As someone who's been a bridesmaid many times, I know the best part of the honor also happens to be one of the most stressful: planning the bachelorette party. I've seen it all, from the high-maintenance bride who demands "only the best" (with no regard to costs) to the bride who feels guilty for even wanting her friends to pay for a party. As a result, I can offer some advice on how to stick to your budget while delivering on a night the bride will never forget. Yes, it can be done! Here's how:
Have an Open Discussion About Money
First things first: The bridesmaids need to collectively set a budget. Without going into details, I've found there are generally three types of bridesmaids when it comes to finances: those who feel they need to outdo others on spending to win over the bride; those who have an open discussion about money and agree on a set budget everyone can afford and those who have only a little to contribute but a desire to help.
The solution really involves communication. The first thing bridesmaids should do is create a shared spreadsheet and break down the party into categories, including venue, transportation, food, decorations and other extras. Set a budget on which everyone can agree for each category, then assign tasks. If someone chooses to go "over budget," then that person will be responsible for footing the extra bill (unless it's been discussed and is necessary). Harsh? Maybe. But I prefer to have an initial hard discussion about setting a budget versus staring at an empty bank account or having the money talk after it's too late. There's no reason a party should cause financial hardship!
Choose Location Wisely
Part of setting a budget is setting realistic expectations for a location. If the bride wants the Vegas experience but you have a small-town budget, splurge on a fancy hotel suite in a central location for all the attendees and hit some great local bars and clubs. Another option may be to take a short drive to a nearby reservation with a casino – road tripping it may cost less, and you'll still deliver a unique experience for the bride.
If the bride is more laid back, consider renting a cottage on a site like HomeAway instead of springing for a hotel suite. You'll get more amenities, a memorable location and a chance to see a new place. A lot of people I know have sprung for this option and explored the surrounding wine country. They had a blast at the tasting rooms and didn't have to drop a ton of cash.
I'm all about the adage that it's better to be safe than sorry, which is especially true when it comes to drinking and driving – they don't mix. For this reason, many bridesmaids spring for a driving service or a limo for their mode of transportation during a bachelorette party. If this is something you want for the experience, by all means splurge! Book early so you can snag some great deals with online coupons, and don't forget to price-compare different companies. Don't forget to ask about the fine print – hidden driver fees and taxes can quickly add up.
If taking a cab is more your style (and more aligned with your budget), consider using the services of a rideshare company like Uber. You'll get connected with a driver within minutes.
I'm a huge fan of rolling up my sleeves and doing the hard work myself for things like decorations, food and even favors. It's not only cheaper, but the memories created while making things with the other bridesmaids are sometimes the makings of "remember when" legends. For one bachelorette party, instead of going to a bakery to get some munchies, we made sugar cookies in fun (perhaps questionable) shapes. I think we had a better time making them than eating them, and we saved a good chunk of change.
Finally, if your bride is the adventurous type and you want to surprise her with something like a dance class, skydiving, whitewater rafting or even visit an attraction like an amusement park, make sure to ask for group rates or discounts. You also can sometimes stack coupons to get an even better deal.
No matter what, don't get so caught up in the money and stress of planning that you forget the bigger picture – this day is all about having fun. So set expectations early, spend wisely, be responsible and live it up!