Flight to Vegas: $250. Inflatable genitalia: $34. Matchy-matchy commemorative “one penis/vagina 4 life” t-shirts: $20. Britney Spears-inspired rhinestone bodysuit: $150. Bottle service at da club: $850. Booger Sugar: $250. 64-ounce margarita in the shape of the Eiffel Tower w/ a strap that allows you to wear said margarita as a necklace: Worth every damn penny.
Really, you don’t even have to be imbibing Grey Goose vodka at $80 an ounce to think that bachelorette parties are expensive. In the least, they require air travel and then there’s no discreet way to house 10 to 30 women. And if you’re going to throw a party, there’s no half-assing it! Think Marie Antoinette wigs, personalized fanny packs, and bashing a piñata in the naked likeness of the spouse-to-be until it ejects mini booze bottles, cotton candy-flavored lube, and/or dick-shaped hard candies.* So fun, but bye money.
According to The Knot, the average Bachelorette party runs a woman $1,106. If the average woman attends ten, she’s spendin’ $11,060 in total. (My experience is that Bachelorette parties are more expensive than this, but I also lack self-control when it comes to party favors and binge drinking.) I’ve been invited to 17 so far, a number that’s high but that I wouldn’t consider abnormal in the era of hyperconnectivity. I wouldn’t be surprised if some women were spending closer to $20,000 on bachelorette parties in their lifetimes.
We live in a wonderful time and place where staying in contact with people is easier than ever. Thirty years ago, it was not feasible to have 38 best friends. Nowadays, because of social media and text messaging, it legitimately is. While I’m profoundly grateful for how close I feel to so many amazing and fun women, we owe it to ourselves to be upfront about what this means for our financial lives. With interconnectedness and popularity comes a hefty price tag—and unfortunately, it’s one that lots of women can’t afford.
I am conflicted on this. I love celebrating my dearest friends in creative ways. I also love to rage. I also also think that no one should be ashamed of prioritizing fun in their lives. But the personal finance writer in me wants to scream from the top of Wynn Las Vegas for all to hear: 57% of people in this country are struggling financially!! Go home, people, and turn out the f*cking lights!!
Annnnnd I’ll show myself to the door.
Bachelorette Parties are Expensive. What Do We Do About This?
We’re doing the right thing by talking about it! It is pretty strange that we live in a society where talking about money is more taboo than talking about masturbation. We can only have a real conversation about how to deal with this massive expense when we acknowledge that a) these parties cost a lot and b) the majority of the country lives paycheck to paycheck—which is an emotionally stressful place to be.
(Here, you could substitute out “Bachelorette parties” and replace it with ay number of cultural obligations that seem outdated in the age of having a million friends. I’ll let you use your imagination here…*COUGH wedding gifts COUGH*)
Before we dive in, let’s start with a solid base layer of this should go without saying. We do not live in a classless society, and those in the lower and lower-middle classes have the odds stacked against them. The majority of people in this country lose sleep over paying bills. In bachelorette parties and in life, it is categorically wrong to assume that because someone doesn’t have money, it is somehow their fault. Kewl? Let’s move forward.
I think it’s best to open this conversation up from several angles. First, my thoughts for the person(s) planning the party, so the bride, maid of honor, or bridesmaids.
To the Bride/Party Planner(s):
Unless you comfortably reside in the upper crust and only rub elbows with ladies of the same, consider that it is statistically likely that someone in your group of friends is struggling financially.
The average American household that has credit card debt is carrying a balance of $16,000. And that’s just the average. Many people have much, much more. And if a friend already has $16,000 in consumer debt, you can guarantee your bachelorette party will be joining that debt on a credit card, to be paid off, along with interest, for years to come. The average young woman doesn’t save for retirement and won’t be able to afford a home. We say we want our fellow sisters to be ass-kicking financial independents. Do our actions meet our words?
All friendships are different and because money is such a sensitive topic, there’s no way I can tell you the proper thing to do in every scenario. My biggest piece of advice? Don’t assume that you understand how well anyone is doing financially. Often, you cannot tell from appearances. Personally, I would check in with my friends, taking extra care to be both kind and private. You might be surprised where an open-ended, non-judgmental question about money can lead. (Side bonus: A conversation like this will reveal new ways to be a more supportive friend.)
Your big decision will come down to doing something “in town” versus “out of town” for the majority of your guests. If you decide on a locale that requires travel, no worries! But assure your friends there will be no hard feelings if they need to opt out for any reason. And mean it: No being the passive aggressive bride/MOH. Remember, if someone can’t go to your party—whether explicitly for financial reasons or not—they are the one that is missing out. It sucks to be the one that is left behind, especially if it’s for money reasons.
Maybe you decide to do an “in town” bachelorette party so that you can include everyone while causing minimum financial stress. I know that this is not a very popular option, and I understand this! No one wants to stick around, your party guests included! But for some brides, when weighing inclusion and affordability in the destination decision, a local affair makes the most sense.
It’s okay to feel bummed that you don’t get your dream bachelorette, but focus on the positives: You have a stunning group of friends from a variety of backgrounds, all of these people are willing to celebrate you multiple times in one year (each at a cost to them), and you’re going to have a fabulous time no matter what. If you think that being in a certain city or hotel is what makes-or-breaks the party, all ya need to do is to think back to your favorite nights with friends: They probably weren’t at some big fancy party or even at some exotic destination. Often, it’s the bunkered-down time together that makes for the best memories. These moments can happen in the subtlest of places—a janky cabin in the woods, an unexpected dive bar with live music, or a late-night dance party in the AirBNB rec room.
To the Partygoer
Ladies, it is time we learn to say “no.” Trust me, I know what it is like to say “yes” to everything—I did it for years. In the years between 2003 and 2012, there was nothing that was going to stop me from going to EVERY SINGLE party on this damned rock hurling through space ESPECIALLY if the occasion was celebrating a human that I love. I learned to say “no” through the process of quitting my corporate job to travel (and ultimately, become a freelancer), which meant I had to stop spewing money like a drunken party girl and really start considering my financial needs.
Saying “no” to fun engagements can make us feel lonely. But as a personal finance writer who knows the stats, I assure you that if you can’t afford to go to seven bachelorette parties (and weddings) this year, you are not alone. 43% of people in this country struggle to pay their monthly bills. Please understand that you are allowed to and should prioritize your financial well-being, even though cultural standards for attendance and obligation during bachelorette and wedding season may make you feel otherwise.
When should we be saying “no”?
Be careful if you can’t afford to go without putting the trip on a credit card (that you won’t pay off within the month). If you feel burdened with existing debt or have no savings to speak of, you must also reconsider. There is nothing that hurts my soul more than telling people to miss out on fun, but you must always keep in the back of your mind this one question: What happens if I get laid off? What kind of hardship would I face with no job, with a big monthly credit card bill, and no savings to speak of?
And you don’t wanna be paying interest on bachelorette parties years after you attended them—potentially when you’re raising kids or trying to buy a house!
Also, please know that you don’t have to be experiencing financial hardship to not want to spend thousands on a party. Maybe you are saving for a down payment, to quit your job, for kiddos or grad school, or perhaps you are finally heeding the standard personal finance advice of saving 15%-20% of salary for retirement. Some people can do all of these things! But lots of people can’t. Do what’s best for you.
How do I say “no”?
Know that if a friend is truly a friend, you can talk to her about missing her bachelorette because of money reasons. If she doesn’t understand, kick that b*tch to the curb. (J/K. Kinda.) After quitting my corporate job to become a writer, I had to miss bachelorettes and weddings. My friends were bummed, of course, but only because they wanted me there, not because they thought I was a bad person. I actually had one bride tell me she was proud of me for doing what was best for me and my life.
Never feel bad about putting your own financial health first, but be sensitive to the bride’s feelings! I deal with opt-outs by explaining my situation with as much truth as possible, with sprinklings of humor, self-deprecation, and vulnerability. I’m good (now!) at talking about money but understand that this might not be the case for everyone—try starting with an email.
And just because you skip a bachelorette doesn’t mean you can’t make your friend feel special! In fact, your lack of physical presence is more reason to get involved in the planning. I recommend doing something personalized and creative for your friend, like devising a unique game, customizing a dope ‘fit, or my personal favorite, writing a delightful poem that both toasts and absolutely roasts the bride.
(Can you tell I’m obsessed with the movie, Girl’s Night? This scene got me good—I too embellish denim vests for my Bachelorettes!)
Remember, most people can afford anything, but not everything
I love this line coined by the financial guru, Paula Pant. If you are like most people in this country, you can afford to do some things, but not everything. If you decide that you don’t want to skip bachelorettes, that’s great! Life’s about tradeoffs and only you can decide what stays and what goes. Figure out how to proactively save for bachelorette parties so that you don’t have to go in credit card debt.
If you decide to go to the party, have fun no matter what! I understand that even if you have debt and don’t save enough for retirement, it feels too wrong to miss a friend’s bachelorette. Don’t waste a single second on regret, but commit to making up the difference in other ways. For example, go ask for a raise. 🙂
As always, I don’t have all the answers—I just want to start a conversation! What do you think?
* I understand that not all bachelorette parties are for women marrying men and therefore not every bachelorette party will have dick-shaped candies. Or male strippers. Or only females in attendance, etc. Unfortunately, it’s hard to do a story about Bachelorette tropes and not include a few of the heteronormative ones, especially because heteronormative people are extra annoying about their bachelorette parties. I LOVE YOU ALL, no matter your gender preference or affiliation 🙂