Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Planning a stag

I wrote this for work but it didn't get used. The images didn't come out properly and the formatting of the 'where' section is a bit off as a result. Please ignore this and pretend the empty boxes are pretty pictures of the cities mentioned instead ;D

Putting together a stag celebration:

Marriage is a huge commitment. If you choose the traditional vows, you are agreeing to stay with the person you love for the rest of your life, through good times and bad, through sickness and health. It is understandable, then, that a tradition has developed allowing both soon-to-be-weds one last night of freedom before tying the knot.

But few people realise that stag nights are a huge commitment too. If you’ve been chosen for the traditional role of best man, you are obliged to offer uninterrupted assistance and support the groom in the lead up to, and indeed during, his special day, as well as being expected to throw him an absolutely epic party to celebrate his last night of freedom. It is lucky, then, that this informative guide has been developed to run you through the Five Ws (and One H) of how to plan the perfect stag night.

Why have a stag night?

Do you really need a reason beyond it being an excuse to go out, and have fun with the lads?! If yes, here’s two more:

It’s manly: The terms “stag” and “buck”, both meaning male deer, pertain to the masculine qualities of the leader of the herd (i.e. the groom). Just as a male deer competes for mates through physical challenges with other members of the herd, the groom’s masculine qualities are challenged through excessive drinking, immature behaviour, and maybe even encounters with scantily clad females.

It’s traditional, although there is much speculation to how the tradition developed. Some historians have traced the stag night’s origins to ancient Sparta, where it is thought that Spartan soldiers would hold a feast and make merry before the wedding of their comrades. With such historic roots, we can safely assume this is a tried and tested method.

What happens on a stag night?

While alternatives are available, Wikipedia says of stag nights that “getting drunk and participating in stag activities is now the norm”. A plethora of packages are available on the internet, offering everything from organised pub crawls, to Go Karting, to paintball, to Kalashnikov shooting, to white water rafting. There is also a growing trend to extend the stag night to a stag weekend, and take it abroad. With all these options to consider, how do you go about narrowing it down?

Find out what’s on offer: Get a pen and some paper, type “stag night activities” into Google, and make a list of those that look fun / interesting / cheap. Bear in mind that this is a group affair; try to avoid tailoring activities to much to your own interests and think about what the group will enjoy.

Find out what others have done: There’s no need to plan this alone. Asking people who have previously organised or participated in stag celebrations for advice could be a good idea: Friends and trendy co-workers are a safe bet, random members of the public and parents probably not so much. Add any especially good suggestions to your list.

Find out what the stag wants: This is perhaps the most important aspect of planning the stag party. If the stag doesn’t enjoy himself, it’s likely that other members of the party won’t either. It’s also likely that your inability to throw a good party will be the butt of jokes for years to come (and nobody wants that). Once you’ve prepared a comprehensive list of what’s on offer with prices, and analysis of the pros and cons of each, sit down with the stag and find out his thoughts and preferences. Remember this is his party, so don’t be disheartened if he rejects all your ideas and insists on the tacky ones you wrote off at the first opportunity.

Where should the stag night take place?

The UK has plenty of thriving cities that are very stag friendly. Places that kept cropping up in top 10 lists for stag locations include London, Leeds, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Brighton, Edinburgh and Dublin. However, thanks to the increase in cheap flights from budget airlines, Continental Europe is becoming a popular choice for stag parties. With 45 countries available (51 if you count the 6 we share with Asia), each with its own cultural and social specialities, taking your stag event abroad is seriously worth considering. Below are three stag friendly European capitals, with concise guides as to what’s on offer:

Amsterdam, The Netherlands:


Famous for bicycles, coffeeshops (one word) and its tolerant attitudes.

Why go? Amsterdam is famous for it’s relaxed attitudes to many things that are taboo elsewhere.

Rough prices (in Euro): Hostel pppn ~20-25 single, ~55-80 double.

3 course meal ~20-30.

Pint ~5.

Budapest, Hungary:


Famous for thermal baths, paprika and its beauty.

Why go? Budapest is a beautiful city that offers everything from culture to a vibrant nightlife.

Rough prices (in Hungarian Forint): Hostel pppn ~4800-5000 single, ~10000-16500 double.

3 course meal ~4500-5500.

Pint ~600.

Prague, Czech Republic:

Famous for Prague Castle, nightlife, and its history.

Why go? Prague is cheap, varied and great fun. A perfect backdrop for a weekend of shenanigans.

Rough prices (in Czech Crowns): Hostel pppn ~285-430 single, ~1100-1500 double.

3 course meal ~285-400.

Pint ~50.

When choosing a location, consider the budget: You’ll want to make sure that the stag’s entourage can afford to come. When you send out the invites (see the Who section), include some information about what’s planned and how much it’s likely to cost. It may help to overestimate slightly because it’s better to have money left over at the end than to run out half way through!

The transport: Logistics are an important part of planning, and it’s vital that transport is organised for everybody, for the whole trip. If you’re catching a train or bus from a terminus or a plane from an airport, make sure you have transport to take you to there. Get your pen and paper out again, and write down the journey from start to finish with times, route / flight numbers, and any other information you may find useful. Print out any tickets in duplicate so that you can give everyone theirs and keep a backup copy behind just in case.

The fun potential: Try to find a location that everyone will enjoy, and that offers the activities you and the stag settled on back in the What section. The internet will help you find out what’s available, or if you’re feeling particularly resourceful, get some guidebooks out of the local library

When should the stag party take place?

Timing the stag festivities is a fine procedure. Allowing a day or two for everyone to recover from their monstrous hangovers is an obvious courtesy, but also consider other factors. For example, after the banterous hijinks that occurred on the stag, the groom may appreciate a couple of weeks to let his eyebrows / hair / dignity grow back in time for his special day.

Leave time to plan and prepare: As a general rule, the longer you spend planning, the better the results. Make sure you give yourself ample time to write up lists of activities, finalise the guest list, compare and book travel and accommodation, hassle members of the party for cash, and pack your bag. You know best how organised and efficient you are as a planner, so set yourself a time frame. Then double it just to be sure.

Leave time to make changes: Sadly, things can go wrong. Flying? Volcanic ash, adverse weather, engine failures and numerous other factors may interfere with your plans. Taking public transport? Watch out for road closures, traffic jams and strike action. Try and leave a buffer period so that if something untoward happens, you can organise a makeshift alternative with minimum stress.

Leave time to recover: This was mentioned in the introduction to this section, but I really feel it should be reiterated.

Who should be involved?

This can be tricky. An ideal stag group should compromise a select few of the stag’s closest friends, but when he’s such a popular guy, how do you know who his favourites are? And how do you go about not offending those who aren’t invited?

Let the stag decide: One of the easiest ways to avoid misunderstandings and conflict, is to pass the responsibility to someone else. Tell the stag to choose between 8 and 14 of his chums, emphasising that they should all get on and should all enjoy activities similar in nature to those you discussed previously (in the What section). Skim his selection for any discrepancies, and when you’re sure it all adds up, send out the invites.

Let the invitees consider the invite: Don’t hassle everyone immediately after they receive the invitations. Carving a weekend out of their schedule to abandon their responsibilities in favour of partying with the guys probably requires some negotiation with their loved ones, so give them a week or two to get it sorted. If you follow the advice in the When section, waiting for these responses shouldn’t be an issue.

Let them get on with it: Once the guest list is confirmed and invites have been sent, considered and responded to, you can turn your mind to other things. If the attendees have any issues they can come to you, so don’t spend any time worrying unnecessarily about whether they’ll get on, whether they’ll enjoy themselves, or whatever else. Ultimately they’re all friends with the stag, and someone as cool as him will have rigorous selection criteria when making friends to weed out any undesirables.

Hot tips:

And now for the final section, a selection of tips that didn’t fit too well anywhere else (apologies if you were expecting “how” to follow the Five Ws):

  • Get personalised T-shirts for the group! Not only will you look really cool, but it’ll be easier to keep track of each other.
  • Set up a beer fund: If everyone gives you a tenner, you’ll have a generous amount with which to buy the stag’s drinks.
  • Use price comparison websites when booking travel: SkyScanner is good for flights, HostelWorld is good for hostels.
  • Print brief itineraries to give to members of the party: this makes it easier to find each other if something goes wrong.
  • Print “get-me-home” cards for everyone, with their name, the address of the hostel, and your phone number: this means if they’re unable to find their way home after a night out, they won’t be stranded in a foreign city.