Forget the limo ride downtown. Brides-to-be are taking their parties out of town.
The itinerary for 14 women traveling to New York went like this: dinner in Manhattan, a "Sex and the City" tour, "Chicago" on Broadway, lingerie party, drinks on the Gansevoort rooftop and dancing at a VIP nightclub.
This is the new normal for bachelorette parties.
Brides-to-be and their closest friends are packing their stilettos and sparkly dresses and hitting the road instead of staying home for their prenuptial parties. For these weekend trips to cities such as New York and Las Vegas, women are shelling out hundreds of dollars to celebrate the bride. Despite the cost -- and the tension it can cause -- they are embracing "destination" bachelorette parties.
About 52 percent of brides are traveling for these festivities, according to a recent survey conducted by the Knot, a popular wedding magazine and website.
Some brides even have several parties -- in town and on the road. The phenomenon is so widespread that men are embracing the trend.
"For some, these trips can mean a weekend upstate renting a cabin with the girls, or it can mean flying to Miami and partying it up on the strip," said Anya Winikka, the Knot website director.
For her bachelorette party, Jennifer Mahlik, 27, of Minneapolis, flew to Chicago with her friends for a weekend filled with shopping, fine dining and spa appointments.
Initially, Mahlik had invited 20 women, but she knew it was unrealistic to expect all of her friends to attend the Chicago rendezvous. She made it clear to the invitees that she would understand if someone couldn't make it, especially for financial reasons. In the end, 10 women joined her. The trip, she said, cost each friend $500 to $600.
"Some were uncomfortable spending that much," Mahlik said. "But there was no drama, and I wasn't upset."
While Mahlik's friends might not have minded, the cost does ruffle some women, said Jennae Saltzman, a lead event planner with St. Paul-based Bellagala.
"The girl that isn't able to come sometimes has to come up with a ridiculous excuse like 'My grandma is sick' and can't just say, 'Sorry, I cannot afford it,'" Saltzman said.
Brides sometimes think that a destination party at a nearby cabin or a quick trip to Chicago will save their friends money, since they don't have to travel very far, Saltzman said. But costs of being in a wedding quickly add up.
"Bridesmaids are still paying for gifts, alcohol, flights, shoes and dresses," she said. "It's actually adding more expenses to their bridal party and stresses to their bridesmaids."
Vacation with 'the girls'
The majority of brides who take these trips are financially established and have the ability to take vacation time, wedding experts say. Some women are willing to take on the expense because they see the party as an excuse for a vacation.
Nicole Green, 27, of Minneapolis, traveled to Las Vegas for her friend's party, which was planned six months in advance. She said that gave her time to save money for the three-day trip, which cost about $500.
"If you are able to hold back in other areas and have ample time to save, it's definitely worth it," Green said. "It's something that may only happen once in your friend's life, and it's not just a trip for that person but for everyone to enjoy."
Krista Jacobson, 31, of St. Paul, went to New York with the group of 14 who embarked on the "Sex and the City" tour and other Manhattan highlights. She also went to a bachelorette party in Washington, D.C., last year. Each trip cost her about $500.
"There were some people who opted not to go, but I am always looking for reasons to travel and do things with my girls," Jacobson said.
The ladies aren't the only ones planning destination prenuptial parties. Kyle Eggers and his group of friends traveled to Albuquerque for his bachelor party -- for a very specific reason.
Even though the New Mexico city is not Party Central, it is home to "Breaking Bad," the hit AMC show about a chemistry teacher turned drug dealer.
"It was something unusual, and we were all huge fans of the show," said Eggers, who surprised his friends with a studio tour of the show. "We saw all the cars and a lot of the site locations and the television studio. We also got to see some Season 5 spoilers, which was pretty interesting."
It's tradition at most bachelor and bachelorette parties for the attendees to cover the groom's and bride's expenses. But the usual etiquette doesn't fly with destination parties.
Eggers paid only for his flight to Albuquerque. But "I tried to pay for meals and got yelled at a lot," Eggers said.
Mahlik, the bride who went to Chicago, said she paid for all of her expenses, except a few meals.
"As a bride, you have to be sensitive to what's going on in your friends' lives," Winikka said. "Offering to pitch in should be a common courtesy."
Not every bride will be able to travel for her party, and neither may her friends. Winikka said a destination bachelorette party should not be an expectation for the wedding party. It's something they choose to give the bride-to be.
Regardless of how extravagant or low-key the party is, Saltzman said brides should remember one thing:
"You should be mindful of the different people who know and love you best. It is about you, but your wedding is also about everyone that you love as well."
Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028 • Twitter: @amatos12
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