Photo by Jamie McCaffrey, used by CC license.
Photo by Jamie McCaffrey, used by CC license.

In my region, stag and doe parties (also known as “buck and does” or “Jack and Jills”) are pretty common. For those not in the know, these parties are a fundraiser for engaged couples. [Edited to add: stag and doe parties are not the same as plain ol' stag parties, which are essentially bachelor parties.] The idea is that attendees pay an admission (usually around $10-$15), and play games that are designed to make some money for the couple getting married (think dollar dances, coin toss games, raffles, etc).

Don't get me wrong: I understand why some people may be weirded out by this idea. Weddings can be expensive for guests — you have the shower gift, wedding gift, gas, possible hotel/airfare accommodations, and bachelor/bachelorette parties, just to name a few expenses. So I don't blame anyone for thinking, “Well, I'm already spending X amount of dollars on this wedding, so why should I spend more?”

But I like to think about it this way: it usually costs me more money to have a night out at the bar, or have dinner and a movie, than it does to pay a $10-$15 admission, and to spend a few bucks on games at a stag and doe. Plus, that money is going to help someone I care about.

I can honestly say that when I got married four years ago, my stag and doe saved my wedding. Since stag and doe parties are a tradition on my husband's side of the family, I had a few people mention the idea to me and offer to set everything up for it. I was hesitant at first, even though I had attended one before and had an amazing time. But then we got hit with a financial disaster.

How a stag & doe party saved my wedding

Three months before my wedding, I was eating dinner one night, and got this massive amount of pain on the right side of my mouth. It turned out that I needed emergency dental surgery. I didn't have insurance, and the surgery cost $2,000 — just over half of what was left after the deposits and expenses we had already paid for our wedding. So we figured we had three options: postpone the wedding and lose a lot of what we already spent, borrow the money, or take our friends up on their party offer.

We ended up making about $1,000 off of the stag and doe, and even those who we thought might be offended by the idea all left raving about how much fun they had. Plus it allowed for both sides of the family to get to know each other better. Between that $1,000 and what we put aside from each paycheck afterwards, we were just able to make it work.

I'm helping out with another family stag and doe party coming up. When I took to the internet to come up with some games, I found that the majority of the comments in every article echoed the same cry: don't expect other people to pay for your wedding, or find more ways to cut costs.

Like I said, I understand that weddings can be costly for guests, and I am all for cutting wedding costs however you can. However, after my experience, I feel like allowing your community to support your wedding by giving them an inexpensive night of fun isn't such a bad option — especially when you consider the fact that most other fun outings will end up costing more than the typical stag and doe.

Besides, who among us can honestly say that we've never been in a position where we have needed help with something in our lives?

Comments on In defense of STAG and DOE parties

  1. I guess in order to be comfortable with one of these parties, I would request to not receive gifts for the wedding. (Close friends and family will most likely give gifts anyway.) To me, this seems like a nice compromise: ” in lieu of gifts, please consider coming to our ______ party.” Guests feel like they’ve contributed to the couple’s day, they’re not out any more money than they would be anyway, and the couple gets to have their day. I have a friend who seemed to throw one event after another for herself for a wedding that all of us were invited to but none of us could attend (it was abroad and in the middle of the week) and I basically decided to not get her a wedding gift because the cost of everything – engagement party decorations, bridal shower brunch at a fancy place, bon voyage party drinks – had gotten ridiculous. I don’t feel bad about it, but it would’ve been nice to have felt as if the other stuff we did was our gift rather than “extra”.

  2. I’m from the American Deep South and have never heard of this ever before, so this entire post was extremely bizarre to me. At first I was really shocked by this concept, but reading through the comments helped me understand a little bit more.

    That said, I am 100% certain this would never, ever fly down here. I can’t even imagine the horrified reactions of people in this region at just the thought of being asked to pay money to attend any kind of wedding-related event (though I understand it’s no different than buying a gift, and you actually get something in exchange – I just promise you no one will see it that way!). Which is ridiculous when I really think about it, since practices such as putting $600 espresso machines on your registry and then returning them for the money afterwards are apparently completely acceptable.

  3. I’m always happy to help friends and family where I can, and love supporting those I know. But this, well, I just don’t get it. I try to understand, I really do. But, it seems like if you can’t afford something, you scale it back or simply don’t do it. A wedding can literally be any amount of money you choose, so why not choose something you can actually afford? Isn’t that what we have to do as adults?

    I understand wanting a your dream wedding, you can only do it once, but you also have the option to save money for a longer period of time and have your wedding at a later date so you can pay for it. We had a $3000 unexpected expense during wedding planning, it literally ate our ENTIRE budget and even some of our bill money – we had nothing. So we scaled our plans back, and ended up still having a great wedding, without asking anyone to fund it for us.

    I truly hope I don’t sound rude, I get that this is regional, and I would attend an event such as this. But even so it will always seem inappropriate to me, especially when you take into consideration the other costs your guests will incur. They may have to take a day off for your wedding, spend money on travel and hotels, potentially buy a new outfit, attend pre-wedding events such as bachelor or bachelorette parties, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, buying a gift, etc…

    So to me, to ask for anything more seems wrong. But then again, this isn’t the norm in my neck of the woods, so maybe it’s just something I’m not used to.

    • I don’t think you sound rude at all. Like I said, I get that guests already have a lot of expenses, so I certainly don’t fault anyone for not accepting the invitation to the Stag and Doe. In our case, we didn’t really have the option to save for longer since it happened so close to the big day. We had signed contracts and paid deposits too, so for some things (not many, but a few) it was too late to scale back, but we did cut costs wherever we could (ie designing the invitations myself, handmaking bouquets out of things like drumsticks and guitar pics, getting a prom dress in lieu of a wedding dress, etc).

  4. I have attended Stag and Doe parties, so you can add my voice to the “it’s regional” thing. We didn’t have one for my wedding, although I think that’s because we were travelling from out of province (Sackville NB to Ottawa ON). To me, it’s another way for communities to provide support, and to celebrate. And it’s fun!

    If it’s not your cup of tea, don’t throw one/don’t attend, but I wouldn’t both getting upset about it. Most of the time it’s the wedding party or family members hosting the S&D, not the couple themselves.

  5. I’m from SoCal and living in Western WA and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of Stag & Doe parties. I’m one of those folks to whom my knee-jerk reaction to the concept is negative. It’s like an IndieGoGo campaign for a stranger. If a friend needed emergency surgery, I’d offer to chip in (money, if I had it, or something else, like dog-sitting or cooking dinner for them during recovery if I didn’t). Using my wedding as an excuse to ask for money from others (even though it’s in exchange for a party, essentially- which I don’t normally charge friends for either) feels more like extortion via guilt. But to be fair, I also hate money dances.

  6. Ugh. I’m in Southern Ontario, and I just got swarmed by friends shocked and horrified about not having a stag and doe because people think they’re a lot of fun (and because we could, and I quote, “make dat cash money”). But the idea of having to go to another party is honestly enough to make me sick with terror. I don’t even like going out to the bar with friends! The idea of being surrounded by a lot of people who will all be in my face and wanting to talk to me and there’ll be a lot of noise and drunk people… please, for the love of god, no.

    But like the OP, we’ve had a major set back. My fiance was just laid off. We can’t reschedule, we would lose around $5k in deposits.

  7. I had no idea that stag and does were an almost exclusively Ontario and Manitoba thing until my friends started getting married and having them and I looked it up. I wonder how that came to be?

    Anyway, I wouldn’t have one, but I know a lot of people do in these parts. I do think it’s inappropriate to invite people who you’re not inviting to your wedding. I find it kind of weird how Americans get really freaked out about being asked to spend money at a wedding, like there’s a lot of articles about how cash bars are totally taboo too but lots of people do that here.

  8. I honestly hate the idea of Stag and Doe. My friend keeps on nagging me and says that she is saving me tickets (which were original $10 each) but now they are $20 each. She said she will give me and my boyfriend 2 for 30$ but I think it is a rip off considering I was told they were originally $10. The only thing included in the cover is the admission to the stag and doe. You have to pay extra for games, drinks, and raffle. There isn’t any food included either because they are trying to keep the party as cheap as possible. Honestly, I have never spent that much money at a club before- so paying $15 for just entering the hall is too pricey for me. I don’t even know the people hosting the stag and doe! The bride doesn’t even like me (which I do not know how that is possible since I don’t even know her. I met her once and she ignored me the whole time) and yet she still wants me to fund her wedding??? Going out on the town is cheaper (entry is usually free or 5-10$ cover) then going to the stag and doe. I am forced to go because my friend tricked me asking me what I was doing on March 1st, and I said I was free (assuming we would do something) and then she said she would save my boyfriend and I stag and doe tickets, and I “can’t get out of it since I have nothing better to do”… Why the hell am I stuck paying $30 for someone who doesn’t care for my company and have absolutely nothing included in the huge price? I am going to get drunk before I go and have dinner at home so I’m not starving all night. Plus, I am protesting the games, prizes and drinks because I will not be paying $5 for one drink, $5 for a few raffle tickets and $5 for 1 game. I am not rich like they think I am. Not that you did this to your friends! I just know I will never, ever go to another one again. Even if someone tries tricking me into it. Not worth the price at all for someone who I do not know. Maybe for a friend who actually enjoys my company and isn’t using me for my money.

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