See off your life as a single lady in true style with the ultimate hen party

Don’t be outdone by the boys and be sure you have the ultimate Hen Party!

Although hen celebrations haven’t been around that long – they began stutteringly in the 1960s and didn’t get into full swing until the 1980s – nowadays they are very much a key episode in any women’s wedding preparations.

Just a generation ago it was all very different. The most our mothers got up to was a bridal shower and maybe a slap-up meal in a restaurant and a night on the tiles. Nowadays it’s not uncommon for hen parties to last beyond the weekend and to involve a trip to the Continent.

Modern hens are much more adventurous. The fact that they’re getting married later in life, with more disposable income to spend on wedding celebrations, coupled with the revolution in short-haul air travel, has resulted in more glamorous hen party destinations than ever before. (Paris, Barcelona, Marbella, anyone?) But most importantly, when brides see their husbands-to-be jetting off for a long weekend of stag celebrations, they feel the need to celebrate in equal style.

The first decision you face is where to go. Local or far-flung? UK or abroad? Do you want a fairly low-key party – perhaps a day of pampering at a posh spa followed by a restaurant dinner and dancing in a nightclub? Or do you really want to go the whole hog and fly all your friends to southern Europe for the weekend? Perhaps some sort of compromise will work best: what about a weekend at a country cottage?

It’s normally money that forces the decision. The last thing you want to do is alienate half your friends by throwing a super-expensive hen weekend they can’t afford. If you desperately want everyone to come along then you’ll need to ensure the final bill is relatively affordable. Provided you don’t mind some friends dropping out, then you can make the itinerary more adventurous and costly. But always give invitees the chance to bow out gracefully. The expense of four days’ skiing in the Alps is tough for anyone to justify.

The good news is that, as hen, you are not expected to organise your own hen party. This is the job of your chief bridesmaid (or maid of honour, as some hens call her). Once you’ve told her which friends you would like to invite, you can leave most of the leg-work to her. This also means the finer details of the party plans will be a welcome surprise for you.

Alternatively you can hire a professional hen party organiser. This is a wise option if you’re thinking of flying a group of 15 girls abroad to an unfamiliar city. Imagine you have flights, trains, taxis, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs to organise. A professional organiser may charge a commission on top, but it will take away many of the headaches. Check out our Hen & Stag section online for many great contacts.

Hen activities

From spa days or dancing lessons, to wine tasting or horse riding, there are hundreds of great hen activities to choose from. Obviously it’s got to be something the hen herself really enjoys, but think about the other guests, too. How sporty are the bride’s friends? Are they young and adventurous, or older and more sedate? Is the bride’s mother coming along, for example? A group of 20-something university students might love to spend the afternoon learning how to pole dance. But a bunch of 40-something career women will prefer an afternoon of pampering in a spa.

You’ve also got to consider whether the activity will help the hens to bond. If you are already all close friends, this isn’t so important. But bear in mind that one of the key purposes of the hen party is to encourage all the bride’s friends to get to know one another. Group activities will help.

Evening entertainment

Once the sun goes down, that’s when the hen party really gets going. Ask any nightclub bouncer and he’ll tell you that all-female parties can often be more raucous than all-male parties.

Again, however, it’s important to gauge what type of celebrations your guests will want to indulge in. Alcohol is sure to feature strongly. But gambling and male strippers might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If your mum and aunties are coming along, do you really want them ogling naked men alongside all your friends? It might just spice up the party a little too much.

If the Full Monty is taking things a bit far, why not opt for something a little more classy? What about a naked butler, or a hunky waiter wearing just an apron and a bow tie? Rest assured, you’ll never look at a pina colada in quite the same way again.

Party games

Karaoke is another way to get the party into full swing. It’s also traditional to feature the odd dare or forfeit, especially at the expense of the hen. This could be anything from challenging her to indulge in a spot of dirty dancing with a random male stranger, or daring her to exchange underwear with the best-looking man in the nightclub.

A quiz about the hen’s future husband works very well, too. In advance of the hen party, the chief bridesmaid should collude with the groom to find out a few intimate secrets about the wedding couple. She can then devise a quiz to find out just how well the hen knows her husband-to-be. It’s a sort of Mr and Mrs game-show quiz, but normally slightly ruder. This works well if you have a long journey together to the party venue.

Hen dress

While hen parties rarely feature the humiliating outfits you see some poor stags forced to endure, there is a tradition that all members of the hen party should wear something similar. Why not get identical T-shirts printed up? Or buy everyone a pink cowboy hat? A bridal veil and L-plate for the hen herself, while not original, seems to do the trick.

Joint hen and stag parties.

Sometimes known as ‘hag parties’, these joint celebrations are becoming more common, especially if the bride and groom have been together for many years and share the same friends. The only problem is that women tend to behave themselves when there are men around. Hag parties won’t necessarily allow the hen to really let her hair down.

Credit crunch hen party

Need to throw a hen party on a tight budget? Here are ways you can keep costs to a minimum.

Avoid overnight stays: Provided you hold the party in a city local to all the guests, you should be able to avoid the extra cost of an overnight stay. If you really want to party all weekend, then book a dormitory in a hostel. Just don’t tell them it’s for a hen party.

Picnics: You’re at the mercy of the weather, but boozy picnics can often be much more fun – and a lot cheaper ­– than restaurant meals.

DIY dinner: Instead of going out to a restaurant, why not stage a top-notch dinner at one of the guest’s houses? Each guest could be told in advance to prepare one course of the meal. This will also save massively on bar bills.

Hiking: We’re not talking about 20 miles along the Pennine Way. But a walk through the countryside with the goal of a nice pub at the end of it makes for a great daytime activity.

Hire a driver: If you’re all travelling cross-country to the hen party, minibus hire will work out much cheaper than multiple train fares.

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