Planning a Hen Party for a Friend
In January, one of my close friends from University (College for Americans) ask me to help plan her hen party with the other bridesmaids. Here are few things I learnt along the way and the tips and advice I would give to others planning a hen/bachelorette party.
First task it to Speak to the Bride
I have been invited to a number of hens and they are always a little different as they are meant to reflect the Bride, so I would always advise to speak to the Bride and ask her lots of questions to help figure it out, such as:
- Do you want to be involved in planning?
- Do you want it to be a surprise?
- Is there any must dos and must do nots?
- When would you like it?
- Do you want a Hen weekend/Day/Holiday?
- When do you want it? Week before, Months before etc.
- Who do you want to come?
For me the Bride wanted to be surprised, did give my guidance on what to do but gave a few clear no (no strippers for example). Then it was a case of bouncing ideas and suggestions off her to see her reaction. I also found it best to communicate with her about how she wanted it organised. Also you need her to tell you who she wants invited and to hand over all their contact details.
As my bride was very much about equal she didn’t want to outwardly say that she wanted me to organise the event as she had a few bridesmaids including a close friend from when she was small. So she politely asked me to make sure everyone felt included from the very start.
Plan with Inclusion in mind
I therefore started that way, created a WhatsApp group (you will learn this is your friend). Got all the other bridesmaids on their and tried to open it up to hear opinions from them all and also just communicate what the Bride has said she wanted etc. I also knew that in this situation someone had to take a bit more of a leading role and help steer the event. I therefore would advise someone who is trying to get help from others or if other people want to assist in the planning you find roles/jobs that suit their personality. Sometimes you can organise by committee but other times you can’t.
In the end, all the other bridesmaids fell away (naturally did not become a dictatorship, I promise no reactants from Bridesmaid I promise) for I look a lead from the front and communicate what I was doing they all seems to lean back. I will say that personally I found it a lot easier to just get on with it and plan it all myself – though I will also admit it is a very large responsible and don’ t underestimate the level of work it is.
Another aspect of inclusion is with the full Hen Party, the bride and I were very similar after having back hen experiences, that we wanted to make sure that everyone was included and would feel comfortable both budget and doing the event. So I became ‘Survey girl’ as nicknamed by the Brother-of-the-Groom. I sent our an online survey for all of the guest list to fill in with preference on locations, dates, activities, accommodation requirements, suggestions and budgets etc. This way I would plan around the greatest number of people. You also get them engaged which is nice.
Money Matters, You can’t Plan until Budget is set
You can’t really think up ideals and whether you are doing a single event, or a weekend or a trip abroad until both the Bride has indicator her budget suggestions (as she will know the guest list money restrictions better than you).
I know it is very hard to speak about money but you can’t assume everyone will be happy with a £400+ trip to Barcelona for weekend compared to a £60 dinner and dancing. Another question you need to figure out whether to ask the Bride or not is, are the other hens paying for her to attend or is she paying her own way. You will know the bride and when she has indicator the financial lay of the land of the Hens you might be able to make that call yourself.
When you know what budget framework you are working within, always best to double check and do it sort of individually as don’t want to call anyone out, give them ways to respectfully tell you that is too much or they can’t afford to come etc. This is why I had the Survey to see what people were willing to afford and also communicated the results back to all the hens to give them a way to reply saying couldn’t go without any issues. I also plan the hen in such a way that people could opt in and out of things according to their budget. Not all Hen are like this, as it is a fixed all in cost, but be sure to clearly communicate what they need to pay for now and then and the timing on paying any money up front and what it is covering.
Pin key statistics down as soon as you can: Date, Location and Numbers
The most important pieces of information after budget before you can really start planning is finalising the date, location of the event and number of people attending. For as soon as you have this information you know if you have to sort accommodation and transport, what your total budget is (as cost per person matters) and also just what your options are. For example via the survey I asked the guest list their preference over 2 locations, 4 different weekends, if they wanted help with accommodation. Then when everyone had filled those out, I went with the location and date that most people could do. Then double-check – can’t stress that enough – that they can all do those locations and dates. I had 18 say in Survey they could and two weeks later 4 said they couldn’t as forgot they booked something. A major lesson learnt, take numbers as a guideline until closer to the time and if you can to really pin them down and get them to commit, I had drop out and then people say they might come makes organising a lot harder. When you have all the information the funner (will not go as far as saying fun) part of the planning starts.
Outline a rough itinerary of Party and List of Must Haves and Dos
I knew that we were going to be having a Hen Weekend and was going to be in Manchester (which thankfully had ten years ago lived for a year so had vague knowledge of the city) and there was going to be about 15 of us. So the best next step was to consider what you had learnt from what the Bride wanted and by now you also know how many and what sort of people are attending the event (for example is a all young hens or also a few older family friends and mother-in-laws) and what they might enjoy. It is simple as just spit balling a rough itinerary and list of must haves, for example I knew I had to find a hotel, a big night out, an activity, an afternoon tea and a goodies bag. I had a number of ideas and options and then it on to the next stage:
Do Research and ask advice from locals
Now you have a rough idea of what you want to do and need get do some research. Personally, this ranged from hen websites but also local guides and other bloggers etc. For example I knew that I wanted a nice but affordable afternoon tea so just googled best afternoon tea in Manchester and then made a shortlist. Similarly with activities in Manchester, got quotes and looked everything from cocktail making, to chocolate making and spa options. I had two of the Hens who were local and one of them gave a great location idea for the big night out and was happy to help book that for me, and I also run past some of my other options with them to hear their thoughts. When I had a number of options it was also about availability and the combined costings and timings of everything.
Confirm and then Book not the other way round
I am very happy I learnt this lesson early on, that as much as people said they would come, plans change and budget restrictions move. I went back to all the Hens who said they would attend and gave them a rough outline of what the plan was for the weekend and the associated costs and ask all of them to confirm they were happy to proceed on that basis. Many of the activities and especially all the props and goodies bags etc are an upfront cost or have a cancellation penalties so needed to make sure was going to either leave anyone out of have another sudden dropout rate. You might also have to chance to get that final answer but wait until you do. When you have that confirmation, go on and book and finalise plans as soon as you can, just to sure availability especially if you have a large group to cater for.
Don’ t be Shy but be Fair, by knowing and adapting to payment restrictions
One of the hard parts of organising a hen (especially alone) is having all the outlays without necessary line of sight of recouping all the money from the Hens. Hopefully at this point you have clearly communicated the cost of attending the event but also don’t be shy about asking for them to pay in advance for the activities. I had a lot of activities that needed to be paid in advance, reservation costs, and buying all the decorations and gifts for the whole weekend. You just need to be sensible and fair to all the hens.
It really depends on the type of event you are having and also the group of hens on how you deal with payment. I have been to one where you sorted out your own travel and accommodations and then the rest of the weekend was dealt with on a pool basis, where we just all put £50 in at a time and it was use to pay for everything from taxis, drinks to food, and when it ran out we all just put in another £50. The group all had roughly the say budget and were all sensible enough to not over order and were fair to each other. Funny enough that Bride told me to drink more as I was plant-based so was eating less – hehe.
However for the Hen I was organising there a variety of budget restrictions, and so people were opting in and out of different parts of the weekend. I also didn’t want to have the moments where I am trying to divide bills up by 15 people. In addition, it is also a lot easier for people to pay in advance than pay on the day or afterwards. So I just sat down and divided up the fixed pre-paid costs, budgeting for some costs such as meals (such as median cost of lunch and don’t forget to add in service) and also set budgets for decorations and gifts. Then wrote to each Hen with their individual cost, and asked for money but also as I could afford it said that happy to take in two instalments and had a deadline of when it was expected. I am still waiting on some, got paid a little less for some and some costs were more and some were less, but knew that I would have to absorb that cost.
You need to know Surprises don’t stay surprises long
The Bride had and so had I wanted to be surprised by her Hen. The whole weekend was meant to be a surprise to her but that didn’t last long.
I will hold my hands up the first surprise revealed was by myself – we were at a Bridal Show and as she and the groom weren’t drinking I decided to use their vouchers for more champagne and cocktails (not best when you have gone for a run and not had breakfast – no excuse really but am trying to elevate a bit of the guilt) and the Groom decided to tease me that I wasn’t taking it to Italy but just somewhere boring and as is my style with him I decided (not seeing her behind him) say “No, of course not we are going to Manchester” to which he smile in glee and she said from beside him “Oh we are that is great”. The message to the Hen Party WhatsApp group where I had previously read the riot out about letting the Bride use her mind tricks to get information out was very humbling.
However, I also learn over the months in advance and her trying to get a few things out of me that a number of Hens had let slip a number of the activities. However, I had predicted this happened and I had kept the two daytime activities a secret to the whole party. So if you do want to keep secrets and surprises keep the circle small who know less likely for it to come out.
There will be a lot of Questions from the Hens be prepared
I know that there was lot of people to organised and the individuals ranged from how need more assistance than others but be prepared that you will get a lot of questions through-out the process and a lot of them the same questions (sometimes from the same person). I knew this was going to happen, especially as I got mixed level of responsiveness from emails and Whatsapp communications. So I decided to put together a website (just a free domain can get from WordPress or Wix) which had all the information about the weekend on there with timings, locations, dress codes etc. I was willing to take the time as it meant that I could direct them all there and it had all the information they needed so I wasn’t answer very basic questions again and again. As with hostessing anything you are still going to get lots of questions, but this did help cut it down. I also got to reveal to the Bride (when I found out she roughly knew anyways) what was going to happy and she wanted to keep it up. I helped promote the Hen party as something a little special and got the excitement started in advance of the big day.
Finally here are a few other smaller tips that I wish I had known or were shared with me whilst I was planning:
- You don’t have to plan each m
- Leave a lot of lead time when buy things on the internet especially personalised gifts
- The date will come around before you know it
- You don’t need to buy a lot of the games and other stuff online – it is easy to make your own if you have time
- Have a fully charged phone at all times and be prepared for questions at any time
- Don’t get pulled into Hen dramas if you are planning with other people divide up tasks or guests are being difficult let it wash over you and just remember you are all doing it for the Bride
- Know that you will might not be able to fully enjoy the event itself like the other Hens as you are quasi-hostess so take a bit of enjoyment and pride in the planning and trying to make time over the event to enjoy yourself
- Remember that if the Bride is happy and enjoyed herself you have achieved your goal
- Know you will not be able to please everyone all the time whether is location, date or budget but just got for the majority
Finally it is just a party, yes there is lot of personality involved and it isn’t your average kids birthday party but try to have fun and ask for help if you need to. However the last tip which really helped me was to BREATHE, Keep calm and Party on!