I am getting married next July and wedding preparations are on full steam! Several of my close friends are also getting married more or less at the same period, which means… a few hen do to organize!
What is a hen do?
Also called bachelorette party or bridal shower, this is an unforgettable party with all the closest (girl) friends of the bride to celebrate her last days as an unmarried woman. But for the last years, things degenerated a bit. It has become an escalation of “crazy” celebrations: a lap dance with a fake-tanned go-go dancer, the bride’s friends forcing her to wander around the city (un)dressed ridiculously and ask passersby to give her money, or binge drinking in a club with a plastic tiara on the head… Not really my idea of fun. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be that, so I’ll explain what I had in mind when recently organizing my best friends’ hen dos.
My idea of a successful bachelorette party
First of all, if the party is to celebrate my friend, I think it is fair to match her tastes. I’ll avoid a trekking in the Alps if she hasn’t put sneakers on since 2011 for example.
Second, a party for me doesn’t necessarily include a club or a lot of alcohol. After all, when we were kids, we used to organize pajama “parties” where there were none of them. So, I wouldn’t recommend avoiding a standardized party where nobody has fun anymore.
Last but not least, make it a day or a night to remember. Your friend will only get one hen do in her life (… most of the time) so let’s make sure these memories stay forever. Plus, there’s no better way to bound even further with her: how could she forget the persons who partied with her that night?
So in a few words, a bridal shower has to be personalized, unique and unforgettable. Easy, right? 😉
How to organize a memorable hen do
As for every party, planning is key but in order for it to be a good party, remember to also leave space for improvisation. Let’s take it step by step.
1. WHAT SHOULD I THINK ABOUT?
- Are you planning a day/night out in the city where the bride lives? Or a weekend getaway somewhere else?
First thing first, you will have to check everyone’s availability for a night or more. If it’s a weekend away, make sure to plan it in advance as some guests might need to ask for holidays months before or to have enough notice to plan kids/animals care.
Also, I can stress enough to pay attention to everyone’s budget as not all guests can afford to pay a hotel and their flight tickets + part of the bride’s expenses if you are planning to go away. Think about a party that is as inclusive as possible (not a Michelin-starred dinner if all the bride’s friends are students) or imagine different levels of involvement, i.e. coming only to the dinner, or to the spa day + dinner, or to the brunch + spa day + dinner.
- How much time do you have at disposal to organize it? Who will help you?
Don’t embark on something bigger than yourself if you have little time, little budget and nobody to help you. Adapt the destination, activity, and level of organization, to the investment you are ready to make (time and money wise). A dinner in a well-decorated restaurant with personalized “bride games” can be funnier than a trip to Mexico in 20 organized badly.
- Is it a surprise?
If so, insist on the secret-side of it with everyone so to avoid gaffes that would ruin what you’ve been planning for months. Use the bride’s fiancé as your personal spy to check your friend’s agenda, tastes, etc.
My advice with surprises is to actually tell half the truth. Let me explain: if you tell your friend that you are going to Disneyland for the day and she decides to dress up like Minnie Mouse, she might feel inappropriate for what ends up in a Spa day at the Institut Dior. Or more, if you’re going on a trip, she will need to pack at least a small bag…
2. WHEN TO PLAN IT?
Try to organize the bachelorette party at least 2-3 months before the wedding. After that, it is rush time for the bride and groom and there’s a risk your friend don’t manage to just relax and enjoy her party. On the contrary, by doing it too early, the bride might not be “in the mood” for the wedding just yet.
If you’re planning a getaway, check the calendar and weather forecast first, especially if you are planning outdoor activities. Remember, everyone needs to be free on the date, which might not be as easy as it seems given everybody’s hectic schedules…
3. WHERE TO DO IT?
My favorite answer: go somewhere new! It doesn’t necessarily need to be on the other side of the world. Just taking a car or a train, i.e. to “travel”, makes the bachelorette celebrations more special. A day at the nearby sea, a camping weekend in the wood, a city break, a bike ride in the mountains, there are so many options for all sort of budgets and tastes.
4. WHO TO INVITE?
Tricky question. Once again, it depends on the type of hen do you are organizing. If it is a day out or a dinner at a restaurant, feel free to invite all the bride’s friends, sisters, colleagues, neighbors, etc. If you’re planning something more exotic like a trip or an experience (see my suggestions below), I would recommend narrowing the group down to 5-6 persons including the bride. More than this, logistics tend to be much harder.
All in all, I suggest to always check with the bride who she wants to be there. Ask her to list the 5 persons that “must be there” and the 5-10 others that are “nice to have”. Based on the party you are planning, you can choose the number of guests from that list.
Another thing to take into consideration: avoid including someone who is not invited to the wedding. It might sound harsh but during the hen do, you will logically speak A LOT about the wedding. If one of the participants of the hen do is not going to take part in it, it is just going to be an awkward moment for that person.
5. WHAT SORT OF ACTIVITIES & GAMES TO PLAN?
This is perhaps the best part of the organization but also the scariest for those who don’t have much imagination. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me and my friends:
- a weekend getaway: My favorite option! I made one of my friends and all our friends come from London (where I used to live) to Bologna (where I was living at the time) and we had a great time visiting the city, trying its food and sleeping all together like teenagers. The destination was a surprise until she got on the plane! And only a few months ago, we flew my best friend to Madrid where we spent 3 magical Spanish days, between visits, spa, paella, flamenco show, tapas, and shopping. Two memorable hen dos, I can only recommend!
- a treasure hunt: it is a great way to discover a city (if you plan a city break for example) but the person who organizes the hunt has to know it by heart. By experience, have a plan B in case it is raining! The treasure can be anything from a small gift to a dinner or a massage.
- a massage or manicure: apart from a few exceptions, everyone loves massage and relaxing moments are always welcomed! You can push it even more by making the hen do a full day Spa! If you have a smaller budget, manicure/pedicure is a good option for a girly moment.
- a great dinner or drink: a typical dinner from the city you’re in, a brunch in your favorite spot, a gastronomic experience, a drink on an always-fully-booked rooftop… Food and cocktail are always a good idea!
- a professional photoshoot: great memories she will cherish forever. Online, you can find good deals for a professional photographer to follow you while you and your friends just enjoy hanging out with each other.
- the fiancé questionnaire: test the bride’s knowledge on her future husband. Send the questionnaire to her fiancé beforehand and save his answers to compare them with the bride’s ones. If she replies the wrong way, she has to drink or reveal something on her that she never told anyone. Make sure to insert some “sexy” questions to make it spicier!
>> BONUS – Pick your favorite hen do idea
I am naming a few original ideas for all tastes and budget: a meeting with her favorite actress/singer/writer – a karoké night – a parachute jump – a day-long horse ride – volunteering in a homeless shelter for a day – a flamenco/salsa/tango lesson – a shopping raid – a cocktail bar-crawl – a full immersion in a kid playroom (trampoline, ball pit swimming pool, and all) – a half-marathon – a picnic in a natural reserve – a private visit of a museum – a knitting workshop – Harry Potter binge-watching – a cooking class…
But then it could also be many other things!
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to discover what my friends have planned for my own bachelorette party! Maybe they can get a few ideas from here 😉