Why I Say No To All Destination Bachelorette Parties

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Last spring, I sat at my laptop and Googled: “How much does a bachelorette party cost?” I had been invited to join my college friend's bash on the other side of the country, and I wanted to know exactly what I was in for.
Before that fateful invite, the only bachelorette party I had attended was a low-key affair. We celebrated the bride with a fun night of dancing, shots, and late-night snacks at our favorite local dive bars. The whole evening cost me $30, no plane ticket required.
But now? It seems like most bachelorette parties have turned into destination weekends that easily cost upwards of $1,000. And as a 28-year-old woman who was invited to six weddings in 2017 alone, I’m getting these kinds of requests on the regular. Perhaps not surprisingly, my Google search informed me that flying from North Carolina to my friend’s celebratory weekend in Laguna Beach was out of the question. I didn’t have thousands of dollars stashed away to spend on an expensive flight, and the idea of not being able to pay off the trip right away screamed "bad idea!"
Thankfully, turning down the invitation was easier than I anticipated. I called the bride to explain the cost of the flight alone would be double my rent, and it wasn’t financially responsible for me to do that on top of traveling to her wedding. She was sympathetic and said she’d see me on her big day.
Since then, I’ve made it a personal rule to say no to all destination bachelorette parties. On my middle manager salary, I simply can’t afford to go to all of them — just this year I’ve turned down three invites. I passed on the trip to Vancouver where the group took a beautiful boat tour of the English Bay. Las Vegas with my old coworkers sounded fun, but I’d been enough times in college to know it’s not something I need to do again. And I don’t regret turning down the invite to Nashville, because line-dancing in cowboy boots isn’t my idea of a good time. Plus going to all of them would have cost nearly $3,000, and in most cases I’m already spending hundreds of dollars to just attend the wedding.
A destination bachelorette weekend cost breakdown can look a lot like this:
Flight: $250-$400
Airbnb or hotel: $175-$250
Meals: $90-$120
Alcohol: $40-$60
“Experience” (spa, concert, or excursion): $200+
But bridesmaids aren’t just paying for their own travel — often the group pitches in for the bride’s experience as well. And this is usually expected! I’m all for friends spending time together to celebrate major life events, but I’d feel incredibly uncomfortable asking my friends to spend hundreds of dollars for my personalized vacation.
It then turns into a vicious cycle: Because one woman has her friends pay, she then has to pay for them at a later time. Depending on how many close friends you have, attending all those bachelorette weekends over the course of a few years could easily add up to the price of a year’s college tuition. Or a down payment on a house. Or, you know, your own wedding. Then there are additional party invites — engagement parties and bridal showers — where gifts are also expected, and in some cases more travel. It can make you feel as though you need to be rich in order to be someone's close friend.

It can make you feel as though you need to be rich in order to be someone's close friend.

That’s definitely the case when the weekend is treated like a 72-hour Instagram photoshoot. Scroll through any bachelorette hashtag, and you’re likely to see a steady stream of wineglass Boomerangs and flower crown group shots. Not only are you required to show up to a glamorous location for three days, but you also have to wear matching shirts.
It’s easiest for me to rationalize skipping these elaborate destination weekends when I’m a member of the bridal party. In most cases, I’m already spending a lot of money on bridesmaid dresses (that I’ll never, ever wear again), shoes (ditto), and travel. Adding a destination bachelorette weekend to that total would have nearly doubled the cost of being in the wedding. (Maybe to really keep wedding season cheap, say no to being a bridesmaid.)
Have I been tempted to spend a weekend drinking frosé in Miami with my college friends? Of course. Do I get a twinge of FOMO when I scroll through Instagram and see all the fun they’re having without me? Definitely. But I’m in the sweet spot of my twenties when all of my close friends are getting married. I won’t go into debt trying to make them happy. And I won’t expect them to do that for me.
I’ve never had any pushback when I’ve explained to a bride why I can’t attend her bachelorette weekend (five times to date). They always agree that it’s most important for me to be at the ceremony. Brides should do their best to be sensitive of their friends who can’t make it — whatever the reason. And if you do say no to that $700 Austin getaway, you can do it with style. Whenever I turn down a bachelorette party, I always send my friend a bouquet of flowers. Yes, I’m down $20, but I know they will appreciate the gesture, and it sure beats going into debt for a three-day trip.
Related Video:

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series