and ask them to get back to you if money is a problem. If that feels a bit awkward, make the costs a bit flexible. Sure, you might have a go-carting course or burlesque class with a fixed cost (for which the organizer might need cash contributions in advance), but let everyone then choose to spend as much – or as little – as they want on food and drinks. Select a restaurant for lunch or dinner where guests can order what they want rather than being stuck with a set prix fixe menu.
Make an effort
Like a wedding, the guest of honor will (hopefully) have only one bachelor/ ette party, so do your best to make it special and show that you care. Be a little unique and customize it to the guest. Some ideas for making it special are adding a theme, home-made invitations, games (of course), secret interviews with the guest of honor’s fiance, goodie bags, video messages from people who couldn’t join, sharing advice for the married couple, photo albums and more.
For a bride, arrange a veil, sash, tiara or devil horns (or all of the above) to complete her outfit. Also on outfits, add a dress code to make you all feel unified; one of my parties had a “something sparkly” theme, and I have seen some great hens parties with little black dresses, all white, bunny ears, summer dresses or neckties. For a bucks night you could all wear suits, custom T-shirts with everyone’s nicknames, Viking helmets or even bathrobes (yes, I saw that once).
Handle it yourself
Sure, ask the bride or groom about their preferred bachelor/ette activities, guest list and timing for the night, but otherwise handle the organizing yourself. The event will probably be the final days, weeks or months before the wedding, when the guest of honor – and especially if it’s the bride – will likely be very frantic with big day plans. Unless the guest of honor asks you to, you don’t need to run the menu, list of games or every little decision by them. If you’re finding the party planning stressful, vent about it to someone other than the bride or groom, or ask another bridal party member to help you. For one of my hens nights I had a bridesmaid SMSing me in the middle of the night with drinks ideas, and both bridesmaids complaining to me that the other never responded to their bachelorette party planning emails to the point that I had to intervene, and it just got way too much for me with everything else I had to plan.
Weddings and bachelor/ ette parties bring together many different groups of family and friends, and the guest of honor would love nothing more than to see everyone bonding and get- ting along. So, start off the day getting to know each other. (Plain old mingling time is not enough!) Getting acquainted can be as basic as getting each person to say their name, how they know the guest of honor and a favorite anecdote about them. It’ll break the ice and give people conversation starters for the rest of the day. You could also do more advanced games like human bingo or speed dating. Also find out if there will be any guests who don’t know anyone else, and ask another guest to take them under their wing for the day. (I went to one bachelorette party where I only knew the bride and there were no introductions. The other girls all seemed to be the bride’s school friends and were quite cliquey with each other. I felt miserable and completely left out… until about six hours into the party when I realized that the groom’s sister there didn’t know anyone either. We immediately bonded and wished we’d found each other earlier.)
Okay, the menfolk may have a tradition of doing mean things to each other on their bucks nights (why, I couldn’t tell you), but otherwise remember that the day should be fun for the guests and – most importantly – for the guest of honor. The wedding is their big day, and this is their big night! Making the bride or groom do something they’re really uncomfortable with – whether it’s karaoke, bungee jumping or having to kiss 10 guys in a nightclub – is only going to bring down the atmosphere for the evening. Similarly, if some of the guests are a bit shy, a life drawing bachelorette class is going to fall flat on its face. Use your best judgment about what everyone will enjoy, or if in doubt simply ask the guest of honor or guests what they’d like.
As mentioned, the guest of honor will (hopefully) only have one bachelor/ette party in their life, so do your best to make it a night to remember! Sure, every hens or bucks night includes some surprises, but it never hurts to ask if the head hen or buck if you’re unsure what they’d enjoy. Happy bachelor/ette planning!