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bachelorette party basics

Bachelorette Parties: Bachelorette Party Planning Basics

Charged with organizing a crazy night-on-the town for the bride-to-be? Here's your complete bachelorette party guide.

Photo: Oakley Photography

Bachelor parties have been a wedding tradition since the so-called Olden Days, when they gave the groom a chance to "sow his wild oats" before marriage. We are well out of that dark age (thank goodness!), and these days women celebrate imminent weddings with their closest pals too. Need a little primer on bachelorette party planning? Keep reading.

Who Hosts?

Virtually anyone can host a bachelorette party. Often the maid of honor and bridesmaids, who are close to the bride, do the honors, but any friend, relative (a cousin, for example), or even coworkers who feel the urge can plan this party.

The Guest List

Shower guests must all be invited to the wedding, but this isn't necessarily true for bachelorette parties. Chances are that most bachelorette party guests -- who are generally the bride's best gal pals -- are wedding guests, too, but it's fine to invite coworkers or neighbors who may not be invited to a small or out-of-town wedding. Just be up front with them about your limited wedding guest list -- you don't want to disappoint any well-wishers. It's usually best to keep this party pretty small -- definitely under 20, and under 10 is probably ideal.

Decide on a Date

Steer clear of the night before the wedding -- the last thing the bride needs is a hangover! She'll be nervous enough; she shouldn't have to worry about getting sick. (The rehearsal dinner is usually scheduled for that night, anyway.) If the wedding is in a town other than the bride's hometown, you might want to have the bachelorette party before she leaves; even if the wedding is local, party at least 2 or 3 nights before the big day.

tip

If you need to make reservations for a show or other activity, you'll want guests to officially RSVP.

Plan Ahead

One person can plan the entire bash, or several people (like the bridesmaids or the clique from college) can collaborate. Some bachelorette hosts ask for a donation from each guest or co-host, depending on the type of party -- whether you're renting a private room in a restaurant or taking everyone for an afternoon of spa treatments, for example. That contribution may range from $50 to $200, but the bride shouldn't have to contribute a dime. Be reasonable and don't go overboard -- you needn't put yourself in debt over this. A fabulous time can be had by all for little money.

>> Check out Bachelorette Parties: Bashing on a Budget for money-saving ideas.

Spread the Word

Store-bought invitations will do, or make your own with a desktop publishing program or paper, scissors, pens, and glue. Choose or design with a theme in mind, even if it's as simple as the bride's favorite color. Some hostesses forgo official invitations and just call guests a few weeks before the wedding -- it all depends on the type of party you're planning. If you need to make reservations for a show or other activity, you'll probably want guests to officially RSVP. If you'll be hanging out at the corner bar, scrap the invites -- a phone call is probably fine.

Party Time

Bachelorette parties are more laid-back and less structured than traditional bridal showers. There is no "typical" bash, though what usually comes to mind is a group of giggling girls dragging the bride from bar to bar (maybe encountering a sexy male stripper along the way) and making her blush in public. You can paint the town red if that's your style (or, more importantly, the bride's). But there are lots of other ways to celebrate -- a nice dinner at someone's house or a favorite restaurant, low-key dancing at a cool club, a concert (maybe Prince is in town and the bride absolutely adores him) -- the list is endless. The point is to reminisce, laugh, act goofy, and embarrass the bride at least a little (phallic props like wind-up mini penises are hilarious -- as long as she won't get completely offended!).

Tokens of Appreciation

The bachelorette party is not a gift party in the same way a bridal shower is -- presents are not necessary. That said, this is a great opportunity for guests to give the bride silly gifts -- or even sexy ones (like the lingerie that was just too risqué for the shower). You might ask everyone to bring a gag gift (one guest we know presented the bride with a glamorous red wig to wear all night) or something hot -- a book about fabulous sex complete with diagrams, or perhaps a how-to video! Regression is another option -- give her candy necklaces or rings, bubbles, glitter, or a water gun. The goal is for the bride and her guests to just have fun before the wedding.

-- Tracy Guth

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