The Complete Guide to Planning a Hen Party
Published date: 5th May 2020
Planning a hen do? Here’s everything you need to know, from choosing a destination and organising the games, to pull off an unforgettable party the bride-to-be will love
It’s such an honour to be asked to be a bridesmaid, but when you’ve finished celebrating the engagement news with the bride-to-be, there’s the small matter of a hen party to organise before you get to walk down the aisle with your bestie! If you’ve never planned a big event like this before it can be a stressful and daunting task, with so much to consider like the type of hen party, the destination, the budget and the guest list.
To ensure your best friend’s (or your own if you’re planning it yourself) hen do goes without a hitch and is a fitting farewell to unmarried life, we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to hen do planning. The key to success is planning well in advance and making sure you don’t take on the burden of hen party planning all on your own. Get together with the other bridesmaids and make the most of all their different skill sets, and before you know it, you’ll be pouring bubbly for a gaggle of girls, and partying the night away at the best hen party EVER!
1. Where to start when planning a hen party?
The very first thing on your hen party planning to-do list should be to talk to the bride-to-be. You may know her inside and out and have been in her life since you were babies, but it’s important not to just presume that you know how she’d want to celebrate her hen do. Even if you want the hen party to be a massive surprise, it can’t hurt just to have a very general conversation with her about the sort of thing she’d like to do. Every bride is different and while one might dream of a country retreat with spa treatments and a hot tub, another may be craving a few nights of serious partying in Ibiza.
“Make sure that what you’ve organised will appeal to the bride to be, it’s her weekend after all,” says Rob Reaks, Head of Sales and Marketing at hen do company redsevenleisure.co.uk. “We always recommend against asking everyone what they want to do, don’t start putting things to a vote or you’ll never achieve anything.” Once you have an idea of the sort of hen party the bride desires, you can get together with the other bridesmaids or any hens who want to help and have a brainstorm on the finer details and get a list of ideas written down. Make sure you do this stage of planning as early as possible, as some hen party ideas may be seasonal or extremely popular and need to be booked in months in advance.
2. Draw up the guest list
This is another stage of the hen party planning that requires the bride’s input, unless you feel confident that you know all of her friends. Remember she may have work colleagues or friends from university that you might not know about and that she’d love to come to the hen, so to avoid disappointment, ask her to draw up the ideal guest list along with contact details. It’s also a savvy move to ask her to put the hens in order of attendance preference so that you can make sure the date you choose favours those friends that she just couldn’t have a hen party without.
Some advice though – burn this list after reading! Also make sure to ask the bride if she’s happy to have a hen party of just her friends. ‘Sten’ dos (where you combine the stag and hen parties) are becoming increasingly popular, and if the couple who are getting married share the same group of friends, they may all want to celebrate at one big party.
Finally, consider the different types of hens that you need to accommodate. If the bride would love her mother and mother-in-law to be involved in the hen party, but you’re planning a weekend of non-stop clubbing, ask if she’d prefer two parties, or a more relaxed activity like afternoon tea or a spa trip on one of the days so that the mums can come along to that.
3. Choose the date of the hen do
Now you’ve got the list of hens sorted, it’s time to think about when the hen party is going to take place. Ask the bride for a few preferred dates and then circulate these round the hens. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is by setting up a Doodle date poll, where hens can simply put a tick next to the date/ dates they can attend and you can clearly see the most popular option.
Make sure to give the hens a deadline to respond by – there’s always one or two in a group that won’t bother otherwise. Once you’ve got the date set send a calendar invite or set up a WhatsApp group and message to the hens telling them the exact dates (including any time needed for travel on the Friday afternoon for example) and ask them to put it in their diaries.
4. Work out the hen party budget
Unless you’re a maths whizz, sorting the finances and getting the hens to pay up in time will probably be the least enjoyable part of the planning. It’s important to get the finances in order before you plan the fun stuff though. There’s no point falling in love with a cool party pad, complete with swimming pool and indoor cinema if the cost of the accommodation alone is going to be way too expensive for the majority of hens. Knowing the ball park figure for the hen party before you organise anything is crucial, so you don’t waste time or lose deposits. According to a recent survey by hen do organiser Red7, the average spend on a hen party in the UK in 2019 was £164.98.
Just because that’s the average though, doesn’t mean it’s the correct spend for your hens. It’s key to know your audience before you just pluck a number out of thin air. The bride may have an idea on the sort of spend her friends would be comfortable with. Or you can simply message the group and consult them first on a few different price options.
Make sure to have an open conversation with them about money, after all, you’re asking them to part with hard-earned cash. A quick search of the internet will reveal that the number one complaint from hens about a hen party is the cost and not being asked if they could afford it in the first place. Once you’ve all agreed on a price, it will be clearer as to what you can plan. Make sure to discuss whether you’ll be covering the cost of the bride too, as is customary, or whether she’s happy to contribute towards her own costs.
The bride will have told you in your initial conversation if she’s always dreamed of going abroad for her hen party destination or is happy to stay in the UK, so be sure to take this into consideration, budget allowing. Another area of hen do etiquette you need to think about is whether the wedding is overseas or not. It is generally thought that if the bride is having a destination wedding then an overseas hen do is off the cards. It’s not ok to ask hens to have to pay for flights to the hen party as well as to the wedding.
However, if all the hens are happy to go abroad there are some cheaper options than a week in Marbella. “You can have a cheap overseas hen weekend if you’re flexible where you go,” says Rob. “For example, Lisbon is a wonderful city and much cheaper than Barcelona. Likewise, if you’re travelling to Eastern Europe, choose Riga or Bratislava instead of Budapest or Prague – both destinations are great for hens and comparable with their more expensive neighbours.”
If you’ve settled on an at-home hen, think about where the hens are based around the UK and find a destination that is easy for the majority to get to. A seven-hour train journey across the UK is unlikely to get hens in the spirit for partying. Finally, when it comes to the destination, think about the sort of activities you’ve got on your ideas list and whether these can be achieved nearby and also the amount of time that hens are able to take off work. If the destination is too far away, you’ll need to build in time to get there, but you can’t just presume all the hens are happy to take multiple days off work.
6. Book the accommodation
When it comes to hen parties, accommodation can become a key part of the experience. Some brides might not mind staying in a Travelodge in order to be near the coolest clubs and to keep costs down, but if you’re planning on spending any downtime in the accommodation it’s worth looking into somewhere with communal space and a few luxuries for that house party vibe. “Accommodation is key to a successful hen weekend,” says Rob. “It needs to be clean, comfortable and central. Some hotels will not accept hen or stag groups, so if you’re booking directly check, or you could be turned away at reception.”
If you’re going down the self-catered route, there are plenty of websites that have a huge range of party houses for all budgets, sizes and destinations, some with pools, hot tubs or even disco rooms! Try Kate & Toms, The Big Domain, Celebration Cottages and The Hen House or simply search for party houses and you’ll find hundreds of options to suit. If you search on Airbnb, make sure to check whether parties are allowed as many properties on the site have a ‘no party’ policy.
Now you’ve done the bulk of the admin, it’s time to get going on the fun stuff – choosing and booking the activities. Think about your bride and consult your list of ideas from your initial chats with her and see which of the activities works best in your chosen destination. If you have time and budget, the hen party can be themed around the brides’ loves. Is she an outdoorsy/active type? Then think about assault courses, high ropes course, water sports or zip wiring. If your bride loves a pamper then you could opt for a classic spa day, or host a mobile pamper party at your accommodation. Perhaps you’ve got a creative and crafty bride on your hands? As a group you can take part in a whole host of cool classes like cupcake making and floristry or something a little more risqué like life drawing or a lingerie making masterclass.
Finally, if you really want to make the hen party really stand out, have a look at some of the more unusual activities on offer like themed escape rooms, sumo wrestling, murder mystery parties or an inflatable sports day. “It’s important to make sure there’s enough to keep everyone entertained, but not so much that you can’t relax,” says Rob. “Check where your activities are taking place, too – you don’t want an hour’s drive to reach a go kart track. We always recommend pre-booking your main dinner as well – imagine trying to find a table for 10-20 people at peak time on a Saturday night!”
8. Sort the games and the hen party extras
In the weeks running up to the hen party, as well as getting excited, you’ll want to be sorting the little details that turn a girls’ getaway into a hen do. The small things like games, props and outfits don’t have to cost much money but can be really fun additions to the party. Make sure you leave some money in the budget after the accommodation, food and activities for these extras, so you don’t have to ask the hens to fork out anything on top of the cost you all agreed on. If you’ve got a creative hen in the party, ask for their help coming up with unique games and any props that might need making, like a fancy-dress outfit for the bride.
The best hen party fancy dress
Let your creative juices flow and make the hen party truly individual with some hilarious fancy dress costumes. If you think the bride would like it, you can go the full feather boas and sash route. But remember fancy dress doesn’t have to be tacky. Have a think about what the bride is known for or a particular thing she loves perhaps and theme the outfit around that. Is she a massive fan of Harry Potter? The whole party could be different characters from the books. Did she love the Spice Girls as a child? Make her go out in one of their iconic outfits. There are a whole host of funny and rude blow up outfits, but make sure to consider whether your bride will find it as hilarious as the rest of you going out dressed as a giant you-know-what! You don’t want the bride’s overriding memory of her hen to be that of embarrassment.
If you want to get the whole gang involved in the dressing up, telling everyone else to wear black while the bride wears white is always a winner, or you could all face the humiliation together by dressing up as grannies or naughty nurses.
The best hen party t-shirts
Does anything say girls on tour more than matching t-shirts? If you’re going away, or will be out and about in a city location, t-shirts are a smart idea, as it will mean you can easily spot other members of the hen within the crowds. You can get pretty much anything printed onto t-shirts these days, from hilarious pictures of the bride from the past to different nicknames or a simple, but effective ‘Sarah’s hen party 2021’. Don’t just stick to t-shirts, though. Think outside the box and base your matching gear on the activity or location, like personalised spa robes for a pamper party, flip flops if you’re on a beach break or bandanas if you’re doing an adventure assault course.
The best hen party games
Would it even be a hen party without a game or two? Games are really important if you’ve not got an activity-filled agenda as it’s likely that there will be down time and, if the hens don’t know each other very well, a few games can go a long way as ice-breakers.
1. Mr & Mrs/ Mrs & Mrs Quiz
Always a winner at hen parties, but it does take a bit of preparation as you need to interview the bride’s other half before the hen do and either video or write down their answers. It’s well worth it though as it always makes for fun viewing.
2. The present game
This is when you ask each hen to bring a wrapped-up present for the bride (with a max spend of £5 or £10 say) and the bride has to guess who it’s from based on what it is. For example, if the bride met one hen when she was living in France then the hen might gift her a pair of French knickers. If the bride chooses the wrong hen, yep you’ve guessed it… she has to do a forfeit.
3. The photo game
Print off photos of the bride’s other half along with a few of any exes and maybe some of other partners from around the group of hens and then cut bits off like the feet, the hair, the hands, the legs etc and the bride has to guess which body parts belong to which partner. Just imagine the hilarity when the bride thinks her dad’s feet are actually her husband-to-be’s!
4. Prosecco pong
Like beer pong, but with a sophisticated hen party twist. Get into two teams and see which side can get the other team to drink their prosecco first by throwing the balls into the glasses.
5. Who’s who
Ask all the hens to write down an unknown fact about themselves and get the bride to take them out of a hat and guess who they relate to. Forfeits for wrong answers of course.
6. Hen party dares
Either get the hens to all write down some dares and put them in a hat to be drawn randomly throughout the night or purchase a kit from companies like Not on the High Street and Etsy.
7. Wedding charades
Your classic game of charades, but all of the films are wedding-related!
8. Trivia quiz
Write down a list of questions about the bride and get the hens to see how well they know her. This only works if you’re all pretty tight knit as it risks alienating new friends or people she hasn’t known for decades.
9. Pin the body part on the groom
Print out a large picture of the groom (or even order a large cardboard cutout!) and blindfold the bride who then has to try and pin the *cough* (we’ll let you fill in the blank) on the groom.
10. Toilet roll dresses
Spilt into two teams and set the timer for ten minutes in which time you have to dress one of the other hens in a stylish toilet roll dress. The bride-to-be chooses the winning style. Make sure to recycle the paper afterwards though.
Let the hens know the plans
Communication at this point is key to your success as the organiser and if everyone feels they’ve been given all the information ahead of the hen, you’re guaranteed to get off to a flying start. A nice clear email or message to the group on whatever medium you’ve been using to communicate throughout the planning should be sent as soon as you’ve firmed up all the details and booked the accommodation and activities.
At this stage make sure to finalise any last payments needed, tell the hens what they need to bring or prepare for the hen and let them know the address of the accommodation or any other travel details. If you’ve booked through a hen do company, all the details will be available to access on a website and you’ll be able to send a link to the hens.
Enjoy the best hen party ever!
After all that hard (but fun) work, it’s time to give your best friend a truly magnificent celebration before she gets married. Make sure to reconfirm all the details and bookings with suppliers and accommodation before you set off and send the hens one last itinerary to ensure everyone is on board with where they need to be and when. Grab a bottle of prosecco because it’s time to celebrate.
Hollie is a consumer magazine journalist with over seven years of experience working in the wedding industry as Lifestyle Editor for You & Your Wedding magazine. Also a Regional Editor for Muddy Stilettos, Holly has written for Square Meal magazine, Family History Monthly, BBC History magazine and Homes & Antiques.