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As chief bridesmaid, you may not have to choose table napkins and corsages, but planning the perfect hen weekend can be a tad daunting in itself. Fear not, even if you have no party planning experience, with our top-tips, you can organise a hen do to remember. Need ideas for hen party games, or the perfect theme for your hen weekend? Read on…
(Note to hens: We suggest you send this page to your hen party planner, if you want your last night of freedom to be memorable for the right reasons.)
The early hen…
Just as with organising a wedding, you’ll want to start your party planning months ahead, as venues can get booked up quickly, and you don’t want any cries of ‘Oh I already have something on that date, can we move it to the following week?’
Keep her happy
Let’s face it, the bride has enough to do; she’s unlikely to want to spend hours on Trip Adviser looking at B&B reviews. However, that doesn’t mean you get free reign to plan the hen night of your dreams. While you might love the idea of strippers, bunny ears and hen party games involving inflatable penises, she may well be harking after a couple of relaxing days at a spa for her hen weekend.
So, get together with her (preferably over a glass of wine or three) and grill her. Does she want to make a weekend of it? Would she rather go abroad, or keep it in the UK? Does she have a hen party theme in mind? Is she thinking ‘Last Night in Vegas’, or afternoon tea and manicure? Does she already have a date planned? Once you’ve got an idea of her version of the perfect hen do, you can start contacting the other guests for their hen party ideas.
All for one…
You really can’t please everyone, but you can aim to give the majority a good time. If the bride is the outdoorsy type, she may well love the idea of a treetop assault course, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the hens will. So, talk to them. Get their email addresses as soon as you can and set up an online survey to gather information on likes/dislikes, availability, budget and hen party ideas.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in organising and use the other women’s skills to your full advantage. Is one of the hens an accountant? Can she take on the role of organising finances? Does anyone work for a travel company who could get a staff discount? Do any of the hens have a fun skill they could teach the others during the hen party, whether it’s pole dancing, or cocktail making? (You might want to avoid sword swallowing though…)
Let’s be brutal, we’re not living in a time of riches-a-plenty. (If we hear the phrase ‘austerity’ one more time, we may well scream.) Not everyone will be able to splash out on a full weekend of partying, so if a lot of the hens are on a tight budget, you may need to look at keeping costs to a minimum. There are plenty of activities you can do that won’t break the bank.
Most people now have friends and family scattered around the UK and abroad, but if a lot of you are based in one location, could you put the others up for a couple of nights? If the bride is determined that she wants a hen weekend away, consider B&Bs, rather than hotels. Alternatively, renting a house might be more economical. Or if the hen party is being held over the summer, why not consider student digs? Student halls are often let out for buttons over the summer, and can be far more sociable than a stuffy hotel. If people are up for it, you could look into glamping, or how about an eco-friendly yurt?
Ensuring that you have some shared space can help to keep costs down, as you can have some of your meals in, and enjoy a few drinks before heading out. And, if you don’t have neighbours right next door, you can crank the music up and get the hen party (aka drinking) games going.
Why not book a glo pamper party? Prices start at just £12.50 for each hen. The glo Glam Make-over package is a great way to ensure everyone looks their best for the hen party, or how about enjoying an at-home spa experience, with a facial, massage or manicure?
One size doesn’t fit all
If budgets vary, you could offer different hen party ‘packages’ to suit individual price-plans. So, for example, everyone could get together for a pamper party, with their choice of treatments. Most could then stay for dinner and a night out; and some can make a full hen weekend of it. Giving people options is also a good way to cater for a varied invite list and can help to avoid too many grumbles. You probably don’t want to be knocking back tequila slammers with great-aunt Evelyn, but if the bride wants her there, the option of joining you for a chocolate making class might be right up her street.
The only problem with offering a package to choose from is that it does make finances a bit trickier. Which brings us on to…
Money, money, money…
Spreadsheets are your friend, though if you can delegate the finances to another hen, do it. Try to work out a price for everything happening over the hen weekend, from accommodation, to entertainment, food, mini-buses and so on. Then, once you know who’s doing what, figure out a cost per head. Ideally, book a few months in advance and let people pay in installments. Set deadlines that are at least a week before you have to pay anything out.
Be upfront about what you’re doing and be clear about anything that’s non-refundable. Gathering extra money if one or two people pull-out is a nightmare, so you might want to consider asking everyone for a few more pounds upfront, as a contingency, that then gets put into a drinks kitty if you don’t need it. Feel free to share your spreadsheet and show where costs are going. There’s a good chance you won’t know all of the bride’s friends and they’ll be a lot more willing to hand money over if they know what it’s being spent on.
Fancy dress can be great fun, and you could set a hen party theme, whether it’s cowgirls, fairy-tales or pyjama party. But, if the bride hates the idea of fancy dress, don’t push it. Instead, consider some kind of dress-code for at least one of the hen nights out. You could go for T-shirts with silly nicknames on, or simply a colour or pattern choice that shows you’re all together. Whatever you choose, do make sure that the bride-to-be stands out, whether she’s got a special sash, a silly hat, or whatever suits her personality.
There is a wealth of hen party games on the market, but with a little planning, you can easily create your own. How about bar bingo where each hen has to collect a stamp from the barman for a specific drink? Or a photo challenge where everyone has to have their pic taken in a series of set poses (eg as a meercat; with a statue; in a phone-box; with a stag etc).
The hens might not all know each other, so a key part of planning hen party games is to ensure the early ones are great ice-breakers. Everyone could choose a nickname from a hat to be called for the hen weekend. Play Truth or Dare, or ask each hen to give three statements about herself; one true, the others false, with people guessing which is the factual statement.
Up close and personal
It can be easy to forget that you’re not just planning a fun weekend away; this is a time to celebrate the bride-to-be on her last night of freedom. How you want to do that is up to you, but do make sure you allocate time where you’re all just focusing on her. For example, each hen could bring a photo that reminds her of a special or funny moment with the bride that she could tell everyone about. If you have some shared living space, you could decorate it with photos of her. Compile a playlist of her favourite tunes to get the hen party started; make sure you have her favourite drink to hand and so on.
Recording the event
You’re going to want plenty of photos to remember the hen do. While everyone will no doubt be snapping away on their smart-phone, you may also want to consider a few more formal pics. One idea is to buy an ornate, large picture frame from a charity shop, then ask people to hold it in-front of them, so they’re in the frame, before taking their photo. Ask each person to write a little message for the bride-to-be in a book, one message per page, so that you can stick the photo of the person in next to the message. You could then also look at a more casual memory book of photos that depict the whole party and the hens in their full dishevelled glory.
Make sure everyone has full details of where they need to be and when, and what they need to bring. If you’re going self-catering for the hen do, you can either add food and drink costs to the overall budget, or give everyone a few set items to bring. Also make sure they know anything extra they’ll need, whether it’s boots for horse-riding or a cossie for the pool.
A hen party is supposed to be fun for everyone and that includes you as party planning whizz extraordinaire. Try not to stress too much. There are always going to be a few hiccups and disagreements, but you can’t solve every little problem. Don’t try to pack so much into the hen weekend that you’re rushing around consulting your itinerary every five minutes. Relax and enjoy that glass of champagne. You’ve earned it!
Next month …. Essential diy make-up advice for your hen’s big night out from our resident MUA Ann-Marie Mays!