How to have a hen party that doesn’t suck

Planning Let’s start with a little history. The concept of a bridal shower is an old, old one, and much has changed about it since its conception a ‘a thing’ in the sixteenth century among rich folks.

Back in the day, opinions of women were so crushingly low that the family paid what is called a ‘dowry’ to the groom and his family to ease the burden that was his new wife. Nice, huh?

Over the next couple of hundred years, bridal showers became a popular way of friends expressing their generosity towards brides from poorer families who couldn’t afford a dowry. Sweet.

Now, close your eyes and picture the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘hen party’. How did we arrive here? Well, things kept on evolving, and in the UK particularly, the bridal shower has mainly mutated into the hen party, which is associated with a certain set of activities, an aesthetic… certain expectations.

Now, the typical hen party doesn’t suit everyone by any stretch, and it’s definitely hugely important for any bride or groom to question tradition and shape their experience of engagement, wedding and marriage to fit them, not vice versa. BUT add to that the fact that hundreds of brides every year are marrying women (hence this site, people! Hello!), and it’s clear that the typical hen party might not suit everyone.

So isn’t it a really great time to give hen parties a whopping great rebrand, or rather just take our own hen parties in a million different fabulous directions as individual as our fingerprints?

But what if you don’t want a hen party at all? Well, simply start reading another post on this site, my love, and carry on with life! Hen parties aren’t mandatory, of course; there is no law. You don’t have to have one.

That said, when a gathering of your nearest and dearest people get together to celebrate you and to do activities that you enjoy, there’s not much to dislike. Plus, such events can potentially pull together previously disparate groups – in-laws, neighbours, university friends, colleagues – into one big team of awesome people who can party through your wedding with you and with each other.

But in order to do this, you need to free yourself from the ‘shoulds’ that, like so much of wedding planning, accompany ideas of bridal showers. ‘Shoulds’ lead you down a road you don’t much care for, sap your enthusiasm and dampen the fun, and that’s how you end up with a hen party that sucks.

If you want a party but hate planning, well, good news – the handing over of the reins to your besties is one tradition that’s worth hanging onto! You and your partner are going to be doing plenty of planning for the wedding itself, so I promise you that you’ll not regret handing over responsibility to others, believe me.

Delegate thoughtfully. Your friend who just got divorced and has just had her mum move in with her may not be totally up for being at the helm of bridal shower planning. Or she might actually bloody love the distraction. Put yourself in others’ shoes before asking, and don’t get offended if the answer is ‘I will help… by getting drunk on the night’.

Got all that? Then you’re truly on the way to a hen party that will not suck. Here are a few other pointers:

You can still specify.
Even if you’re not at the helm of the hen party planning, you can still make requests about what kind of experience you want. General preferences are much more helpful (and less diva-ish) than specific demands though – remember it’s your most loved and trusted people who are putting their own time (and money) into planning something for you. So be nice.

You also get a say in who comes because you deserve to feel comfortable around all your party guests – plus it's pretty awkward to invite a hen guest who isn't invited to the wedding, so it's important to refer to the wedding guest list before inviting party guests.

Don’t feel bad if you want to plan it yourself.
There’s a lot to be said for sitting back and looking forward to the surprises of a hen party planned by others – someone else taking all the time and pressure off you, for starters.

But if you really want to plan your own pre-wedding party, don’t feel bad! And make it clear to your buddies that it’s not a reflection on them (even if, maybe, it is! I won’t tell if you won’t, and it’s your call ultimately).

All the sexes.
In my experience, the more diverse a hen party is, the more fun it is. So what if the tradition is for a clique of women? Life isn’t like that for most people today, so let your hen party reflect your life.

Build in space.
You don’t need a fun activity for every part of the party. Give old friends time to catch up and new friendships time to develop with a little unstructured time. Honestly, people will be glad of a bit of space between activities.

Sign a keepsake.
This is such a cool alternative to a guestbook, which, let’s be honest, most hen party groups couldn’t fill even half of. Pick a beautiful item and get all the guests to sign it as a souvenir of a fantastic day.

Keep fun at the forefront.
Fun comes first. Even if it comes at the expense of sticking to a detailed schedule to the minute. Going with the flow will make the day so much more enjoyable than moving from one thing to the next because ‘it’s time’.

And if someone wants to watch a particular activity rather than participate, don’t sulk – it could be that their idea of fun is watching things happen. We all like to have fun in different ways.

Keep costs in mind.
Usually, hen party guests pay their share of the party costs, and sometimes this can be an area of tension, given people’s differing levels of income and lifestyles. You can’t control that, but you can control some of the costs of the party and how you deal with asking for payments from people.

Try to work out costs early on in the planning process, and keep everyone informed. Try to give people a while to pay for things. And be prepared for at least one person to decline the invitation on grounds of ‘too expensive’. It seems someone always will. And that’s not your fault, unless you planned a week’s trip to Monaco in a five-star hotel.

Get crafty.
Make your hen party work for you by getting the group to pitch in with the crafting of placecards, table settings, decorations or just about anything else. It’s the perfect chance to tick some things off the wedding planning to-do list and affords you all an opportunity to sit around, have a laugh and and bitch about life.

Bring a dish and the recipe.
One woman I know had a bring-and-share lunch as part of her hen do, and – because she loved cooking – her guests brought the recipe to make the dish that they brought, and presented these to the bride-to-be in a stylish ringbinder book.

This format was so awesome because it served the purposes of catering the hen do and providing a keepsake – plus the bride-to-be got something that reflected her passions and that she could enjoy using forever, and that was personal to each of her guests too.

Board games.
Not into the idea of bringing dishes to a hen party? Well, how about bringing a board game and some booze? There is seriously a board game out there for everyone. Super cheap and super simple but super fun.

Give guests something to do.
A little activity that guests can pick up in a lull and have a go at is a really good idea. Nervous guests can start with this, as opposed to launching into conversation with a stranger, and anyone who’s bored later on can just pick it up and get on with it.

Mad-libs is a simple place to start, but you could do other writing things, or something artsy, or some other small crafty activity, or even a mini puzzle each.

Multiple is okay.
Want to avoid the sometimes-awkward situation of bringing together until-now disparate parts of your life? Yes, uniting work colleagues with your uni friends can sometimes work beautifully and create a supergroup of awesome people… or sometimes it can fall flat.

While it often goes better than you think it will do, it’s okay to have several smaller hen dos if you think there will be a real clash of personalities in a combined one.

So, are you going to hand over the planning of your hen to someone, or are you doing it yourself? What’s your idea of a fun hen party? Have you been to any really terrible ones in the past? If so, what made them so? Tell us all!

Tags: hen party, bridal shower, bridal party, pre-wedding party, advice, planning

You might also like...