How to throw a bachelor or bachelorette party for a mature group

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Bachelor and bachelorette parties have a reputation for being debauched, licentious weekends of consequence-free fun, when groups of friends are given the green light to throw caution to the wind and let loose in order to celebrate their friend's impending nuptials. But in reality, many bachelor and bachelorette parties are much more laid-back affairs, especially if it involves an older group.

Being tasked with planning a bachelor or bachelorette party can be a daunting challenge, especially if the priorities go beyond "rent an Airbnb and stock up on the booze." Having a bachelor or bachelorette party at 41 or 51 can be very different than having one at 21, but there are some universal tips for planning one that are relevant to any age group. Whether you're planning a quiet evening or a big group weekend, here are 20 things you should keep in mind when planning a bachelor or bachelorette party for a mature group.


Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to plan

Nobody wants to deal with the stress of having to throw a group gathering together at the last minute (and invitees need advance notice so they can clear their calendars), so make sure that you start planning at least a few months in advance.

Talk to the bride or groom to learn exactly what type of party they want

You might be planning the party, but that doesn't mean that the guest of honor should be forced to go along with whatever you decide to do. Are they looking for a quiet evening at their own house? A group dinner? A round of golf? A day at the spa? A vineyard visit or whiskey tasting? Or a relaxing weekend at a gorgeous destination? Make sure that all of this is communicated at square one.

Get an invite list from the bride or groom up front

Planning a party for four close friends is very different than planning one for 15 friends, relatives and co-workers. Have the bride or groom give you a list of invitees at the same time you're discussing what they'd like the party to entail.

Let the bride or groom be as hands-on in planning as they want to be

Traditionally, the bride or groom provides a guest list and a rough idea of what type of party they'd like, and then leaves the rest in the hands of the best man or maid or matron of honor. But if they're eager to be active in every step of the process or want to be updated frequently on how the planning is going, there's no reason to keep them out of the loop. It's their party, after all!

Get an email chain going

It might sound like fun to plan out the entire event, then surprise the guests with an invitation after everything is put in place. But unless it's just going to be a potluck dinner at your house and won't cost the guests any more than the price of gas and ingredients, the invitees should play as active a role in planning as they're able to. An email chain is the best way to accomplish this: Send an email to all the invited guests with the planned date and proposed festivities, and solicit their feedback. If the date doesn't work for some of the guests, find one that works for everybody. If the idea of taking a modern dance class is met with universal groans, then find an activity more people are open to. Just because it's not their party doesn't mean they should be forced to do something they're vehemently opposed to.

Get a firm idea of everyone's budget

This is one of the most important things to take into account when planning a bachelor or bachelorette party. If the guest of honor wants to charter a helicopter to a PGA golf course, play 18 holes, then cap it off with dinner at Ruth's Chris, that's going to cost guests a lot more than, say, nine holes at the local par-3 followed by dinner at the LongHorn. Before confirming anything, make sure that all of the guests will be able to afford it - the goal is to have fun, not bankrupt anyone! Ask the guests to email you confidentially if they have concerns about the price tag, and tweak the plans accordingly if need be.

If it's a 'destination' event, be realistic

Getting the gang together for a long weekend in Vegas may sound like a dream, but in reality it might be completely out of the question for your guests, especially if they're on a limited budget or will be unable to take off work. If the bride or groom has their heart set on a blowout weekend it may be a letdown to learn that it's simply not feasible, but work with them on a plan B that's just as much fun.

Make sure everyone is able to participate in all the activities

Budgetary restrictions aside, it's important to make sure that all the guests will be able to participate in everything planned. Take into account physical limitations if any strenuous activity is planned; not all your guests may be able to exert themselves like they were once able to. Make sure that all the locations are wheelchair-friendly if anyone uses a wheelchair, don't visit a winery or distillery if there are teetotalers in the group (and be sensitive to bringing recovering alcoholics to bars), and be sure to ask all guests to let you know (confidentially) in the planning stages if they have any relevant limitations that may not be obvious.

Price everything out in advance

Once you have a game plan, go step by step and get as close an estimate as possible of how much the whole party is going to cost. Then relay that information to the guests, broken down (taking into account that the guest of honor shouldn't be expected to pay for much, if anything), and let them know how much they should expect to contribute. For big purchases, don't be afraid to ask everyone to chip in in advance. This way you won't have to max out your credit cards, and it will also avoid making everyone pay as they go (which can easily put a damper on things).

Stick to the budget

Some unexpected expenses are always bound to arise, but once you've finalized a budget, try to hew as closely to it as possible. Upgrading to the presidential suite on a whim may sound like a great idea, but unless you're planning on covering the price yourself, don't do it.

Make sure everyone knows the itinerary

The last thing you want is to arrive at your next activity, only to look around and realize that nobody knows where Karen is, and nobody can get in touch with her. Once the itinerary is finalized, email it to everyone, print out copies, and make sure everybody has it handy.

Don't schedule too many activities

It may be tempting to plan out every minute of the weekend, but a few unplanned hours here and there can be a great time to open up a bottle of wine, cool your heels, relax and chat. It may turn out that the time doing "nothing" was the most rewarding time of all!

Consider renting a house for everybody

If the bachelor or bachelorette party involves an overnight, it'll be smart to rent a house through a service like Airbnb or HomeAway instead of multiple hotel rooms. Not only will this allow you all to have a central gathering place and base of operations, it'll be a lot more homey and cozy than spending time in an anonymous hotel room, there will be room to cook, and you'll most likely save money. But if you do opt for an Airbnb, be sure not to make these rookie mistakes.

Book travel at least a month out

If the event will involve travel - especially via air - make sure that it gets booked as far in advance as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely prices are to increase, and the less likely you'll all be able to sit together. If you're flying, use these tips to save money when buying airfare.

Decide on restaurants and make reservations long in advance

Are you looking to book a private room at the steakhouse? Are you planning on staying away from the trendy spots where you'd need to dress to impress and looking for a more low-key place with delicious food? Will you be checking out that cute bistro for lunch or just staying in the house and cooking? Make these decisions as far in advance as possible, and don't show up to any restaurants without a reservation!

Put different guests in charge of different things

You may be in charge of planning the party, but that doesn't mean that everything has to fall into your lap. Don't be afraid to delegate duties: Your foodie friend can be in charge of finding restaurants, one person can do the Airbnb research and present a few options to the group, another can be in charge of buying the groceries. Just make sure that if someone lays out a lot of cash on something, the whole group shares the expense.

Don't forget about party favors

We're not talking about X-rated hats or tacky sashes, but it couldn't hurt to invest in some party favors for the gang, be it cigars with custom-made labels, matching T-shirts, custom-made decorations for the house, or some special swag for the guest of honor. And when the party's over, guests will appreciate a memento to keep the memory of the festivities alive. Use your imagination!

Toss in a surprise or two

If you have something especially exciting planned (a morning balloon ride, for example), leave it off of the itinerary given to the bride or groom and make sure that nobody tells them about it; structure is essential, but that doesn't mean that there can't be room for a surprise. Even if it's something relatively small, like an after-dinner tasting of their favorite bourbons, pleasant surprises are always welcome, and it lets the guest of honor know that they're appreciated.

Plan on something going wrong

Sometime, somewhere, something isn't going to go as planned. Maybe the restaurant you booked months ago has gone out of business; maybe the balloon ride is cancelled because it's too windy; maybe Karen vanishes into thin air; maybe that salami Jerry smuggled back from Italy last year gives everybody food poisoning. Just go with the flow as best you can and try not to let it ruin the festivities. You should probably try to track down Karen, though.

Try something none of you have ever done before

We're not talking about skydiving here, but these celebrations are about group bonding just as much as they're about celebrating the bride or groom, and sharing a first-time experience for everyone is a great way to make a new memory. Some experiences you share just might change your life.

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