We’re now into month 13 of pandemic-triggered weddageddon and it’s not just the big day itself that’s causing planning anxiety. With wedding season creeping up – 15 person ceremonies are finally back on, as of last week – bridesmaids across the capital are taking to WhatsApp with one big question: how to plan a micro hen do that is Covid safe and actually fun?
The good news is we’re finally free to celebrate hen dos in person again. The less relaxing news: the roadmap is still dependent on certain milestones being met, so that 30-person pre-wedding bash could quickly become a six-person celebration at the last minute - plus there’s the great British weather to contend with.
Finding bride and budget-friendly ideas can be tricky at the best of times, so the key for 2021 is finding (flexible) options that can be downsized, taken inside or – the absolute last resort – moved onto Zoom at the last-minute.
From hosting a garden Glast-home-bury to private dining with your own personal chef, this is your post-pandemic hen do guide.
Hire a canal boat
No minibreaks, no worries. Celebrating afloat is a fun way to bring the holiday vibes without having to leave the confines of the capital (or get from A to B while dodging the Tube).
Alternative hen party planner Cluck offers a boating experience featuring a bottomless brunch, a cruise along Regent’s Canal and a chance to let rip on the karaoke machine.
Co-founder Chloe Gilham says the company have been making amendments to allow their boating experience to go ahead. “The brunch we now have on the rooftop terrace rather than indoors,” she says. “The canal boat is open-air and with the karaoke, rather than everyone being in one room, groups are separated into clusters of six in each room.”
Cluck offers a karaoke cruise with a DJ, or a more relaxed meander along the Regent’s canal with a picnic. Either way, you’ll be making waves.
£125 per person, thisiscluck.com
If you can’t get to a festival, make your own. Georgie Williams, owner and creative director of wedding planners Key is in the Detail, says names like Hen-Fest and Stag-Chella are popular for a summer bash. She suggests sprucing up the garden party with some extra touches: bell tents and teepees are a fun (and weather-proof) addition.
“Glitter stations, bartenders, balloon garlands and a barbecue are a really good way of creating this festival vibe too,” says Williams. “If you want to go all out, send festival wristbands or lanyards as invites, personalise cocktails after the bride and groom and hire the ultimate photo backdrop, for Instagram pics of course.”
If you’re celebrating on May 22, you’re in luck. Glastonbury is hosting a one-off virtual event called Live At Worthy Farm for streaming in the background. The five-hour extravaganza will be broadcast at 7pm on Saturday night featuring performances from Coldplay, HAIM, and Wolf Alice.
From £20, worthyfarm.live
Host a flower crown workshop
If you like getting crafty, a flower crown workshop is a double winner – not only is it a chance to get hands-on with flowers, leafy foliage and ribbons, but the crowns also make perfect keepsakes for the big day or Glast-home-bury later on.
Rachel Richards, booking manager at Crafty Hen, says: “At the start of the pandemic, we quickly switched to running our most popular crafty hen activities online, organising virtual craft workshops for hen parties to still socialise, celebrate and make memories together from the comfort of their sofas.”
Tired of Zoom calls? Sustainable florist Lizard In Bloom is running flower crown workshops this summer, while Richards says Crafty Hen’s DIY craft kits have also been popular: “People can keep a hold of these and bring them out as and when lockdown restrictions ease and the British weather allows too. Then hold their own crafty party at the date, time and location that works best for them.”
From £20.50, thecraftyhen.co.uk
Learn to dance
If you can’t get to a dance-floor, bring it home. Kacie Hanger, director and chief editor of The Hen Planner, recommends a Pulp Fiction theme where an instructor teaches everyone the Uma Thurman and John Travolta dance via Zoom. “The girls dressed up as John with the Bride as Uma and this theme was very successful,” she says of a recent hen.
Whether you want to whip your hair like Beyoncé or moonwalk to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Dance Party Experience offers virtual dance experiences with a professional teacher. Sessions are an hour long and participants can record the session – practice hard enough and it could even be one to whip out at the wedding.
From £13 per person, dancepartyexperience.com
Try your hand at life drawing
Paintbrushes and charcoal at the ready: Cluck offers the “sophisticated way to admire a naked hunk” with a life-drawing session. With tips from a professional artist, hens can improve their artistic skills and master the art of observation.
Gilham says they’ve made this experience virtual: “We’ve adapted these sessions so that it’s the naked Hulk and everybody drawing from the comfort of their own home, rather than being in the actual venue.”
From £100 per person, thisiscluck.com
Plan an old-school picnic
On a summer’s day, there’s nothing better than hunkering down with a hamper. Bespoke hen do company Feste offers a hen-do box that’s perfect for an al fresco get-together. It includes dressing up props, a keepsake, snacks and a playlist.
Co-founders Rachel Christie and Emilee Tombs suggest playing some old-school competitive games like rounders or British bulldog, while champagne picnics and bespoke treasure maps and trails are also popular.
Hire a private chef
The upside of smaller numbers? It’s a chance to max out and be a bit boujie, says to Lauren Mack, director of bespoke party planning service Twist & Pout, who suggests hiring a private chef if you’re looking for a luxe dining experience.
Her company offers everything from afternoon teas to butlers in the buff while others offer exclusive tasting menus. Ramekins & Wine offers a private supper club featuring seven ramekins and matching wines for £65 per person, while husband and wife duo Primavera Private Dining serves up a five course tasting menu for £105 per person. All-female led private chef platform YHANGRY has just netted £1.09 million in seed funding and offers vetted chefs with bespoke menus for as little as £17 per person.
Now that restaurants have reopened, consider hiring a private room at a restaurant like Clerkenwell’s The Modern Pantry or Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental to ensure the party has a safe space.
Or arrange a private party pod: Coppa Club’s famous riverside igloos are open for business from this week, with woven wicker chairs, bamboo lanterns and festoon lighting for an intimate brunch or dinner overlooking Tower Bridge.
Have a staycation
Planning an Ibiza getaway or trip to Las Vegas might look uncertain, but there are plenty of hidden gems in the UK for a celebratory retreat (Covid-permitting).
Tombs says she had to change her own hen do plans last year from a big festival weekend abroad to an intimate hen do for five in St Leonards. But it wasn’t such a bad thing: “It meant we could splash out on the finer things like wine tasting at Tillingham Wines, a delicious dinner at Farmyard and we stayed in a stunning apartment overlooking the sea,” she explains.
She and her co-founder advise hen do planners to make sure deposits can be refunded if you’re booking something. “Most people including the accommodation options we work with are pretty accepting of the new rules these days. And we’d always recommend looking at hotels - last summer we were able to hire out the entire floor of the Hoxton Shoreditch for a group of hens for the weekend.”
Other options include finding a log cabin, treehouse or glamping site for a weekend of wholesome activities like kayaking, wild swimming, sailing or hiking.
Host a homemade spa night
You don’t have to stay away to be pampered. Williams says homemade spa nights are particularly popular with brides: “A foot spa, some face masks, prosecco and your best friends is a really fun way to kick start those wedding celebrations,” she explains.
“You can really go all out with home cinema setups, matching PJs and gift bags filled with everything perfect for a pamper.”
For extra luxe points, hire an outdoor cinema or hot tub for an evening in the garden.
Mix your own cocktails
For a flexi option, choose cocktails. The magic of a mixology masterclass is it can be adapted for different numbers and works just as well in person as it does on Zoom.
Dirty Martini offers virtual cocktail masterclass sessions with prepared cocktail kits over Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The kits are sent before the session and include a mini cocktail shaker and a recipe card for all four cocktails. Sessions are 45 minutes and you can even add either a deli box to accompany your private masterclass for £15 per person.
Personalised mobile bar service Botanical Bubbles is also providing virtual cocktail sessions. Each hen receives a box full of ingredients, equipment, recipe cards and garnishes. On the day, hosts Matt or Emily will help hens make each cocktail and share some history behind it.
Solve a crime
How about digging out your best glamour and glitter to solve a murder? The Digital Murder Mystery Co was founded after the first lockdown and offers a perfect way to liven up the hen night, with download-ready murder mysteries and bespoke immersive experiences.
Choose from themes such as 1920s Paris, Studio 54, 1930s Nile Cruise and prepare for a fun-filled whodunit. Each mystery is set up for 12 players and each player receives character descriptions, scripts and outfit inspiration, plus downloadable Zoom backgrounds, a playlist and suggested dinner and cocktail recipes.
£275 for up to 12 guests, digitalmurdermystery.com
Decorate your own lingerie
If flower crown workshops aren’t your bag, try something cheekier. The Crafty Hen offers a lingerie customisation workshop that promises hens the chance to pimp their own pair of pants. Participants can create underwear using fun fabrics, sequins, luxurious lace, bows and Swarovski crystals.
Or if you don’t fancy pimping your knickers, try making your own nipple tassels. No experience is necessary and sessions are virtual if you can’t meet in person – each hen will receive a kit containing all the materials before the workshop starts.
From £21 per person, thecraftyhen.co.uk