When it came time for Megan Lunetta and her friends to celebrate her impending marriage, they didn’t just pick up a batch of plastic tiaras at the party store and spend a night bar-hopping through Charlestown, where she lives.
They flew together to a boutique hotel in Miami Beach for a four-day bachelorette bash that included a lingerie party, a boat cruise, a 4 a.m. concert by the rapper 50 Cent, gourmet meals at oceanside restaurants, pool and beach time, and a drag brunch.
It was an ambitious schedule laid out with military precision — “Megan’s Bachelorette Weekend” — in stylish calligraphy framed in ferns. And it’s an example of how bachelor and bachelorette parties are getting bigger, longer, more elaborate, and farther-flung.
“It’s just become more of the norm,” said Lunetta, 27, a paralegal. “Not everyone goes on a trip. I know plenty of people who stay somewhat local. But a weekend or a long weekend seems more the standard thing lately.”
The first among her friends to get married, she said, she thought of her bachelorette party “as a nice thing for all of us. None of us had ever been on a group trip together.” And as the pandemic waned, “we were all really excited to go and do something fun.”
That kind of pent-up demand is among the reasons destination bachelor and bachelorette parties are blowing up. Another is that people are getting married later in life, on average — 30 for men and 29 for women, according to the Census Bureau, compared to 27 and 25 in 2000 (and 25 and 22 in 1980) — and have more disposable income and time off from work.
“If this was happening five years earlier, we certainly wouldn’t have been able to go to Miami for four days on a whim,” Lunetta said.
Meanwhile, weddings have steadily been getting smaller, the wedding website The Knot reports, in part because the cost per guest has grown so high. And many brides, grooms, and their friends are spending the money instead on over-the-top pre-wedding parties.
“It’s really exploding,” said Pam Gilbert, director of sales and marketing at the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale, Ariz., which has become such a hot spot for bachelorette parties that the hotel this year launched packages for them with designated concierges who will decorate the bride’s room and arrange for private cabanas, “sparties,” aerial yoga classes, sunrise hot-air balloon rides — even commemorative matching tattoos.
“This is an age group that grew up with lavish, themed birthday parties. And now they have this other really important moment happening in their lives,” said Gilbert. “Some of them come in and spend almost as much as they might for a small wedding.”
There’s the James Bond role-playing adventure marketed by the UK company Pelorus, for example, in which the groom and 11 of his friends take a super yacht to Greenland, where they jet-surf to the shore, board waiting snowmobiles, and hunt for clues to disarm “explosives” at an abandoned radar station before enjoying a meal prepared by a private chef. The cost of playing 007 for 12 days, not including chartering the yacht: $500,000.
The Nightfall Group, a luxury home rental company in Beverly Hills, rents Hollywood-style mansions for weekend-long bachelor and bachelorette parties of 25 in Los Angeles or Miami that can include champagne, a four-course dinner prepared by a private chef, a brunch bar, spa services, a six-hour yacht cruise, a private yoga class, a professional photo shoot, and a personal concierge. Together with a private airport shuttle and refrigerator stocked with snacks, and not including the house, this adds up to $32,000.
The five-night Bachelorette Getaway to Paradise at Calabash Cove Resort and Spa in Saint Lucia boasts a cottage with a private pool for the bride to be, cocktail parties, meals including a daily lobster dish, a spa day, and a day sail. It costs $21,450 at peak season.
The new four-night Pre-Wedding in the Palace Package at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is for bachelor and bachelorette parties alike, and costs $20,000 for six people who stay in the 2,500-square-foot Palace Suite and get champagne, beach access, a private patio, a barbecue cookout by a personal chef, a mixology class, a poolside tent, lawn games, a karaoke session, VIP tickets to a luau, and a food and beverage credit.
As couples put off marriage until they’re older, “they can take longer trips, and that’s the audience for this package,” said Krystle Alcain, the Hyatt’s marketing director.
Sandy Pappas, founder of Sandy Pappas Travel, arranged a bachelor party for a group of 10 30- and 40-something financial services types who booked a house in Jackson Hole, Wyo., with a private chef, a fly-fishing excursion, hiking and shooting with a private guide in Grand Teton National Park, and a sommelier and whiskey expert who hosted a whiskey tasting. The price for four nights: $3,500 each, not including airfare.
“There is all this demand for travel in general,” said Pappas, who has many Bostonians among her clients. “People are thinking ‘go big.’ But a lot of them are not so much into the old-school bachelor party. They don’t want to get drunk and feel terrible. They want to come back feeling refreshed and not just worn out.”
That’s led to another trend, of bachelor and bachelorette parties being planned around wellness activities such as spin and yoga classes, or outdoor adventures. “People want to do something that’s energizing, exciting, and physical but also hang out,” said Emily Yearwood, digital marketing manager at Northern Outdoors, which has seen a jump in bachelor and bachelorette party bookings for its whitewater rafting trips in Maine that include stays in the lodge, dips in the hot tub, ATV rides, and visits to the on-site microbrewery.
“Instead of the good old days of going to a bar and not being able to remember it, people are realizing they can have some pretty cool adventures,” said Jimmy Carroll, a former British Army reconnaissance officer and cofounder of Pelorus, which runs that $500,000 James Bond fantasy trip. “They want to get out and experience something different, which they probably won’t be able to do once they have families.”
Of course, the prices risk alienating friends who can’t afford to come along.
The median cost of attending a bachelor or bachelorette party is somewhere between $1,500, based on a survey by Savings.com, to $7,000, according to bookings made through The Bach app. Either amount is only compounded for people with several friends getting married at around the same time. A separate survey by LendingTree found that 56 percent of women felt pressured to spend more to attend a bachelorette party than they could afford. And yet another survey, by Priceline.com, found that 45 percent of people don’t go as a result.
None of this has slowed the growth of an industry of consultants, concierges, apps, and websites promising the most memorable bachelor and bachelorette parties since soldiers in Sparta started celebrating grooms before they married and women in ancient Greece spent the eve of their weddings making sacrifices to the gods.
“A bachelor or bachelorette weekend takes a lot of planning. It’s a new niche, one that’s up and coming and one we’re going to see a lot more of,” said Lia Bancroft of Lia Bancroft Events, a Boston wedding planner who is involved in all aspects of her clients’ celebrations. “It used to be that a bachelor or bachelorette party would just be a night on the town. Now it’s become expected to have a multiday event, where travel is involved, lodging is involved, and friends are expected to take time off work.”
The reason people hire a bachelor or bachelorette party planner, said Allison Odhner, founder of the consulting company Bach to Basic, “is to have these experiences completely customized to the bride or groom and the group that’s celebrating them.”
Besides, she said, with help, the best man and maid of honor “can enjoy themselves, too.”
“It’s their time to let loose, so we take the work off their hands,” said Mariana Pena, the “bach guru” at the Kimpton Surfcomber Hotel in Miami, whose Bach It Up package includes private poolside cabanas, a mixology class, and a daily until-2:30 p.m. all-you can-eat brunch.
Some bachelor and bachelorette parties are still largely old-school, if higher end.
Other hotels in Miami — now the third-most-popular bachelor and bachelorette party destination, according to The Bach, right behind Nashville and Scottsdale, Ariz., and ahead of Las Vegas — will arrange bachelorette parties that include ice-filled inflatable pools of booze, prosecco pong, tickets to the Magic Mike show, and hangover kits, for instance. The San Diego nightclub Side Bar offers a bachelor and bachelorette party that includes six bottles of Dom Perignon for $5,000. And Crazy Horse 3, a gentleman’s club in Vegas, has a $25,000 VIP bachelor party package with top-flight alcohol and dancers.
“At our dads’ bachelor parties, a bunch of guys got in a room and drank and watched a stag film. And now it’s about going out and being seen,” said Nando Sostilio, a Newton native who started his career as a doorman and promoter at Boston’s M-80 and now owns the Crazy Horse 3.
“Guys want to be ballers. They want to sit in a place with bottles of Dom Perignon and tequila and draw all kinds of attention to themselves.”
But for Megan Lunetta and other brides and grooms, she said, that’s not necessarily what these parties are about.
“Some of these friends, we were in diapers together,” Lunetta said. “So it was more about celebrating these relationships that have brought me to this point in my life and less of, ‘Oh, this is the last time I’ll be single.’ “
Jon Marcus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.