My friends are single-handedly trying to bankrupt me this year.

When you’re in your 20s, you’re told to open a Roth I.R.A. or a 401(k). To start setting money aside for a house or a wedding. No one warns you to save for the year all your friends turn 30.

The 30th birthday, a longtime fount of existential anxiety, has in recent years experienced a celebratory revamp. As millennials hit the big 3-0, an increasing number of them are holding extravagant destination trips to mark the milestone. Hot-air ballooning in Mexico, wine touring in South Africa, yachting in the Mediterranean … millennials today are (newly) 30, flirty, and thriving, and seemingly nothing is off-limits.

Blu Signorini, an event planner based in Milan, has helped to plan 30th birthdays in places ranging from Saint-Moritz to Sicily to the Amalfi Coast. Most birthday groups remain small and contained, she tells me, but she has had clients with up to 100 invitees fly in from all over the world.

Signorini, who also plans weddings, reports that these kinds of 30th-birthday bashes require the same level of organization as weddings—there are multiple days’ worth of events, and a big guest list that needs to have all its logistics synced up. “But instead of having the same pressure as a wedding, it’s a fun birthday weekend, and there’s a bit more flexibility,” she says.

The singer Selena Gomez threw a wedding-esque 30th-birthday party in Malibu earlier this year.

The idea was recently taken to its logical end in celebrity style by Selena Gomez, who held a 30th-birthday party this past summer that looked more like an “epic solo wedding,” as Vogue put it, complete with ball gowns and high-profile guests, at a private residence in Malibu.

As it so happens, the rise of the 30th-birthday extravaganza coincides with the decline of the millennial wedding. U.S. marriage rates hit their all-time low in 2020. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 56 percent of millennials (currently aged 26 to 41) remain unmarried. At the same time, the median income for unmarried households is higher than that of previous generations, hovering around $72,000 per year.

An increase in disposable income, a decrease in marriages, and a whole lot of pandemic-induced pent-up energy … enter the 30th-birthday blowout.

But it’s not all fun and flirting. The bottleneck of celebrations, especially when everyone in a friend group turns 30 in the same year or two, can be an enormous financial burden.

Brittany Palmer, a talent manager in the music industry, based out of Los Angeles, has attended a whopping 23 celebratory events in the last year, 6 of which have been 30th birthdays. Palmer has used up all of her P.T.O. on these events, and has had to dip into her savings in order to afford them.

“I’ve only had very good experiences going on these trips, and I feel grateful to have such great friends,” she says. “But of course I get very stressed thinking about the money and work and time off.”

Many of these destination birthdays, which require attendees to travel hundreds or thousands of miles, can easily cost an individual a few grand for a weekend. It’s a lot to demand from one’s friends.

“So many people are having to spend so much money on other people that they get to a point where they’re like, What about me?,” says Palmer. “When we go on bachelorette parties, it’s pretty emotionally exhausting doting on someone all weekend and making sure they’re having a good time. So people get to their 30th, and they think, I want to be special. I want people to celebrate me all weekend.”

The singer Taylor Swift, right, was among the starry guests in attendance at Gomez’s 30th.

Palmer notes that many of these trips can involve a themed dress code, requiring her to rent two to three outfits per trip so she can get the right clothing items without having to purchase them (and never use them again). There also tends to be planned activities, where the whole group is expected to chip in and participate, but they may not necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea.

“A big trend for a while was hiring a private chef to cook you dinner,” says Palmer. “It’s so expensive, and I’m such a picky eater, and I don’t always eat the food.”

On the host’s side, it can be just as stressful to make sure that guests have a good time. Julie Brown, a director for a development organization in Nairobi, Kenya, wanted to do something special to re-unite her friends for her 30th. She planned an extravagant six-day trip to Marrakech, where a group of nine people rode camels through the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert. She knew that inviting her friends in the U.S. to fly all the way to North Africa would be a big ask, so she offered to front the cost of the lodgings and planned out a detailed itinerary involving a variety of activities.

For Brown, a big 30th-birthday party was an empowering way to celebrate how far she’s come in life, a way to fly in the face of societal pressures. “There’s a Hollywood narrative that when single, unmarried working women turn 30, they are crying in their rooms and mourning the fate of their existence,” Brown says. “We glorify women being girls, and we don’t recognize women enough for stepping into their wisdom and their power. I don’t own a house, I’m not married, I don’t plan on having kids soon, but there’s so much I’ve achieved that I’m proud of.”

Brown isn’t alone in her sentiments. Among my circle of friends, everyone who held an extravagant 30th-birthday party was either single or unmarried, and more of them were women than men.

So is this influx of 30th-birthday parties symptomatic of a certain level of selfishness and expectation from unmarried millennials? Or is it a celebration defying societal expectations of what young people should have accomplished by a certain age?

Either way, if you’re still in your 20s, forget about retirement. Start saving for the destination blowout.

Lynn Q. Yu is an Editor at Large for AIR MAIL