I had always thought I would go on a cruise with my bridesmaids to celebrate the ending of being a bachelorette. However, in 2016, I read a story about how Pitch Perfect’s Anna Camp and Skylar Astin hosted a joint bachelor-bachelorette party, and I was hooked on the idea. After reading that article, I realized it wasn’t important to me to celebrate the ending of being a bachelorette—it was more important to celebrate marrying my love and joining our bridal party into one clique.
I was nervous broaching the subject with my fiancé. I was ready with every talking point on why this was smart, how it would work, and how much fun we would have. Even so, it didn’t take much to convince him that this was the greatest idea of all time.
Joining up Both Sides of Your Bridal Party
A breakdown of our bridal party:
|Bride – NYC
|Groom – NYC
|Maid of Honor (Groom’s Sister) – FL
|Best Man (Bride’s Brother) – FL
|Bridesmaid (Bride’s Cousin) – NYC
|Groomsman (Groom’s Cousin) – FL
|Bridesmaid (Bride’s Cousin) – NYC
|Groomsman (Bride’s Cousin) – FL
|Bridesmaid (Bride’s Cousin) – PA
|Groomsman (Best Friend of Groom since Grad School) – TX
|Bridesmaid (Best Friend of B&G since High School) – NYC
|Groomsman (Best Friend and once Roommate of B&G since Undergrad) – FL
Before our trip, everyone had already known at least one person in the bridal party other than the bride and groom. My husband and I met in high school, so we had many years for our circles to collide. Even if you haven’t known each other for as long as we did, chances are that your group may have met at birthday parties, Friendsgivings, or other events. And if they haven’t, what’s stopping you? Join up the people you love for a get-together before your trip! We even started a group text chain and Facebook message before the trip to get everyone pumped and the conversations flowing.
Where to Go
Hubby and I thought of what we and our bridal party would like to do. We all like to travel, like amusement parks, and love Harry Potter. We wanted to make the trip as affordable as possible for everyone, so instead of picking a place far away that we had never been before, we decided to go to Orlando, Florida. It ticked off every box on our must-have list. Half of our bridal party was currently living in Florida, so it was a quick drive for them to get to central Florida (some even carpooled). Orlando was great for the out-of-towners too, because Orlando has a large international airport, flights into Orlando are reasonably priced, and it is a large city with many options for hotels and food that could stay within everyone’s budget. We also hadn’t been to Harry Potter World (within Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure) as a couple since that part of the park first opened. The park had already been on phase two of the expansion of Harry Potter World, so it was exciting to see the new rides and shops.
When to Go
From the beginning, we knew that if we did a joint party, we wanted to keep everyone in the same hotel. Normally, I would say to run Kayak.com searches to compare cheapest dates to fly and cheapest dates for a hotel. Once you narrow down those searches, then you have picked the most affordable time of year to go on your trip.
Do keep in mind that certain activities need to be done at specific times of the year. For example, the cherry blossoms in Japan or the tulips in Holland can only be viewed at specific weeks or months of the year. Also keep the seasons in mind, because some activities are best done or not done in certain weather. For example, if you are planning a cruise, you may want to avoid hurricane season.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to take a quick poll as to when your bridal party are all available simultaneously for a vacation.
Where to Stay
We were fortunate enough to own a timeshare that had enough points available for our trip. So instead of running the Kayak searches, we logged into our timeshare website and searched for anytime before the wedding that had a single room that would hold 12 people (assuming everyone was coming). I can’t express how lucky we were that there was a super nice hotel, not too far from the theme park, that could hold all 12 of us! Best part was, we used points and didn’t have to pay! We saved our bridal party a bundle on hotel accommodations. If you are like the majority of new couples and don’t own a timeshare, then I really encourage you to do the research. There are several options that you could take advantage of to accommodate your whole bridal party:
- There are hotels like Embassy Suites that offer suite-style rooms with a bedroom and living room which can accommodate up to 6 people (2 queens and a pullout sofa). You could get 2 suites: one for each side of the engaged couple. You could also get connecting rooms if you wanted the feel of everyone being together. If anyone is uncomfortable sharing a bed with someone else, then cots and airbeds are always an option, but those extra beds will sometimes encroach upon the common space in the suite. The hotel will have common spaces you can hang out in, but sometimes it’s nice to just lounge in your own living room.
- Regular hotel rooms which can accommodate up to 4 people. You can get a few connecting rooms. Same disadvantage as above.
- You could rent a large penthouse like we did which holds everyone in one place with large common areas (kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, balconies). Something to also think about is if bride and groom will be having their own private room. We had our own room in the penthouse. It also had laundry facilities, which was convenient.
- You could AirBnb an entire house. We initially looked into this, because it seemed like a good idea for privacy and to have our own pool. We most likely would have gone this route had we not had a timeshare because it was more affordable than a hotel. The disadvantage to us was that the house was a little farther distance away from the theme parks.
Besides spending a day in Harry Potter World, we wanted to think of other fun activities that could help our group bond.
- Decorate the hotel room(s) – Since we were all staying in one penthouse, hubby and I (plus one Groomsman) left for the grocery store to stock the fridges with plenty of food and drinks, and the Bridesmaids and Groomsmen that stayed behind decorated the entire room with Harry Potter-themed paraphernalia
- Joint group meals – No better way to bond than over food. We built several joint mealtimes into our trip. Whether at a restaurant or cooking taco night at the hotel, they were all fun.
- Escape the room – Helped everyone work together towards the common goal of the escape. Our group actually broke the record for quickest escape on that particular room. We went to The Great Escape Room in Orlando, which could accommodate our group of 11 in one room all together.
- Bar hopping – Who doesn’t like a good bar hop? We found an area in downtown Orlando close to the escape room that had a bar for everyone. We floated around the area, stopping into several different bars. My favorite was this game/arcade-themed bar named Joystick Arcade Lounge. I think we had the most fun at this one.
- Lounging poolside – Our hotel had a couple really great pool areas. It was nice to make a drink and just relax. Napping poolside was also essential for some of us to get through the days, because our itinerary was jam-packed!
- “Bridal Party Olympics” – Our awesome Maid of Honor came up with a whole bunch of games that girls played against guys one night. Let’s just say GIRLS RULE!
- Night where Bridesmaids and Groomsmen split up – Even though we were planning to all be together for five days, it was still important to hubby and me to have one night where we could just bond with our individual crews. These evenings were planned by the Best Man and Maid of Honor and were a total surprise to the bride and groom.
- Girls hit the ground running with a fun bar called Howl at the Moon, followed by a nice dinner at Charley’s Steak House.
- Guys started the night off with a virtual reality Star Wars Experience, then they had dinner at Morimoto Japanese Restaurant.
So what did our full itinerary look like?
We were really lucky that our Maid of Honor is also a wedding planner. Look at this super organized document she put together for everyone that included dates, times, weather, activities, individual pricing, and what to wear! We even had matching Harry Potter and Star Wars-themed outfits, hats, and other goodies!
NOTE: You may notice in the itinerary that we start our stay at one hotel, then on day two transfer to the penthouse. We initially booked the penthouse. Then, months later, when we went to book flights, the New Yorkers found insane flight deals for the day before our hotel check-in. When we did the math, it made total sense to fly in a day early and split a couple cheap hotel rooms for the night before checking into the penthouse. Plus we got one more night with everyone, and breakfast at the cheap hotel was included but really delicious! I advise you to do this kind of research. Search the day before and the day-of for flights. You never know the deals that you can find.
Just remember a few points:
- It’s a big world out there! If you keep in mind your and your bridal parties’ interests, you can easily narrow down a destination. Other factors such as budget and hometowns/travel may also be considered when picking location.
- Think of group activities that join everyone together. Whether dancing the night away at a bar or putting their heads together to escape a room, your group will connect and create memories to last a lifetime.
- Do your research!! It is a lot of coordinating but worth it in the end. Maybe make the research a job for Maid of Honor or Best Man to help with.
- Go with the flow. Traveling with this many people is an interesting experience. My Type-A planner personality definitely needed to learn to let go a bit. It’s important to note that either Bride and Groom have final say OR majority rules. Make this clear from the beginning.
- This is a more unconventional and modern twist to the bachelor/bachelorette party. Maybe not everyone is initially on board with it. Our crew was super chill and go with the flow. They saw our excitement with the plan and just went along with it.
- Don’t be upset if someone can’t attend. I had a bridesmaid back out. Weddings are expensive, and there are a lot of things to pay for leading up to a wedding. You never know the financial situations people are going through. Don’t be upset with someone who backs out or says no from the get-go.
From personal experience, hubby and I still look back on this vacation as one of the best memories in our lifetime. Having all your favorite people in one place to celebrate was so awesome. By the end of the 5 days, those who had just met were now friends, we all had inside jokes, and I think you could tell during wedding weekend how close everyone was.
Special thanks to our amazing crew that let us post their pics above.
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