The dos and don’ts of organising a hen party

Hen party on a rooftop
"Which one of you cheapskates decided to throw my hen party on a roof?" asked the bride
"I imagine everyone in our hen party Facebook group rolled their eyes when they saw yet another notification from me"
  • | by Rachel England

When my newly-engaged best friend asked me to be her maid of honour I flapped my hands around and screeched loudly and had a little cry, just like they do in the movies.

Then we joked about getting me a special clipboard and headset, such is my reputation for military-grade organisation. And then we made lists. So many lists. And in capital letters, circled in red and underlined a hundred times: 'HEN DO'.

Partying and being ruthlessly organised are literally two of my favourite things, so I was confident I'd be able to pull this off without a hitch.

But how wrong I was, and in my forays with UN-level diplomacy and Mensa-grade lateral thinking, this is what I learned.

DO get the date nailed down ASAP

And don't, whatever you do, bust a gut trying to find a weekend that suits everyone in the party, because you'll be waiting forever otherwise.

Ask the bride what date works best for her and go from there, but do sound out availability from key players – bridesmaids, family, and so forth – before announcing a save the date to the rest of the group.

DON'T wing the guest list


Even if you're the bride's BFF you'll struggle to get this right without her input, and you don't want to invite her mum if the bride-to-be is planning on pouring tequila into her eyes. Or maybe you do. Best to clarify.

It's also worth spending a bit of time gathering intel on your fellow partygoers.

I don't mean stalking their exes or reading their dormant LiveJournal entries, but finding out about their location, their dietary requirements, their physical capabilities and so on, to help narrow down activity options.

Paintballing is probably a no-go if half the crew are pregnant, for example.

"It's also a good idea to get a vague idea of other hens' relationship statuses," advises Sarah Green, who organised her best mate's hen do in York last year.

"In our party we had one woman who'd recently been broken up with and one woman who'd been with her other half for nine years and was getting tired of waiting for him to pop the question.

"Throw a load of booze and emotions into the mix and it was a mess I wasn't prepared for."

DO stick to one medium for planning and chit chat

Whether it's a WhatsApp group, Facebook event or Skype chat, try to keep planning and feedback confined to one space so everyone's in the loop and you can keep track of everything.

Make sure everyone on the guest list is aware that this is where the activity is, and then it's their responsibility (in theory) to keep on top of developments.

Don't try to do it all via email. Messages too easily end up in junk folders and people often forget to 'reply all', or in fact 'reply all' when they definitely shouldn't.

DO expect to be out of pocket


For a while, at least. Hen parties require deposits and payments up front, and it's nigh-on impossible to get money from a motley crew in a timely fashion.

However, be wary of forking out for someone you don't know.

"I made the mistake of offering to pay for a random's non-refundable hotel room because she was short of cash until the end of the month," says Charlotte Lowe, from Worcester.

"I figured since we were all friends of the bride it would be fine. Nope. She pulled out at the last minute leaving me £150 down. I later saw her at the wedding and she pretended like nothing had happened. It was infuriating."

If you do find yourself fronting cash, consider using a 0% credit card – that way, you can easily keep track of what you're owed and you won't be out of pocket straight away.

Paying with a credit card also protects you if anything you buy goes wrong – under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, the credit card company is jointly liable if a service or product you receive doesn't turn up or is faulty.

Agree beforehand whether everyone is happy to chip in for the bride, too. Some partygoers may be particularly cash-strapped and that additional tenner could make a world of difference to them.

DO keep a financial spreadsheet


Hotel rooms, activities, drinks packages… there are lots of facets to even the most straightforward hen do.

With money flying in and out of your account or credit card, keeping on top of who's paid what, which bills have been settled and what's yet to be paid for can produce a headache of epic proportions.

DON'T be afraid to lay down the law

Organising a hen do is like herding cats.

During the planning process people need constant reminders and buoying along, and there's only so many times you can stick a polite smiley face at the end of requests for late payments before you descend into maniacal hysteria.

DO be prepared to nag – a lot


"I imagine everyone in our hen party Facebook group rolled their eyes when they saw yet another notification from me," says seasoned hen-do organiser Rebecca Saunders, who's organised no less than five hen dos for her friends.

"But someone has to get it all sorted, even if that means being the bad guy for a while."

DON'T complain to the bride

She's got enough going on with the impending wedding. If you hit a roadblock in the party planning, scream down the phone to a trusted confidant instead.

DO be prepared for your best laid plans to go astray


It doesn't matter how meticulously every single eventuality is accounted for, I promise you someone will throw a spanner in the works.

This could (and probably will) include pulling out at the last minute, dropping a huge dietary requirement bomb at the 11th hour or reneging on verbal financial agreements.

When you're planning a big, complicated event for multiple people, many of which you've never even met, it's going to happen.

Plan things as far in advance as you can to help absorb any pre-party challenges, and if it goes wrong, take a deep breath and remember the bride will be too busy thinking about her wedding to care anyway...

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