Spending, travel top bachelor party plans


 Those who attend bachelor and bachelorette parties pay significantly more to raise their glasses than in previous years. Industry experts and partygoers blame the increase on social pressures, the higher age of brides and grooms, and the recovering economy. Those who attend bachelor and bachelorette parties pay significantly more to raise their glasses than in previous years. Industry experts and partygoers blame the increase on social pressures, the higher age of brides and grooms, and the recovering economy. Booze, exotic dancers and hotel rooms are standard costs incurred by those who help their friend wave goodbye to the single life through a bachelor or bachelorette party.

But the price to partake in one of the country’s most indulgent traditions has skyrocketed in recent years. Social pressures, a flair for the fantastic and a shift in the average marrying age have bred a new norm in which memories are made through footlong bar tabs and lush vacations, according to industry insiders and partygoers.

“It’s a huge financial burden for somebody who’s not making at least, I would say, $60,000 a year,” said Jake Lucas, a 26-yearold who asked for his real name to be concealed. “I work two jobs now and I really don’t want to be invited to a bachelor party in New York City.”

Lucas, who grew up in North Brunswick and now lives in Pennsylvania, has attended a handful of bachelor parties in places like Atlantic City and Manhattan. Each event differed on the details, but usually included dinner at top-notch steakhouses, generous portions of expensive liquor and strippers, he said.

And he has paid to play. Lucas spent about $1,500 during one outing alone. Lessexpensive nights left him in the hole for $500 to $600, he said.

In the frenzy of the moment, the gluttony almost seems normal — like middle-class cubicle dwellers have traded their lives for that of a professional athlete, he said.

“For that one night, you give yourself that illusion that you’re David Wright, Mark Messier or Amar’e Stoudemire, and you’re just this big-pimpin’, rollin’ New York City guy,” Lucas said. “At the end of the day, you’re like, ‘Wow, I spent that much money?’”

Take the time Lucas and his pals hit a strip club in Atlantic City. After they dodged the manager’s sales pitches for high-priced bottles of alcohol all night, one attendee finally caved. The group gained a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and was out $600 in an instant, Lucas said.

That’s a far cry from the one bachelor party that Lucas missed. A bunch of guys took a camping trip near the Delaware Water Gap, where they grilled, drank beer and ultimately protected their bank accounts, he said.

But more often people opt for high-end gatherings in an attempt to stand out from the one-night, hometown parties of yesterday, Lucas said. Hollywood might have strengthened that trend through hits like “The Hangover,” he said.

“They want to be extraordinary. They want to be unique and sexy,” he said. “It’s funny — in wanting to be unique, they wind up being the same as everyone else because that’s what everyone else is doing now.”

Jamie Miles, editor of the popular wedding website TheKnot.com, confirmed that the masses are hungry for the extravagant when it comes to bachelor and bachelorette parties. And travel is not taboo, she said.

Locations like Miami, Fla., Austin, Texas, New Orleans, La., California and upstate New York have gained popularity. Staples such as Las Vegas are still on party planners’ radar, too, Miles said.

“The attraction is less about the strippers and an erotic evening, and more about an actual experience, creating a more memorable event and turning it into a vacation for everyone else,” she said.

A group of 18-year-olds fresh to the workforce likely couldn’t afford those costly ventures. But since the average marrying age has climbed to 29 for brides and 31 for grooms, their friends typically have more cash to burn — or drink.

Strippers and raucous drinking don’t always appeal to those who are far-removed from college keg parties, Miles said. Beaches and vineyards could be the ticket for that demographic, she said.

Friends and members of the wedding party don’t necessarily live in the same neighborhood, either. Most bachelor and bachelorette parties force somebody to travel, so it’s not a stretch to move the entire affair elsewhere, Miles said.

The push to personalization killed any sense of a typical price range for bachelor and bachelorette parties, she said.

“You could spend the night in watching movies or you could be in San Juan, Puerto Rico, so the price varies a lot,” she said.

Kevin Russell, a 33-year-old Brick Township resident who asked for his real name to be concealed, recently went to New Orleans for his brother’s bachelor party. He expected each patron to drop anywhere from $1,400 to $2,000 on the weekend-long get-together.

The trip included an airboat tour across a swamp, rampant barhopping and a meal at one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants — by no means a traditional romp, Russell said.

But the steep price of admission was not a mandate, he said.

“I had six or seven options, and I put it to a vote because we had 10 or 11 people in the party,” he said. “… I let them know that the ones that are farther away would cost more.”

Just about everybody cast ballots in favor of a jaunt through the Big Easy. Rather than their wallets, they based their decision on what would make the groom happy and yield the best tales for those back home, he said.

“It’s not just a onenight hangout with your buddies,” Russell added. “It’s a combination of a bonding experience and something to look back on years later and say, ‘Wow, that was a lot of fun.’”

The slowly healing economy has stamped its mark on the bachelor and bachelorette party industry, said Pamela Yager, a Las Vegas-based planner who founded BridesNightOut.com. Yager, who worked in the field before bachelorette parties even had a name, said she has seen spending levels crest and break since the 1980s, depending on the nation’s fiscal clout.

“Even in the past year, I’m getting interest in bigger-price-tag items. It’s a weekend now,” she said of her bachelorette clients. “They’re planning weekends where they’re renting a house and going out. It’s turning into a little bit more of an extravaganza.”

Yager said she expects spending to continue to rise as ladies clad in cocktail dresses shell out cash for gatherings in nightclubs, burlesque dancing lessons and limos.

That’s also due to society’s acceptance of bachelorette parties, she said. Not long ago, pre-wedding celebrations for women were limited to bridal showers, she said.

Whatever the cause, party professionals like Yager are poised to make money for the time being. And that widespread spending, she said, could further boost the economy.