Between a flight to Vegas, suites at Caesars Palace, bottle service at da klerb, matching tee-shirts or bathing suits, and the occasional pink inflatable in the shape of familiar genitalia, bachelor and bachelorette parties can get expensive. According to The Knot, the average out-of-town bachelorette party runs an attendee $1,106 USD. The average bachelor party costs a whopping $1,532 USD.
If the average person attends ten bachelor or bachelorette parties, that amounts to spending between $11,000 and $16,000 in the span of a decade or less. On parties. And this doesn’t include engagement parties, bridal showers, weddings, wedding gifts, and the additional costs of being a bridesmaid or a groomsmen such as a new suit or bridesmaid dress in sea-foam green (never to leave the darkest back corner of the closet again).
I’ve been invited to 19 bachelorette parties so far, a number that is certainly high but that I’d still consider normal in the era of hyper-connectivity. You see, we live in a wonderful time where staying in touch with people is easier than ever. Even twenty years ago, it was not feasible to have 30 close friends. (You had to call people. On the phone. Gross!) Nowadays, maintaining friendships is easier than ever thanks to technology and social media. While I'm grateful for how close I feel to my friends, this interconnectivity has profound implications on our financial lives. With interconnectedness comes a hefty price tag—and it’s one that lots of people can’t afford.
When Is it Too Much?
In general, you should think hard about going to a bachelor/bachelorette party (any party, really) without putting that party on a credit card that you won’t pay off immediately. If you already feel burdened with your current debt or have minimal savings, you’re right to be cautious. There is nothing that yanks at my soul more than telling people to miss out on celebrating a friend that they love, but you must always keep in the back of your mind this one question: What happens if I get laid off? How would I survive with no job, no savings, and a significant monthly credit card bill?
And you don’t wanna be paying back, with interest, bachelor or bachelorette parties years and years after you attended them—potentially when you’re raising kids or trying to buy a house!
Even if you’re not struggling financially, it’s okay to not want to spend your splash-around money on bachelor or bachelorette parties. You’re not a bad person if your priorities don’t include spending $1,500 every time one of your friends gets married. Being financially solvent and saving enough for long-term financial goals is hard and sometimes requires stone-faced determination.
Tips For Survival
Budget for Weddings and Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties:
I lump wedding and bachelorette budgets into my “travel” budget because at this stage in my life, it’s the majority of the travel that I do. I automatically send money into my travel savings account each month, and tap into it when expenses get high, usually in the summertime. My travel account usually doesn’t cover all my expenses, but it softens the blow.
Understand That Everything’s a Trade-Off:
Most people can afford anything, but not everything. I love this line coined by the financial guru, Paula Pant. If you decide that you don't want to skip bachelor/ettes, that's okay! Life's about tradeoffs and only you can decide what to prioritize.
If you decide to go to a party, have fun no matter what! Even if you have debt and don’t save enough for retirement, I understand that it feels plain wrong to miss a fabulous friend’s once-in-a-lifetime party. Don’t waste a single second on regret, but do think of other ways to make up the difference. For example, do a no-spend month this spring. Ask for a raise. Unsubscribe from subscriptions or memberships that you don’t use. Commit to finding a higher-paying job.
Learn to Say No:
Of course, saying no is so much easier said than done, but learning to say no will be one of the greatest skills you'll ever learn. If a friend is truly a friend, you can talk to them about missing their bachelor or bachelorette because of money reasons. Even if they’re upset, it probably won’t be for long. If they still don’t understand, maybe they’re not such a great friend after all.
Don’t feel bad about putting your own financial wellbeing first, but be sensitive to your friend’s feelings. I deal with these tough conversations by imbuing them with as much sympathy, humor, and vulnerability as possible. I'm never defensive and understand that there will be disappointment. If a full convo would make you too uncomfortable, start with an email.
If You Can’t Go, Still Treat Your Friend:
Just because you skip a bachelor or bachelorette party doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your friend feel special! Your lack of physical presence is even more reason to take an active role in the party planning. Do something personalized and creative for your friend, like devising a hilarious game, sending a bottle of their favorite champagne or dessert to dinner, or my personal favorite, writing a poem or letter to be read aloud that both toasts and roasts the bride or groom.
What To Do If You’re Having a Party
Please begin with the understanding that you are asking a lot of your friends. For the majority of people, making multiple bachelor or bachelorette parties happen per year probably means forgoing their own financial best interests. My best advice? Don’t assume that you know how well anyone is doing financially. Oftentimes, you cannot tell from appearances. Personally, I would talk with my friends about what they can handle in a way both kind and private. You might be surprised where a non-judgmental, open-ended question about people’s lives will lead.
Your major decision boils down to hosting a soiree that’s in town versus out of town for the majority of your guests. For some folks, a local affair makes the most sense. If you want to get out of town, there are still ways to make it more affordable for your guests. (Like, don’t choose New York City or expensive accommodations.) Assure them there will be no hard feelings if they can’t make it. And mean really it! People’s financial goals and/or woes do not disappear just because it’s your special year. Remember that if someone can’t make it to your party, they are the one that is missing out. It is a bummer to be the one that is left behind, especially if it’s because of money reasons.
Overall, we’re doing the right thing by thinking and talking about it. It’s strange to live in a culture where talking about money with our friends is far stickier and more uncomfortable than talking about anything else, including sex. With bachelor parties as with life, it behooves us all to have patient, sympathetic conversations with the people in our lives, whether it's regarding money and or anything, really. Be gentle with your friends; you and the world will be better for it.
Amanda writes The Dumpster Dog Blog, which is scrappy, no-BS finance education for young women.