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How to organise a hen weekend, and survive

Saturday, 7 December 2013
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Though in fairness, most people present didn't get it. Oops.


I have such an aversion to hen parties. So much so that, until recently, I'd never even been on one. Most of the time I had a solid excuse, such as not being in the country. But the honest truth is I just can't bear the idea of them.

The thought of having to wear a sash, a comedy hat or, God forbid, anything resembling male genitalia, just makes me want to curl up in the foetal position and sob.

I've been on a stag, once. Or the end of the stag, anyway. When my friend Gareth got married in Florida, he and the boys went and did something for the afternoon (I can't recall what, but I do know that whatever the activity was it involved brutal amounts of alcohol). The two of us girls were allowed along at the end, which was perfect for me, as it meant that I got to see them absolutely blotted, without the pressure to drink at the same tempo. It also meant that I could have an excellent argument with a strange man, and keep all of my wits about me.

I have a fairly marvellous picture of this, but it would not be appreciated at all by involved parties. I'm sorry.

But back to the hen.

I, as the head bridesmaid for my friend Lins, was in charge of hers. I love to be in charge. I learnt a lot of lessons over the months of planning, which I will now impart to you all.

1. First things first - speak to the bride

The first thing you have to do is to sit down and talk to the bride. This sounds pretty obvious, but you'd be amazed as to how many people want to keep the whole thing as a surprise. My theory is that they want to do this so the bride doesn't have a chance to say no to any hideous ideas that only suit the attendees.

I sent a list of ideas to the bride, after chatting about what she would like. They were pretty free and loose, but it gave me an idea of which way to go.

It's pretty important at this point to suck it up, and be selfless. Your idea of hell might be a perfect night out for the bride, but it's not about you now, is it?

2. Make a list

I'm pretty strict regarding invitations, in that I won't make allowances for "well, I really should ask A, because otherwise B will be upset..."

NO. Don't care. Invite who you want to be there, not who you think should be invited. A hen party is for close friends and, I suppose, family. I don't know when they started muscling in on the act. My invite list would be brutal, and offend a lot of people, but who cares? I imagine not a lot of people would want to come to mine anyway, because it would basically be a replica of the sleepovers we had aged 13.

3. First contact

Ideally, before you speak to everyone who is invited, you will have a solid idea of what you are doing. Don't, for the love of God, send out an email that has a few wishy washy ideas about what you're planning, and ask for opinions. Don't. Planning this is hard enough - don't give any variables. When I sent mine out, I had two options for two locations. The dates and times for these were both set in stone. Unless a huge chunk of people can't make it, stick to your guns. Then, put all their info in an Excel spreadsheet because come on, when else are you going to use Excel?

4. Budget

When you send out this first email, it's important to give an idea of budget. Bear in mind that people have varying amounts of money available to burn for something like this... a bridesmaid may want to go all out, but someone else may have five other weddings and hens to go to this year. If you make it a residential thing, then try to keep accommodation costs low. I think around €100 is a fair enough budget for a weekend activity, without drinks.

But whatever your budget may be, do spell it out in the first contact, and be realistic with it. Don't say that the whole weekend is going to cost €40, and then keep piling costs on to people. That's not cool.

5. Find your exit buddy

I'm a bit of a lone wolf when it comes to planning things like this. If you have to ask too many people for their opinions, then each step becomes a committee. I can't stand committees. So, if there are other bridesmaids, get one of them to check your plans (ie accommodation choice, activity etc) That way, you have a sounding board, and it's not only your fault if something goes hideously wrong.

6. Delegate

That said, you can't do everything yourself, so don't even try. Get someone to be in charge of games, for example. And someone to organise collecting the money. If everyone pitches in, it'll be happy all round.

7. Referee

I hate to say it, but as an organiser, your own sense of fun may have to take a backseat. On the day itself, you'll have to be making sure that everything is going to plan, particularly if you have a few destinations to visit. Mine was in central London, and I'm sure that I turned into a schoolmistress/soldier when it came to shuttling people around. Just try and keep the shouting to a minimum.

Wow, haven't I made it all sound super fun? Apologies. But next week, I'll write all about the fun things we did! And it'll make is aaaalll better.

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