My bachelorette party, more than 13 years ago, looked like something out of a bad movie. One of my maids of honor hosted a lingerie shower that afternoon, with only my bridal party in attendance, and then the debauchery began.

There were a lot of champagne cocktails, inappropriate gifts, and a really bad stripper dressed as a pizza guy. I vaguely recall going to a nightclub downtown, wearing a veil and proudly carrying a four-foot inflatable penis. We danced til the club closed, but goofed and got the car caught in a parking garage, so my fiancé had to rescue us. All in all, a success!

A couple of years later, when one of my bridesmaids got married, her bachelorette made mine look like child’s play. Plans for her celebration included seven days and nights at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. Big destination bachelorette parties have become pretty trendy, and my friend was on the cutting edge.

Unfortunately, several bridesmaids couldn’t participate, and it caused a lot of drama. The Maid of Honor coordinating the trip didn’t consult with anybody but the bride before announcing the grand plan. She had counted on all of us for the number of rooms, and splitting the cost of the bride’s trip. When three of us declined, and announced our own intention to treat the bride to a spa day to make up for it, things got a little bit ugly. It became of battle of the married members of the bridal party versus the single ladies who wanted a wild Caribbean last hurrah for the bride.

Why did it split that way? Because once you get married, it’s unlikely you’ll have an entire week of vacation to burn on a girls-only bachelorette trip. When you only get two weeks off a year, you want to be able to spend that time with your husband and family, even though the idea of seven days of a sun-soaked booze-filled haze is tempting. We might have been able to swing a few days less, but then the whole issue of the cost of the trip came up.

There’s no expectation that the wedding party will provide a free trip to the bride before her wedding. The MoH’s assumption that we’d all happily go along with her plan was presumptuous. She was in a bad predicament because she’d promised the cash-poor bride that she wouldn’t need to spend a dime, and we weren’t all willing to go along with that.

Every member of the wedding party had already dropped a few hundred dollars on the bridesmaid dresses and shoes for her wedding. I’d given a bridal shower, but we’d all attended three of them in her honor. There was even a “traditional” bachelorette party already planned when the Dominican Republic trip came up – with a bunch of girls the bride had gone to high school and college with already committed. This destination bachelorette trip was a last-minute add-on, and for those of us who had already maxed out our budgets and vacation time, it wasn’t in the cards.

All the discussion about what to do took place away from the bride, which is the appropriate way to handle any wedding party drama. Some of us had already sent pricey wedding gifts from the bride’s registry. There was no way the MoH was going to force us each to shell out another $400 to cover the bride’s trip on top of the wedding gift, while we still had wedding day beauty services and the hotel rooms the bride wanted us to stay in on the wedding weekend to pay for. When she recalculated for the three girls who remained, the price on the rooms went up, and each of the three remaining bridesmaids was asked to kick in $1,000 to cover the bride’s trip. Two said no.

The MoH and the bride took the trip alone, and I have no idea who paid for what. The originally-planned bachelorette party went off without a hitch, and all the drama dissipated before the wedding day. But it was a lesson for all of us.

5 tips for avoiding bachelorette party planning drama

  1. Coordinate with the entire wedding party when you make a plan for the bachelorette. All the VIPs who MUST be at the bachelorette should be consulted.
  2. Don’t expect everybody to be willing to travel, and don’t assume out-of-town bridesmaids will be able to come.
  3. Establish a budget for the bachelorette party with everybody who is expected to contribute BEFORE you tell the bride what you have planned. There is no wedding party obligation to break the bank for a bachelorette.
  4. Make sure the bride is comfortable with whatever the bridal party is planning – not something her friends THINK she should enjoy. Some people just don’t like the whole stripper thing.
  5. Talk to the bride about her expectations for attendance – if she doesn’t care, you can go wherever with whomever can go. But if having all her besties there is mission critical, you have to take that into consideration before you settle on a final plan.

Destination bachelorette parties have created a whole new set of expenses and dilemmas for the bridal party. Nobody wants to be the party pooper for a bestie’s wedding activities, but at the same time, few bridesmaids are willing to spend six-month’s worth of car payments so the bride can have a celebrity bachelorette experience.

How did we get from a crazy girls’ night out to a place where the bachelorette party requires the bridesmaids to take out a home equity line of credit? It’s become a pretty common occurrence despite the fact that only 10 years ago, a weekend trip to Vegas was considered a mega-indulgence. It’s probably due to the growth of weddings as part of pop culture, not just a religious tradition. Almost every network has wedding party shows, and reality TV gives us bachelor and bachelorette party ideas from shows like Vanderpump Rules. Brides’ expectations are literally higher than ever before because of what the Internet wedding features tell them they should have for their weddings.

I worried that my thinking was outdated on this. But then I heard from a bridesmaid last week, who was furious about an email she’d just received from the MoH informing all the bridesmaids that their share of the bachelorette party was “$500 plus food and booze for five days.” She explained that the cost of a weekend away with the girls wouldn’t seem so exorbitant if the trip hadn’t been planned exactly six weeks before the bride’s DESTINATION WEDDING.

Really? At some point, every friend has to draw a line and say “enough is enough.” The honor of being in the wedding party isn’t supposed to come with a price tag equal to buying a designer wedding gown or a used car.

Look, if all the bridesmaids want to take a trip, and money isn’t an issue – go for it! That’s awesome and I’m totally jealous. But don’t plan something that will exclude less financially fortunate bridesmaids, or make the bride’s besties feel bitter because it takes them a year to pay it off.

Until next time, good luck and happy wedding planning!

Sandy