by Alisha Ramos, Founder at GNI
Do you feel that? You may have noticed that love is in the air! 2019 has become the Year of Weddings and Bachelorettes for me and my partner — we are attending either a wedding, bachelorette, or bachelor party every month of the year save August and December. Obviously, it’s a joyful occasion for all our friends getting hitched this year, and a great excuse to travel and see so many new places.
But it can also be stressful if you aren’t fully, mentally prepared for the long trips required for any destination weddings; the massive group email threads for bachelorette and bridal party planning; the purchasing of gifts, clothing, and accoutrements, and more. (Btw - If you’re a bride or doing any wedding activities this year and want a funny read, I highly recommend Hey Ladies, a parody of said massive group email threads.)
If you’ve been tasked—I mean, blessed—with planning the bachelorette weekend, and you suspect the bride is more chill than the “FEYONCÉ/BRIDE SQUAD/etc.” swimsuits and mai-tais at a pool party club vibe, we’ve rounded up some tips we’ve learned from planning low-key-but-still-fun bachelorette parties: Here are a few tips I’ve learning for planning a GNI-friendly bachelorette party for a bride or group that’s a little more ~low-key~.
1. Communicate clearly with the bride.
All good things come from clear communication, so we highly recommend doing this from the very start. If you’re the maid of honor, ask the bride for clarification on who she wants to play point-person on planning the weekend; you never know, she may have ideas on how so-and-so might be able to tackle restaurants-booking because they know her foodie side a bit better.
You may also want to clarify how involved she wants to be. Does she want to choose the destination and that’s it? Does she simply want to be surprised? Does she have a spreadsheet ready to go with activities, restaurants, and the specific cocktail recipe she wants to concoct for the weekend? Gain some clarity and help the bride feel at-ease that she can be as little or as involved as she’d like to be.
Finally, you might also want to understand who she wants at the bachelorette. Often, brides might want a larger group of friends to gather, rather than simply the bridal party. She may even want a gender-inclusive party.
2. Initiate everyone’s least favorite but necessary evil: the Group Email Thread.
Once you and the bride are aligned on the “how” and the “who,” it’s time to reach out to the bridal party to discuss there “where” and “what.” You can do this in a variety of ways, and we’ve seen a wide range of communication methods work well. For ease of use, we recommend going old-school and simply kicking off an email thread, but we’ve also heard of people starting group text chats and Slack groups.
If you’re planning the weekend, you might want to set the stage by introducing everyone, sharing where you’ll be going (if that’s been decided), and outlining the decisions that need to be made (usually, the biggest one is aligning everyone on a date for the bachelorette itself and the location, followed by lodging and budget).
A quick aside: Budget can be a big issue, especially in group settings like this where people are at different places in their financial lives, so you want to address this early on. Your group might consist of people who are in grad school, people who are VP’s at international banks, and people who just started a new gig at a fledgling startup. As the planner, you should be mindful and respectful of the diversity of budgets. Sometimes, the bride will give you a bit of a hint as to where everyone is at. If not, we recommend using location/city as a way to softly broach the topic of budget. Does the group seem excited by a destination like Amsterdam, or are they filled with dread and would prefer Austin or something more local? You could set up a poll with locations and get a feel for where everyone is at. In the past, I’ve even communicated to the maid-of-honor my all-in budget for participating in the weekend’s activities. If you don’t feel as forward as I was though, suggesting an affordable/more accessible city might be one way around it.
As the planner, part of your job is to ensure that the bride feels like everything is “taken care of” (if that’s her style). It might be best to have budget-related conversations outside of this main communication thread, whether it’s determining the right budget for everyone, or deciding as a group what you all agree to treat the bride to — will you be covering the full expenses of the trip for her? Or covering her cost of the Airbnb or hotel? Covering all meals? These decisions should be made outside of the bride having to get involved, so that she doesn’t feel additional stress or anxiety — it’s her weekend, and she should get to fully enjoy the treat.
3. Start by choosing a location that sets the tone for a relaxing time.
This is the first and possibly most crucial step! Yes, you can probably have a relaxed bachelorette in a setting like Las Vegas (or, New Orleans, as was the city of a bachelorette I’ve recently been to), but it makes having a relaxed bachelorette that much easier if your surroundings are equally ~chill~.
The recipe, in my mind, of a perfect location is one that has enough activities (food, drinks, IRL/physical/cultural activities most people can participate in) and one that’s less centered on the clubbing and drinking scene. Thus, I’d probably avoid any of the typical “bachelorette capitals” such as: Las Vegas, Cancun, Nashville, Miami, etc.
Here are some city suggestions from the collective GNI hive-mind: Charleston, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Denver, Vancouver, Washington, D.C., and tbh probably an Airbnb mountain lodge somewhere, anywhere.
4. Plan more upfront so you can be more chill later.
Spreadsheet hats on. My general philosophy is: In order to chill and enjoy a thing, you have to have zero chill in the planning process for said thing. Doing a whole bunch of planning upfront can allow you to relax and enjoy the weekend when it does come — you won’t have to stress and scramble last-minute to secure a rezzie for 13 people at the hottest restaurant in town because Past You has checked this off the list already. Maybe this is just the Type A in me talking? I’m not brave enough to wing planning a weekend for a large group of women (or even a medium- or small-sized group of women)!
Here are some pre-bachelorette planning tips and tricks:
- Embrace spreadsheets/docs for planning everything. No really. Include everything from everyone’s arrival and departure times, roomie assignments, important info about the Airbnb/hotel/cottage/wherever you are staying, contact info, and the weekend’s itinerary, all in separate tabs in one master sheet (here’s an example we made just for you!). Eunice from the GNI team also created well-organized docs in Notion to help plan her friend’s bachelorette (screenshot below - not linking because some things, especially on bachelorette weekends, are sacred 😉).
Use Splitwise to settle up at the end of the trip. Finances can be stressful especially when you’re splitting things with friends and acquaintances. I’ve found Splitwise to be easier than other services because it’s so flexible. Did 3 of you take an Uber, and the remaining 4 took an UberXL somewhere? Was the restaurant bill paid by 2 people instead of 1? In Splitwise, you can indicate who paid for what exactly, and who specifically owes you for that expense. At the end of the weekend, it’s super easy to “settle up” with the full group and with individuals.
Is the group unfamiliar with the city you’re visiting? Create a shared Google Maps where you’ve “saved” all the spots you’ll be visiting. You can then easily access this on your phones, and have a handy reference to how far things are from your “homebase” whether it’s a hotel or an Airbnb.
5. Choose a homebase early so you have options that fit your group’s needs.
Should you stay in hotel suites, Airbnb’s, B&B’s, camp out? I will say that for most of the chill bachelorettes I’ve been to, Airbnb has always been the top option — it truly lets you embrace your indoorsy/homey vibes, and everyone is staying in 1 place (less logistics/coordination/waiting around for people to get ready and meet in the lobby!). I also recently discovered Sonder, which looks like a chic, fully managed version of Airbnb.
Some more tips for setting up a homebase:
- Make sure everyone has their own bed or room, depending on how well the group knows each other. Often in bachelorette groups, there’s one friend group and a less-known family member or there’s a childhood friend group and an adult friend group. Try to keep these dynamics in mind so everybody feels comfortable when it comes to lodging.
- Choose a neighborhood that’s not in the center of everything. Especially if you’re flying to a bachelorette hot-spot! Usually they tend to be quite touristy, and you can find more cozy, quieter spots just outside of those neighborhoods that “locals” tend to frequent more often.
- Stock up on snacks as soon as you get in. The pro move, especially if you’re staying in an Airbnb, is to make a grocery store run with one or two other bridal party members with ALLLLL the snacks and drinks your hearts desire.
6. Come prepared with indoorsy, low-stakes activities
Surprise! We are Girls’ Night In, after all. In my mind, the perfect low-key bachelorette is comprised of this recipe:
Good food/restaurants throughout + 1 pampering activity + one night of going “out” (I know—gasp—sometimes it must be done) + 1 hands-on group activity + many fun indoorsy group games for long nights.
Here are some quick ideas for indoorsy, bachelorette activities:
- Tie-dyeing! Or a similar crafty/workshoppy class. I recently attended a group class at The Lemon Collective in D.C. as part of a bachelorette party and it was so fun to admire (and laugh at) our various creations. I’ve also taken candle-making classes at the lovely Candlefish in Charleston. It’s fun to come away from the weekend with a small treat for yourself, and as a memorable token of your time together.
- What Do You Meme, Basic Bitch edition. At the last bachelorette I attended, one of the bridesmaids printed funny photos of the bride and we played What Do You Meme using those photos + the meme images that come with the game.
- Morning yoga It’s a great way to start the day together and keep everyone feeling balanced (especially if your bride has yogi tendencies!).
- Cook a delicious meal together This can be done at a class or in the house!
- Puzzles! Don’t underestimate the power of puzzles and drinks to bring people together and ease any new-acquaintance-awkwardness
- Host a nails / spa related girls’ night in If you want to go out for a spa day, some recs our team has in various cities are: The NOW in LA for a massage or Heyday for facials in NYC
As an aside, you may also want to be cognizant of alcohol consumption within the group. Ensure that you have non-alcoholic drinks available, and that activities don’t simply revolve around drinking. You never know if someone is abstaining from drinking, is pregnant, or any other reason why they may not want to make ~imbibing~ the main course of the trip.
Planning a big group trip like this can be stressful. Staying ahead of it, and approaching it as an event that can be relaxed and laid back — vs. the Instagram-perfect, party-filled weekend we might all think of when we think “bachelorettes”— can help ease some of the pressure. As the planner, you can help set the tone for a chill weekend of self-care during a stressful but exciting time in the bride’s life.
Lede image by Alisha Ramos.