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With brides opting for luxuries like wine tasting in Napa, yachting in Mexico, and snowmobiling in Aspen, the average cost of a bachelorette party is expected to be nearly $11,000 in 2023.
Seven years ago, Allison Odhner was planning bachelorette parties for $300 to $500 a person.
Now, the most elaborate long weekends are “well over” $3,000 apiece — not including airfare and the group’s $1,000 to $5,000 fee for her services, said Odhner, CEO and founder of Bach to Basic, a party-planning company based in Montgomery County.
Chartered yachts in Aruba. Catered picnics on the beach in Miami. ATV adventures and Jeep tours in Scottsdale. Snowmobile tours in Aspen. Pool parties at Airbnbs, complete with a DJ and bartenders.
For some brides and grooms, these are the must-haves for bachelor and bachelorette parties that span the continent, everywhere from Cabo San Lucas to Hawaii to the Bahamas. It’s a far cry from the wedding-eve night at the local bar — a tradition that was common in past decades — and it’s costing guests thousands.
Since 2016, Odhner said she has watched a “slow climb” in the demand for luxury experiences, with neither the pandemic nor inflation decreasing the appetite for lavish pre-wedding celebrations among her clients, most of whom are in their late 20s and early 30s.
“The clients that we’re working with definitely value … over-the-top experiences,” such as yacht rentals and meals with a private chef, said Odhner, whose company has planned about 600 parties — mostly bachelorettes, but also a few bachelor parties — in more than 80 destinations.
The median cost to attend a bachelor, bachelorette, or similar pre-wedding party in 2022 was $1,500 per person, up 7% from 2021, according to a June Savings.com poll of 500 party attendees. (Interestingly, bachelor party attendees spent 70% more on average than bachelorette party attendees, according to the study. Odhner said she has found bachelor parties to be looser with their budgets, but the planning process can also be less rigid.)
The typical party guest is asked to shell out for flights, a share of a vacation rental, upscale dinners and drinks, lavish excursions, themed outfits, and decor. Often, the bride or groom’s costs are also split among the attendees.
And with 2022 having been a record year for weddings, due in part to COVID postponements, some people paid thousands of dollars to attend multiple bachelor or bachelorette parties over the course of the year.
Rachael White, 29, has attended four bachelorette parties, including a recent trip that cost her about $1,300. She says she had fun — but worries about how she’ll cover future costs of parties as her own expenses grow.
“Our costs continue to rise just to survive,” said White. “My grocery bill is more expensive now. We have a house. Our energy bills are now more expensive, and I think it’s just a lot to ask your friends to spend that kind of money on you.”
More than half of the Savings.com survey respondents said they went into credit card debt to attend bachelor or bachelorette festivities last year, something White thinks needs to change.
“Just because you’re getting married,” White said, “doesn’t mean your friends should have to go into debt for it.”
So-called destination bachelor and bachelorette parties have gained popularity in recent years. The locations of these trips range from cities such as Nashville and Miami to the vineyards of Napa Valley to the beaches of Mexico.
The pandemic, inflation, and economic uncertainty do not appear to have dissuaded brides, grooms, maids of honor, and best men from planning big trips. If anything, Odhner said, they’ve only encouraged planners to up the price tags, with COVID still contributing to pent-up demand.
“People were unable to travel for a decent period of time. … They realize how much they value those experiences,” Odhner said.
In 2023, the average total cost of a bachelorette party is set to be nearly $11,000 — $3,000 higher than it was three years ago, according to the annual report from the party-planning app, BACH, which surveyed users preparing for parties.
Part of the reason for the increase: According to BACH, the average length of these trips has increased since 2020, with the majority of weekends now starting on Thursday instead of Friday.
Group experiences have also become increasingly popular, with BACH seeing reservations for party buses, yachts, pontoons, and floating Tiki boats increase fivefold between 2021 and 2022.
For the most luxurious parties, some brides and grooms are also looking to spend more outsourcing the details. This year, Bach to Basic is rolling out a $5,000 on-site concierge package, in which groups can pay to not only have their party planned in advance but also to have a planner with them during the weekend. Odhner said: “It is like a day-of wedding coordinator on steroids.”
Even among those who think pre-wedding spending has gotten out of hand, there is a general understanding of how it got to be this way.
“Social media,” said Dri Buonocore, 26, of South Jersey, who makes TikTok videos about wedding planning without breaking the bank. “While I love the bridal community, I sometimes think girls get this idea in their head of what their lives are supposed to look like.”
“You see people having these bachelorette trips in different cities,” White said. “You had to fly, and get a boat while you were down in Miami, and people think ‘I want to do that!’ It does create some kind of competition. You want to seem like you have the same type of ‘Bride Tribe’ that everyone else does.”
“You want to … have the same type of ‘Bride Tribe’ that everyone else does.”
And for those in the “tribe” who might feel uncomfortable with the amount of money they’re expected to spend, there is also pressure not to make waves, upset the guest of honor, or appear disloyal.
“No one wants to be the Debbie Downer, and no one wants to be the one that disappoints their friends,” Buonocore said. “Sometimes it is easier to suck it up.”
Several recent bachelorette party attendees declined to speak on the record for this story, because they said they didn’t want to upset their friends.
Buonocore said she has heard horror stories about friendships ending when someone turned down a destination bachelorette party invitation for financial reasons.
It’s unclear whether the amount of money spent on bachelor and bachelorette parties will hit a ceiling any time soon. But more than half of attendees believe that these events have gotten too extravagant, according to the Savings.com poll, and that brides and grooms should tone them down in light of rising costs.
Odhner, who is of course invested in the industry, said she sees a scenario where the high-end ones get even more luxurious and expensive.
“I would not be surprised, especially in our market, if people start traveling more to Europe,” she said.