So you’ve been given the honour of being a Best Man. Awesome. Top of your list of priorities (with apologies to Brides and speech-lovers) will almost certainly be the Stag Do.
Each Stag Do is bound to be different, some grooms will want a complete expensive blow-out, others may want a quieter affair; ether way, this guide aims to help you plan the occasion to run as smoothly as possible. If you’ve never organised an event with a large group of people – all with different needs and expectations – it’s not as easy as you might think.
Before we start: This isn’t meant to be a rigorous guide – if you’re trying to plan meticulously how to have fun you’re probably not best suited to organising a stag do. Likewise if you’re thinking about not planning at all, it’ll be a recipe for disaster. What you can do however, is put all the ingredients in place to give everyone involved the best chance of enjoying themselves.
The days of the ‘lads’ weekend away aren’t over but they’re certainly changing. Budgets are a lot tighter than they used to be, and travel and accommodation costs much more expensive. Gone are the days of £29 return flights to Falaraki and dirt cheap hotels and booze.
Be wary throughout the planning of people’s financial situations — while there might be several people in the group with little responsibilities and plenty of spare cash, don’t forget those with less disposable income. On the other hand, the most important thing is that your groom has the time of his life. It’s finding the balance between those two things that will make the perfect stag do.
Don’t worry about establishing a budget – just be sensible. Even if you are all high-flying stockbrokers it’s likely that at least one of you has a tight budget so don’t go booking anything too extravagant. Even if you ask people if they can afford something, many will be too shy to say no. For a rough guide, most people would expect to pay between £200-£300 inclusive of everything for the weekend. Over that, and you would need to warn people. Similarly if you have the notion that everyone will be happy jetting off to Ibiza for a week, best actually ask up front.
If you break down the planning into small chronological chunks it will become easy.
1. Who’s on the List?
It’s surprising how many people forget this. Many a Best Man has started planning the ultimate trip with extreme sports, boozy bars and strip clubs, only to be told that the Bride’s father and uncle are coming.
So before you do anything else ask the Groom to produce a list of people he would like to come. Being his Best Man you will probably know most of his friends quite well but make sure he fills you in on anybody you may not be acquainted with. It’s important to know at this stage what type of people are coming and what they will be up for.
In addition to the list of names, ask the Groom for each person’s email address and mobile number. This will save you a lot of hassle later on.
2. Set a Date
It’s imperative to do this straight away so people can keep the date free. The standard Friday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime weekend event always works well. If you have to run into a weekday make sure it’s something everyone can do.
Don’t even worry about knowing where you are going, just get that date in the diary. If you do already have a location in mind check for big events on around that date; there’s little point planning a trip to Manchester if it’s the United vs City derby that weekend.
Top tip: Don’t give people a choice of weekends, as more than likely you will get a split vote and then have to make a horrible decision which people to disappoint. If the Groom has close friends that must be there, check with them first before you put a message out to the whole group.
3. Contacting the Group
Once you have the date set with the Groom, close friends and your own necessities sorted you can put out your first group message.
Almost certainly email is going to be the way forward here. While Facebook has a handy events page, you’ll find people tend not to use it as much to reply as their messages can be seen be the whole group.
At this stage you’ll want to send out a brief, chirpy email introducing yourself and asking people to save the date in their diaries. An example email would be as follows:
Subject: Gavin’s Stag Do!
If you are receiving this email you are one of the lucky chosen few to be asked to participate in the weekend of the year: Gavin’s Stag Do!
For those that don’t know me I’m one of Gav’s best friends from school and I’ve got the pleasure of arranging the best weekend of his life.
At the moment we are deciding over location but so that you can save the date in your calendar and book any holiday from work the stag do will be on FRIDAY 6TH – SUNDAY 8TH JUNE 2014.
Look forward to seeing you all then, I’ll be in touch very shortly with details of a location and costs.
It’s worth following up the email with a text message as well. That way if any email addresses are wrong or you have the odd person who never checks their email they can let you know:
‘Hi this is Smithy, Gav’s Best Man. Just to say I’ve sent everyone an email with the date of the Stag Do and will be in touch shortly with more details.’
At this point you may well get some replies saying people can’t make it. If the group is a dozen or more this is bound to happen, someone will have a holiday booked or something else already in diary, but unfortunately that’s just the way it is. If you try and accommodate everyone, you’ll never find a date everyone can do.
4. Choose a location
This will vary enormously depending on the kind of weekend you are after. As stated above, check your choices don’t have any big events on that weekend that will make the price of accommodation soar or transport arrangements difficult.
Once you have settled on a location, check in your head that everyone on the list can get there reasonably (both time-wise and financially) and that there’s suitable accommodation available on your chosen dates.
If you are unsure what to do, many people choose to based Stag Dos around an event (rugby match, horse racing, festivals or concerts, comedy gigs etc) or simply just pick one of Britain’s fine cities and go there. Obviously do a bit of research – some places are more geared up for Stag Dos than others.
5. Plan Activities / Estimate Costs
Assuming that you are having the usual city break weekend Stag Do, the usual schedule is:
Fri Afternoon / Evening: It is important to remember that not everyone will be arriving at the same time and will all want to drop off luggage at your accommodation before venturing out. With that in mind, you may well have a few hours at the start of the Stag Do where there’s a lot of hanging about, so a good meeting point is always a pub close to your accommodation. You could arrange a light activity (you don’t want to write off the next day), but bear in mind when people are likely to be arriving as anything too structured (ie. a sit-down event) may not be possible.
Saturday Day: The day’s activities will depend completely on the Groom. You’ll know best what he’ll enjoy. Save the heavy drinking for the evening (there’s no chance of 10+ men getting into any bars after 6pm if they are blind drunk already). Bear in mind three things: Feasibility (is it something everyone can enjoy/physically do?), Location (is it easy to get to?) and Cost (is it within a sensible price budget?).
Saturday Evening: The big night out, although ironically at this stage probably needs the least planning. Chances are you’ll just be in pubs, bars and clubs, so you can take that for granted.
Sunday: More than likely just breakfast and home. Despite what you might think now, there’s little chance come the morning after the night before you’ll be up for any sort of activity.
Once you have all that in mind, work out the rough price for the activities and factor in any transport costs.
Top tip: Don’t forget when you are calculating the costs, it’s traditional that everyone else chips in for the Groom. Don’t forget to allow for this or you will end up paying for him yourself!
5. Research Accommodation
The last thing to research is where to stay. Again, look at the group and think of everyone’s needs. You might be happy sleeping in a hostel but will the Groom’s Dad? If you are taking a city break, try to keep it as central as possible; although you might save a few quid by going out of town, you’ll soon rack that back up in transport costs. Also check the place allows stag dos (most hotels do, a LOT of smaller places don’t). Travelodges and Premier Inns are always good, and very cheap in advance. Lastly, don’t forget how people will be getting there; if everyone is likely to be driving try to get somewhere with parking or at least close by.
6. The Decisive Email
It’s time to get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from people. Even at this stage you don’t need perfect details, but with a date, location and accommodation and activity costs, most people can opt in or out.
Send an email as soon as possible, clearly stating when, where and how much. An example:
Subject: Gavin’s Stag Do – Please Reply
Hi guys, Smithy again here.
The details for the Stag Do have been arranged, we just need to know whether you can make it!
We will be going to CARDIFF on Friday June 6th. We are looking at having a night in the pub on the Friday, paragliding and paintballing Saturday daytime and then a night out in town in the evening.
There’s a Travelodge in the city centre for £29 per room per night. It has some parking but there’s an NCP close by (£12 a day) and the train station is a five minute walk.
Costs will be roughly:
Travelodge: £29 each (based on two sharing for two nights)
Paragliding: £35 each (for two hours)
Paintballing: £20 each (extra paintballs start from £10 per batch)
Minibus Hire for Saturday: £10 each
Contribution for Gav’s share: £15 each
If you would like to come please let me know BY SATURDAY 2ND FEBRUARY. We need to book the accommodation by then in order to get it at this price.
I will put the charges on my credit card and need paying by the end of the month if you are coming.
Looking forward to it!
Make sure to give everyone a firm deadline to reply. Chase up a couple of days before and make it clear you’ll only be booking for people who have replied. Again, it’s worth texting those you don’t hear from.
It’s up to you how you want to handle the money side of things. If it’s a group you know well you may wish to pay for everything in advance, trusting them to pay you back. However, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask people to pay by a certain date in order to guarantee their place.
7. Booking Accommodation and Events
Hopefully you will have heard back from everyone, and any that you haven’t know clearly that they risk not being able to book for themselves later.
Now it’s the easy part. Book your accommodation, and any events that need pre-booking. You can then send a confirmation email to everyone in the group:
Subject: Gavin’s Stag Do – BOOKED!
Hi guys, thanks to those that have got back to me and paid.The following people are booked in for the Travelodge, Paintballing and Paragliding (with the exception of Gary who’s too scared to Paraglide): Budgie, Fingers, Chinese Alan, Dirtbox, Swede, Jesus and Gary.
Simon and Luggy: You have not been booked in, if you want to come you’ll have to let me know and I’ll tell you what you need to do.
That’s it for now, I’ll be in touch closer to the event. Trains go on sale next week, so feel free to book them. Car parking is available and will need pre-booking at least two weeks before.
That’s it, you’re done. Well at least the hard work anyways. And hopefully months in advance. By planning in advance you can make it much easier for yourself and everyone else. It’s tempting to be cool and relaxed as it’s a ‘lads thing’ but being a little bit firm – without going too ‘briefcase’ about it – will pay dividends in the end.
Nearer the Event
Final details can be sorted out a couple of weeks before the event. Fancy dress is one to give people a bit of notice about, although you may just want to dress up the groom 1. You might also want to book a table for a meal one of the nights; it’s good to do this a little in advance as restaurants might struggle to fit in a large group.
Give everyone a final email or text the week before, just to check if there’s any questions. There’s bound to be some people who aren’t as organised as you. And make sure everyone has your number so they can get hold of you when they are arriving.
On the actual stag be as friendly and helpful as possible (at least to start with), there may be a lot of people who don’t know each other. Once everyone has settled in you can let your hair down and enjoy yourself.
Once it’s all over, you best get writing that speech.
- Fancy dress is always good and an easy way to embarrass the groom-to-be without much effort or putting them out. Be sensible though. The biggest mistake people make is choosing something unsuitable then trying to go out clubbing and being refused entry. There’s no point you all turning up in smart shoes and shirts if one of your party is dressed as a gimp with his butt cheeks poking through leather. ↩