It has been said that every young girl dreams of her wedding day: the dress she'll so painstakingly select, the reception she'll so carefully arrange, and the smile she'll so happily don during what is supposedly the best night of her life. What she is less likely to imagine, however, is how largely she will feature in the nuptials of others — particularly as it pertains to the time-honored tradition of the bachelorette party.
But what first began as a simple "last hurrah" for the soon-to-be-married has, in recent years, ballooned into a three-day, two-night vacation that's often as onerous as it is outrageously expensive. Instead of daydreaming about their own celebration, many women are now sweating the cost of partaking in their friends', for which they're likely dropping thousands of dollars and racking up custom merch they'll never wear again. When did things get so out of hand?
According to a survey from planning app Bach, the typical bachelorette attendee in 2023 is spending (or planning to spend) an estimated $1,200 per party, with an average party size of 9 people. "This brings the total spend to $10,800, which is about $3,000 higher than the average bachelorette spend three years ago," Bach noted in its analysis, which included expenses like flights, accommodations and discretionary spending.
"It's not so much a night out anymore, but a weekend getaway with multiple day celebrations," Nicolette Nadolski, a coordinator at Ohio-based wedding planning company Lauren & Co. Events, told Axios Cleveland. "We're seeing people spending a lot more, whether it's to have friends come to town for a weekend out in Cleveland, traveling for a beach vacation or making a trip to Nashville" A 2022 poll from Savings.com determined that more than half of those surveyed took on credit card debt to attend a bachelor or bachelorette party.
"The swag, the matching T-shirts, it's all gone so overboard," Lisa Glover, 32, told Fortune. "Does anybody need those T-shirts and sweatshirts that cost $30 and say 'Lisa's bachelorette'? No."
The rise of remote work has allowed for getaways longer and more exotic than in years past, while a post-pandemic boom in wanderlust has simultaneously energized brides looking to supercharge their (possibly delayed) wedding celebrations. "Over the past two years, people have gotten more flexible," Mike Petrakis, the founder and CEO of Bach, told Insider. "They are saying, 'I don't want to be stuck in my house; I want to go on a fun trip; I want to live my life.'" Plenty of U.S. couples are also getting married later in life, and some brides feel they should "go big" to compensate, Sarah Patton, owner of a Nashville-based events company, told Fortune.
That said, to no change or trend is the bachelorette bloat more tied than social media. "In recent years, it has become more popular to decorate Airbnbs with balloon arches and themed signs, as well as to have Instagram-worthy activities like a bartender visiting the house for custom drinks," The Wall Street Journal reported, per Randi Nuorala, founder of Kay & Co., a bachelorette decoration service. "The activities have just gotten bougier," she said. "Like, 'We're going on this girl's trip, we're going to be posting about it, we need to look like this is like a luxury experience.'"
And it's not just Instagram — Pinterest is equal parts culpable here, Patton added. Brides get a whiff of the "biggest, the greatest, the latest" bach designs online and suddenly want to recreate them themselves, without properly taking into account the hefty price tag being passed down to their guests.
It's not that easy. For one thing, young people often conflate their "self-worth" with "the time and money they spend on their friend group," the Journal explained, per financial therapist Ashley Agnew. "They're putting their personal value on what they're providing to their friends and how they're being perceived by their friends," which can make it incredibly difficult to say no, Agnew said. And that pressure only doubles if you're a bridesmaid, a blood relative, or an incoming in-law. How do you turn down a once-in-a-lifetime event?
"I hate when people say, 'Just don't go,'" one source told Fortune. "Since over-the-top bachelorette parties have become normalized — and are now the new standard — I feel like it is an expectation that you will attend unless you had a prior commitment. You can't simply say no without a good excuse."
It might involve a few uncomfortable conversations (or, at the very least, some vulnerability), but there are a few things guests can do to get ahead of bachelorette debt. Charlotte Cowles, the financial advice columnist for The Cut, suggested arriving to the party a day late (if possible), or reaching out "to whoever's organizing the itinerary" and saying "that you can't quite swing spending more than X amount." Or, added financial adviser Colin Moynahan, try outlining your expenses ahead of time, so you can make a spending plan that allows you to attend the festivities stress-free. But if all else fails, said Agnew, the financial therapist, prioritize the actual wedding above everything else. Try telling the bride, "Because it's so important for me to be there for the wedding, I'll do that even if it means sacrificing the party because that's the real celebration," she suggested, per the Journal.2023-06-05T10:09:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd