Why you should care
Bachelorette parties are financially crippling us millennials. It’s high time for the women in white to start footing the bill.
I had picked the “Bride Tribe” temporary tattoo over “Pecker Inspector.” As I passed through security to catch my flight home, my eyelids were heavy, the stench of vodka seeped from my pores and my body ached. I wasn’t 20 anymore, but my friend had wanted us to act like we were for her bachelorette party.
I’m just one of many millennials who’ve chosen to participate in a friend’s pre-wedding bash. While it remains a choice to attend, opting out implies that a friend’s marriage, and their friendship, aren’t that important. And yet, the price tag of participating is often financially debilitating.
Destination bachelorette parties weren’t really a thing in the United States a decade ago; now it seems that brides can’t get hitched without one. One wedding alone, including trips for the pre-ceremony bash, the big day itself, dresses and gifts, can cost an already indebted millennial a fortune. So, brides-to-be, please take a new vow: Don’t test your friendships like this. Either foot the bill or keep bachelorette parties close to home.
I’m afraid to even open my Venmo account for fear of seeing yet another request from a maid of honor for more money.
Consider this: Around half of those who get invited to bachelor and bachelorette parties decide not to attend owing to the costs. The other half spend a whopping $1,400, on average, for three-day excursions, according to 2018 research by Upgraded Points. This means the pre-ceremony adventures can end up costing more than attending the wedding itself, even if the wedding includes a flight.
And remember, what goes around comes around. If you ask your friends to shell out hundreds for pre-wedding parties, they will do the same when it’s their turn to walk down the aisle. “The friend group sets the precedent for the bachelorette parties,” says wedding planner Sarah Beth Thie. “For example, if one friend has an elaborate bachelorette party celebration, it sets the tone for the others moving forward.”
Brides may assume that it’s fine to have friends shell out for them because they’ll return the favor. But what if they never get the chance?
“I’ll pay whatever the bride wants me to because I love her so much, don’t get me wrong, but if I don’t get the opportunity to have a bachelorette party myself one day and stay single for the rest of my life, does this really balance out?” poses Hannah Chillag, editor of High Country Wedding Guide. “Will someone throw me a singleton’s weekend?”
My own marriage prospects aside, right now I’m a graduate student who hasn’t had an income for almost a year. I just spent $989 on my friend’s two-day bachelorette party in Napa, California — the equivalent of what I spend on my monthly expenses. Everyone paid the same amount, which made it hard not only for me but also my friends. They are teachers, civil servants, grad students, accountants and startup professionals. We all have very different incomes, expenses and financial situations.
A 2018 Northwestern Mutual study found that millennials carry an average of $42,000 in debt and that Americans spend about the same amount on discretionary spending (eating out, buying clothes, etc.) as they do on paying down debt.
Those are scary statistics. So why shouldn’t brides be accountable for most of the cost? Besides, what’s another $5,000 to $7,000 to a bride when the average wedding costs $44,000?
As it stands now, bridesmaids are subject to paying for whatever has been planned for us. I’m afraid to even open my Venmo account for fear of seeing yet another request from a maid of honor for more money.
If brides paid for half or more of these trips, they’d have a financial stake in the planning, which could lead to less costly decisions. They’d also have fewer friends being forced to choose between going broke — and using vacation time they probably don’t have — and missing out on the fun.
Think of it this way: Years from now, we will still have the Instagram photos of our matching “Bride Tribe” tattoos, but the bride won’t remember whether she spent $42,000 or $47,000 on her wedding and bachelorette party.
And with my solution, she’s more likely to have friends willing to come to a baby shower.