There we were, on a wayward Colorado River beach, taking pulls off a bag of wine. Giving new meaning to the phrase, rosé all day. Behold, the river bachelorette party. Midway through day one and we had already accomplished unabashed slap the bag wino photo ops and the token bride-to-be overboard swim (ejected from her tandem on mild rapids). Check and check.
Still left on the checklist? We’ll get back to that.
You may ask, how we decided to combine a river trip and a bachelorette party? Like most good ideas, ‘twas a last-minute whim. I was already heading to Salt Lake City for my annual visit to see my bestie. We had planned a two-day, three-night ragtag river trip, all to take place on the Colorado and Green River daily sections. And although she had initially protested having a traditional hen’s night, with her wedding—and this trip—right around the corner, I couldn’t resist. After looking at a Venn diagram of river trip and bachelorette party activities and descriptors, I noticed so many aspects of the modern adventure bachelorette party and the timeless river trip were in alignment ( i.e. Google search bachelorette + party + ideas: find glamping, slumber party, off roading, etc). With that realization locked in, the stars just seemed to align.
I found that mixing traditional bachelorette party flavors on a river trip platter, produced the perfect recipe for my bestie’s surprise marriage-send-off weekend! Here are my suggested ingredients for success.
The Pre-Trip Gift Bag
While typically gift bags are given at the end of the bachelorette party, if the kit contains costumes you hope for participants to wear during the trip, you give them at the put-in.
From day trips to overnighters to multi-days, as we all know, costumes are a staple line item for river trips. This is also true for bachelorette parties. Although encouraging party guests to bring costumes can be fruitful, you need a backup plan. My Plan B: goodie bags filled with river flair (and a bin of costumes for those that came with none). Purchase the minimal level of costuming that you will accept each day from each participant. This might sound spendy, but you can be thrifty by shopping at Dollar General or any other local bargain-bin store. The more you splurge, the less you’ll regret.
When you fish the bride-to-be-out of the drink from her swim (noted earlier), seeing the sopping, sagging costume flair will make it all worth it. Think Disneyland Fairy Princes gone Goldie Hawn in Overboard.
Pro tip: I suggest going easy day one, especially if the crew isn’t made up of full-on boaters. Hawaiian themes don’t require a huge commitment or interfere with the act of paddling but gives the more experienced costumers the option to go big. Think leis and breezy button-ups for the newbies and coconut bikinis and grass skirts for the die-hards. Day two, bring out the big guns. Wings and other fairy accoutrements. In between day one and two, glow in the dark everything.
Adorn the Bridal Boat with Seasonal Floral Arrangement
Forage plant growth near the put in and use it to decorate the bachelorette tandem or paddle vessel. If nothing else, a stern bouquet dangling from a D-Ring does nicely. While flowers are preferred, sage, manzanita and many other plants out of bloom make for lovely adornments.
For my bestie’s boughs, willow was aplenty. And would you believe we found a single sego lily for her PFD lapel?
Pro tips: Avoid any fabricated plants or foraged materials not native to the river you’re paddling. If naturally occurring materials fall off the raft while paddling, no biggie. Instead of suggesting paddlers bring flora to add to the bouquet, encourage a post-rigging scavenger hunt before you push off into the current.
River Spa Treatment
No bachelorette party is complete without a little pampering. Turns out the river environment is chock full of facial and pedicure elements. Grab whoever wants to participate in this activity from camp and head to the river’s edge. A spa sesh could also happen during a midday shore break.
Start with an exfoliating sand scrub. The coarser the grain, the better. Dampen your face, feet, hands (or whatever body part you want to smooth) then gently massage the sand all over. Rinse. Then, do a mud treatment. If you can find clay, this works as well. Spread the paste on your face, feet and hands. Let it dry until it cracks, then rinse off in the water. Head back up to camp, use a wet wipe to clean your face, feet and hands. Finish with a lotion, serum or my favorite, coconut oil. (Although if your bachelorette party falls during a buggy season, you might want to skip this step.)
Pro tip: To be sure you have both sand and mud, you may want to collect this in containers during your day of paddling. Both grain sizes may not be present at your camp beach.
Children eat this up. If you’re lucky enough to have elementary-aged crumb snatchers on your trip (like I was), enlist their enthusiasm in all bachelorette party activities. Splashing in the mud, gathering plant treasures or costumes. 99% of the time they are pumped to participate.
Play the Classic, “What’s in Her Day Bag” (Err Ammo Can)
This bachelorette party classic is an adaptation of the traditional, “What’s in your purse?”
To play, make a master list of items commonly found in a day dry bag—sunscreen, snacks, extra layer, Chapstick, tampons, etc. Ascribe each item on the list a point value, higher points for uniqueness.
Participants will Round Robin guess what’s in the bride-to-be’s dry bag, if they guess correctly from the list, the guesser gets the points. If someone guesses an item that is not on the list but is in her bag, the participant gets bonus points. Periodically let the participants know how many items have not been guessed.
The most humorous find in my besties bag? Tiny latex finger condoms. She had lacerated her finger on a mandolin slicer the day before the trip and wanted to keep it bandaged and dry. What wasn’t found in her bag? Any sort of hat. No less than three hats blew off her head and drowned forever in Davy Jones Locker over the course of this weekend.
Pro tips: Award winners with more costume apparel. If participants are having fun, keep the game going using other paddlers’ bags. You can also guess the contents of PFD pockets.
Dutch Oven (DO) Mississippi Mud Cake and more
Top off the celebration with a decadent campfire dessert! Because my bestie and I attended Mississippi State University together, I chose the delicious diddy, Mississippi Mud Cake, a la the Dirty Dish Club.
In fact, creating meals on the open fire during the party can give a certain Mongolian Grill, fireside, dinner and a show vibe. If I had a do-over, I would match dinner menus to costume themes. Some ideas: Fiesta Night with DO Enchiladas, plus sombreros and ponchos. River Luau paired with Pineapple Upside-down Cake and Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken.
In the case of my bestie’s hens-do, what made the combination of a bachelorette party and river trip so successful, was the level of ridiculousness and drama that already accompanies boating. As a river rat dirtbag and makeshift maid of honor, I am confident this idea is viral. Pretty soon, when you google search bachelorette + party + ideas you’re going to find RIVER TRIP as a top search result. Mark my words. Happy paddling (and baching!).
Editor’s Note: Hailing from the Oregon Territory, guest contributor KM Collins is a geologist gone marketing strategist and writer. Discovering she was a freshwater mermaid late in life, she started paddling 10 years ago and has been upping the whitewater ante ever since. First as a paddleboarder, then kayaker and finally, recently, buying her first raft. Roller skating, snowboarding and cycling rank among her favorite land-based activities.