My hairdresser is in New Orleans right now, celebrating her impending nuptials with a pack of girlfriends and a generous dose of Cajun spice.
A kosher oenophile acquaintance, who will marry in June, is bound for Napa Valley with her attendants. And before she ties the knot in Barcelona this summer, yet another friend is flying her BFFs in for a week in Miami.
Move over, honeymoon. Today, many brides don’t wait for the nuptials to indulge their wanderlust; they jet off with bridesmaids in tow, turning what used to be a night of bar-hopping downtown into a weekend getaway — or a full-fledged vacation.
Grooms do this too, of course — though the entire phenomenon is more common in Europe, where flights are typically shorter and cheaper. (Every weekend, so-called “stag” and “hen” partiers from Great Britain make drunken merry in cities across the Continent.)
For many, however, going out of town is an opportunity to bond with pals over more than a single, booze-fueled evening. Two or three days offers time for good conversation along with sightseeing, spa visits, shopping and the beach (you can still bar-hop by night).
Despite Americans’ famous lack of vacation time, the destination event trend has been growing for a while now — so perhaps it’s inevitable that yet another rite of passage has morphed from a single-day occasion to a travel experience.
Hearing about this year’s crop of getaways, my knee-jerk reaction was to bemoan the increasingly extravagant cost of entry to what used to be fairly homespun rituals. But then I realized: How often, once spring break and graduation are in the rear-view mirror, do you get to vacation with your best friends?
Not often enough, especially once kids come on the scene. Still, would-be stags and hens should keep a few things in mind.
Be sensitive about cost. Years later, you want everyone to feel nostalgic, not resentful.
Especially with some revelers of lesser means, hosts may opt to include a portion of the getaway, such as the hotel or Airbnb, in the overall wedding budget. Others quietly cover the airfare for friends on a shoestring.
Another option: Book an all-inclusive resort, which eliminates all the tallying and anxiety.
Offer choices. Leave the must-have destination for your honeymoon. Present your friends with several possible options and see which elicits the most enthusiasm.
You might suggest one drivable spot, like a Berkshires resort or a downtown Boston hotel; one mid-priced destination that’s not too far away and has plenty of flight options, like South Florida or Montréal; and a more luxurious option, like the California Wine Country or a Costa Rica eco-lodge, in case everyone’s on board with serious vacation time, a generous budget, or both.
Pick a spot that’s easy to get to. If flying, seek out destinations with abundant flights so guests have plenty of fare, scheduling and contingency options. Keep flights to four hours or less nonstop.
Consider activities beyond the classic beach-by-day, bars-by-night formula. Not every newlywed-to-be likes to drink.
In recent years, I’ve heard about biking and camping trips; art tours of picturesque towns like Marfa, Texas, or Sedona, Ariz.; spa package weekends; and, from my oenophile friend, wine-tasting tours (an upscale take on bar-hopping). Other ideas: Sign up for a cooking class, attend a painting-with-wine evening, or take a day cruise somewhere scenic.
For a short getaway, coordinate transportation where possible, making the journey part of the fun. Drive together, or in pairs. Book the same flight — that way, any delays are a shared experience rather than a disaster.
Balmy, lively New Orleans, my hairdresser’s choice, is an excellent destination for a variety of reasons. Numerous airlines offer the three-hour nonstop flight from New York; with round-trip fares under $300, it’s an easy weekend plan.
New Orleans also has a nice balance of raucous nightlife for those who want it, music and neighborhoods to explore, and fine dining — including several kosher eateries and a new restaurant from Israeli celebrity chef Alon Shaya set to open this spring.
Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatan coast are all perennially popular for their mix of sun, sand, kosher infrastructure and convenience. They’re a particularly good bet for the many pre-wedding getaways that take place between Passover and the August onset of hurricane season: Rates are low, weather reliably warm.
Really, any place good friends convene is guaranteed fun — so make the most of it.