From the group who booked a pop DJ and ended up with a fiftysomething world music fanatic in pink flares, to a devout Catholic getting miffed over a rude-shaped pudding, everyone’s had or heard of a hen party mishap.
Once a hen do meant a few drinks at the pub, now it can be as grand as a wedding, and the politics involved can make a chick flick start to look like a documentary. “It’s like high school,” grumbled one woman from an office of female thirtysomethings, pressured to shell out for the energetic hen weekend of a colleague she barely knows.
Expense is the biggest potential flashpoint, with some hen night packages now costing over £200, at a time most thirtysomethings can least afford it.
For people living back in their mum’s box room and price-comparing M&S sandwiches, expensive hen weekends with well-earning peers can feel like their nose is being rubbed in it. “The trick to making sure no one hates you is simply to take into account what everyone can spend and what everyone feels comfortable with,” says Kate Thompson from Confetti.co.uk. “You’re not going to please all of the people all of the time but take a general consensus on budgets, dates and activities before booking anything.”
First, take a cue from the format of the bride’s big day.
If it’s going to be a Gretna Green-sized ceremony with immediate family and close friends, she may want bigger celebrations either side of the wedding. If it’s a huge cathedral caper so grand there are practically paparazzi waiting in bushes, she may want a sedate hen night for balance. If in doubt, err on the side of small and simple.
Even if the bride has a social circle to rival Fearne Cotton's, don’t invite them all - apart from anything, it’ll make setting a date horrendous.
If you don’t want to hire a big company (see below) but are daunted by planning, try interactive party planning tools - there are plenty of them out there. If people in your group have different strengths and weaknesses (outgoing, creative, good with figures etc) delegate tasks rather than one person organising everything.
What to do
Google ‘hen party’ and you’ll enter a gaudy pink world of hen party planners with names like escort agencies, whose activity packages seem to divide all of womankind into fans of either TOWIE or Made In Chelsea.
For an average, UK-based hen party, you shouldn’t need to pay for an organiser. The important thing to remember is that you’re dealing with a group of strangers with different personalities.
With that in mind, include a mix of activities, from bonding games for everyone to more niche activities which can be opted in or out of.
If party shop decorations and chocolate willy games aren’t your thing, make personalised games and accessories yourself using cheap stationary and craft materials.
A Memory Book where each guest contributes a favourite memory of the hen, is a cheap, easy way to be inclusive.
For activities, affordable classics include dancing (the famous Pineapple Dance Studio does Dirty Dancing lessons for £15 per person), chocolate making, wine or cocktail tasting and karaoke (karaoke venue LuckyVoice also sell home karaoke kits).
Twists on tired themes work well too.
Instead of burlesque or pole dancing try erotic writing. Instead of an expensive spa break, buy beauty gift sets like the pampering kit from Elizabeth’s Daughter Skincare and use them at home.
Or, ditch the rude t-shirts and try fancy dress: OffBeat Bride has some fine ideas off the Ann Summers track.
A theme that reflects the bride’s interests (books, animals, art, for instance) will provide a focus and allow for personal touches.
If there’s something she’s always wanted to do on her birthday but never got around to, try to incorporate it. And don’t schedule any remotely strenuous activity after a hard night of drinking. Obviously.
With just a little thought you can organise a hen night featuring the above suggestions for little over £50 a head and a weekend for little over £100 (that’s excluding travel, but car sharing will keep costs down).
Work to the lowest earners in your group and plan well ahead to give everyone a chance to save up, or let them pay in installments.
Party planning companies do offer protection if your activity provider goes bust, so if you go it alone, think about paying for it with your credit card – that means that you’ll be afforded protection because of the marvelous Consumer Credit Act.
For a real budget party venue, decorate the bride’s flat, or let someone lend you their place (think: rich relatives with second homes). If you want to book a holiday venue, there are a plethora of online sites like holidaylettings.co.uk.