Throwing a stag do is hard.
It shouldn’t be – getting a group of your favourite people in a room and enjoying their company shouldn’t need to be difficult. Or expensive. Or the basis for a string of questionable comedy films.
Stag dos stem from the days when a Victorian gentleman would take all his single chums to dinner at the club as a last hurrah – because it would be improper to ever socialise with them again once he was married.
As ridiculous as the idea may seem, it’s also ridiculously simple: dinner and drinks. Maybe some cigars if they were going big.
These days, people expect stag dos to be much grander affairs. They can’t be like any night out anyone has had before. (Even though it’s extremely unlikely the bachelor has ever had a night out with every single one of his friends and family before anyway.) They expect something spectacular – if not a weekend of spectacular things, each more spectacular than the last!
These days, a whole industry has sprung up around stag dos. (No, not the one you’re thinking of. That’s much older.)
They organise destination dos, booze cruises, and ways to ‘humiliate the stag’ which are utterly baffling to anyone who, a) wants to attend the stag do in the first place because they like their friend and have no desire to see them embarrassed, injured, naked, or eyebrowless in the run-up to his wedding, and b) isn’t a bigoted caricature from a Carry On film.
Apparently 'stag' is synonymous with 'exploitation' to some companies. 'Embarrass the stag! Stand him near a short or overweight person!' 😡 pic.twitter.com/xorVdipGeO
— M. J. Magment (@mell_o_drama) September 4, 2017
It’s ‘humiliating’ because they’re different from you. Laugh. Point and laugh. That’s all these people exist for.
In fact, think of them as less like ‘people’ and more like ‘royal jesters’ for you, King Joffrey.
It’s an industry that assumes men want nothing more than to chug warm lager and chant, ‘Lads! Lads! Lads!’ It assumes there could be no higher pinnacle of success for the evening than a sticky-floored nightclub. (Unless it was a stickier-floored strip bar.) It assumes everyone is aggressively straight and, judging from the activities on offer, likely eighteen and excited at seeing a boob for the third time.
And that’s bad.
Because it tells anyone who’s looking to organise a big group of friends – many of whom they’ve never met before, since organising the stag is often put on the best man – that that’s normal. That that’s how men celebrate things. That that’s what people want.
Maybe it’s what some people want.
But honestly, do you really want to be friends with those people? They sound oily and terrible. But it’s not what everyone wants.
The average groom getting married at 30.8 years old probably wants something classier. Something relating to his hobbies and interests. Something that a group of underage high school kids aren’t doing that same weekend in Magaluf.
But these industries don’t have any other suggestions.
So here’s some from me.
For the stag who likes a (nice) drink
Craft beer tours
Craft beer – interesting, small-batch beer from independent breweries – is (somewhat paradoxically) huge. And it’s awesome. If your stag knows his IPA from his stout (and he should – those are extremely different), why not bring everyone up to speed with a craft beer brewery tour? You’ll see how the beer is made (spoiler: it’s hops) and get to taste the brewery’s different varieties.
- Meantime Brewery
£25 per person for a private tour
- Five Points
£17 per person
£17 a head
- Camden Town Brewery
£15 per person
Or, if you’re planning for a more hands-on stag, why not brew your own beer?
The London Beer Lab in Brixton has microbrewing workshops where they teach you how to brew on their (absolutely awesome) professional equipment. They don’t expect you to know anything (though they’ll happily geek out with you on the overuse of citra and the overlooked benefits of pacific jade if you do). They’ll guide you through the whole process and make sure you have something delicious at the end of it.
They take groups of four per beer, brewing around fifty to sixty bottles, but you could book in multiple groups (and have multiple delicious beers at the end of it).
If craft beer isn’t for you (you monster), you can also make your own gin at the wonderfully named Ginstitute. At £120 a ticket, it’s not a cheap experience but you do get a lot for your money, leaving with a 70cl bottle of your own, unique gin (that they’ll ensure you love) and a 70cl bottle of the Ginstitute’s own gin, plus oodles of tonic – not to mention the four cocktails you’ll have before the gin tasting session where you work out how you want to concoct your own, and the rather interesting history of gin you’ll hear while you drink them.
If that all sounds like too much work, and you’d rather drink booze than make it, what about doing a led whisky tasting? Cadenhead’s, one of the oldest whisky shops in London, does regular sessions, taking you through different types of whisky from different areas in Scotland. (Plus they put out shortbread.)
They can squeeze around 14 people into their tasting room. Their ‘Taste of Scotland’ tasting session is £35 a head, and well worth it. (Did I mention the shortbread?)
For the gamer stag
If you’ve never heard of an escape room,
you are missing out, stop reading this blog and do one immediately it’s like a walk-in puzzle.
Your group is locked in a room for an hour with a series of puzzles to solve to get out. The puzzles range from logic puzzles, to physical, engineering problems, to math problems, to real-life pixel hunting as you search for clues. There’s truly something for everyone (and enough going on that, if you’re not confident, you can leave a puzzle for someone else without being stuck with nothing to do; I have never finished a jigsaw and I never will).
It’s an especially fun (and different) day out for lovers of old point-and-click adventure games, whodunnit mysteries, and excuses to play with remote control cars.
Most escape rooms take up to six people, so if you’re organising a larger group, you might want to find a company that runs a few different rooms and compete to see who can get out first.
If you’re in London (or if my incredible pitch on escape rooms is so enthusiastic, you decide to come down especially), I’d thoroughly recommend:
- Time Run
Up to 6 people
This is, hands down, the best escape room in London. You travel through different periods in history to find a mysterious, mystical object. With the help of an adorable robot.
- Breakin’ Escape Rooms
Up to 6 people
While I’ll always have an affinity for a fellow G-dropper, Breakin’ Escape Rooms’ biggest boon is its themed rooms. Every one is based on a famous film (without ever infringing on trademark), from ‘The Garage’ which feels reminiscent of a Fast and the Furious movie, to Holmes’ Study which… Well, you can probably guess that one.
- School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Up to 5 people
This is a brilliant twist on the classic escape room: instead of trying to escape, you’re trying to graduate – the puzzles are your school exams.
The puzzles themselves are great but, if your stag is a Harry Potter fan, this is a must.
- The Crystal Maze
Up to 8 people (or 32 if you can book all 4 teams)
The Crystal Maze – based on Richard O’Brian’s bizarre quiz show – is the original escape room. Everyone in your group tackles a physical, logical, or mental room to earn enough Crystals to compete in the Crystal Dome. There aren’t any pony treks in the Shetlands at stake – you’re competing purely for the glory – but it’s nostalgic fun and well worth the price of admission.
Board game café
If you aren’t familiar with board games beyond the Christmas-ruining classics of Trivial Pursuit From Twenty Years Ago, Are You Sure You Put The Pieces Away Though Jeremy Because They’re Not Here Are They, and Monopoly, you might not understand the big board game trend at the moment, but board games are a lot better, smarter, and sexier than you remember them.
Board games can be clever and strategic, or absolutely ridiculous, but they’re always fun, and a great way to entertain a group of any size.
Big cities like London and Oxford boast board game cafés where, for a small fee towards upkeep, you can work your way through their library of games (and their menu of hot food and craft beer). Work out who’s the werewolf in a quick bluffing game for up to 75(!) players. Play co-operatively as submarine crew, trying to work out where the enemy sub is in real time. Play the funniest version of charades ever invented. Play a word game better, weirder, and funnier than anything else invented. (You heard me, Bananagrams. You’re not welcome here.) Perform an Ocean’s 11-style bank heist. Run your own Jurassic Park.
Board games and weird and wonderful, and a fun, relaxed way to get to know everyone in the group.
Video game bar
Of course, if your stag prefers video games…
London has a fair few bars with arcade games and old consoles to relive some childhood nostalgia (while enjoying some extremely adult cocktails).
The old school games should make good ice breakers, and are fun to watch being played even if you’re not in the driver’s seat.
Sticking with the nostalgic theme, Laser Quest is a) incredibly still around, and b) a perfect big group activity. It’s competitive but no one can get hurt, you don’t have to go to the gym eight times a day to be able to play it, and there are lasers.
Paintball… with a difference
Paintball is often put forward as a suggestion for stag dos – the assumption being men love guns and bruising their loved ones…? – but it’s not the most inclusive activity. Unlike Laser Quest, people can (and do!) get hurt, and they won’t be able to play it well if they’re not gym nuts. (Also, there are no lasers.)
But that all changes if you put everyone in refurbed FV432 tanks.
(Except the lasers. There are still no lasers. Sorry.)
Ball pit bar
It’s a bar.
It has a ball pit.
What more do you need to know?
For the culture vulture stag
The technology’s still new but, boy, is it cool. You can be immersed in a video game, like with the appropriately named Mind Horror, play around with what the latest technology has to offer at a VR Bar, or make your stag’s childhood dreams come true by infiltrating an Imperial star base disguised as Storm Troopers.
Going to an immersive experience is like seeing a play come to life around you. You can often choose which characters you want to follow from scene to scene, or take part in the story itself by interacting with the actors. (Yes, it’s better than it sounds.)
Some – like alternate history WWII adventure For King and Country are half play, half escape room. Others, like Last Survivors are all about shooting at zombies. (Actually, quite a lot are about shooting at zombies…)
Secret Cinema is the ultimate immersive story. While it only runs a few times a year, for a film at a time, the attention to detail is spectacular. The whole film is brought to life, with sets, actors in-character, and everyone encouraged to dress up and get into it. A film fan couldn’t ask for a better night out.
For any stag at all
Food, friends, and a pressure-free environment that’s not filled with warm lager and strobe lights
There are plenty of ways to throw your friend a great party he’ll truly appreciate. Incorporate his interests, where you can. Ask his other friends for ideas. Look into all the nice restaurants and bars that you’ve always fancied trying but needed a special occasion to justify the costs.
Just don’t do it in Magaluf.
Full disclosure: I haven’t been paid to promote any of these suggestions – I just think your stag friend deserves better than warm beer and football chants – but some of the links are affiliate links, and I’ll earn a small commission if you buy through them.