As immortalised in the hit movie Bridesmaids, a hen ‘do’ or party, also known as a bachelorette party in the US, is not an easy thing to organise.
Juggling different tastes, personalities and budgets can lead to a meltdown for the maid of honour, bridesmaid or any other friend who is organising the event.
“Absolutely, it is very stressful, but you’ve been awarded such an honouring and flattering title, and been asked to arrange a special event for one of your closest friends,” says Tom Bourlet from event specialists Fizzbox.com (formerly Hen Heaven).
“The stress is all worth it, while the event can be something you look back on forever, as a truly great moment you shared together.”
Here’s advice from Bourlet and a host of other industry experts on what you need to do – and not do – for the hen party to be a success.
Group chats and shared apps
Cheryl Hooper, Director at Purple Tiger Management, who previously worked for stag and hen specialists Last Night of Freedom says: “One of the biggest bugbears for maids of honour, who are tasked with organising 10+ busy women, is communication. We suggest embracing technology and utilising the various tools available to make things as smooth as possible.
“Everyone’s been in a group chat where pretty quickly, all it consists of is, ‘Can you do this date?’, ‘I can’, ‘I can’t’, ‘I’m only free Thursdays’ and so on.
“You need Doodle It allows you to put forward multiple dates to the group, and allows people to add when they’re free as well, minimising a LOT of grief.
“Group chats are a great way to interact, but why settle for generic messaging platforms when apps like GroupMe not only allow you to message your group, but also add dates straight into your calendar and even split money! Work smart, not hard,” she adds.
Bourlet says: “A spreadsheet is incredibly useful, but one alternative I love is Trello, a free project management tool, which allows you to drag and drop items, designate them to the relevant person and set deadlines.”
Plan your guest list and stick to it
Check with the bride who she wants there – and who she doesn’t – and keep to that list. If she doesn’t want her mum to attend, it’s not up to you to ‘surprise’ her with a visit.
Bourlet says: “You must set the exact number of people attending from the start with the bride. While she might feel pressured to add people later on, this can be very difficult, especially in regards to changing numbers with suppliers, arranging payments and doing certain activities that might have a minimum or maximum number.
“For example, if you’re in an escape room, they only allow a certain number of people in per room and by adding a couple of others later on, they might not be able to join the group.”
Be mindful of money
Yes, hen parties can be expensive. And everyone will have a different budget.
Try to be mindful of that and communicate kindly about it. It will help you, too, as you plan the budget to your own demands.
A kitty is a good way to spend the cash, but you could do that on a pre-paid currency card or app, to make your life easier as the organiser.
Ever organised a hen do? 👰 How did you sort out paying for the bride? Kitty upfront, or split equally at bill time?
— Genevieve Brading (@geebrading) April 12, 2016
“You have to be wary that many of the people attending might have difficulties with money, therefore they might not be all able to pay in one go, especially if given short notice,” advises Bourlet.
“One alternative is to request a monthly payment, but if you’re handling it personally, this can be a lot of admin work and you can be left short if someone cancels and you can’t get the money back.”
It’s also worth noting that you should not constantly be chasing for money publicly, as this can cause friction, adds Andrea Willoughby, Business Development manager at City Academy and formerly at Chillisauce.com, which organises hen dos.
“To avoid this from happening, speak to people privately if they haven’t paid by a deadline in order to sort out a payment plan. Alternatively, sites like Chillisauce offer a group payment system, which saves the awkwardness of chasing people for funds,” she says.
There are so many elements to a hen party – why not delegate some to other bridesmaids or close friends, and divide and conquer?
Someone can organise hen party packs, someone else can organise games, someone else can put together a photo memory book… it takes the pressure off.
How about getting them all to the same place at the same time?
Keziah Wildsmith of experiential events agency Heaps + Stacks says: “The simple way is to tell people 30-60 mins earlier than you actually need them! A few simple fibs will keep every one in check.”
You need to keep those messages going on WhatsApp, once it’s close to H-day, she adds.
“WhatsApp is great great for busy people and something people are always checking, even outside working hours. Some hens might not have desk-based jobs, so this works for everyone.”
And always remember… the bride is your priority
If all else fails, repeat this to yourself over and over. What she wants is what should happen. Everyone should follow her lead.
This often helps the organiser justify the plan, as if someone is invited on a hen party, they should know the Bride loves snorkelling, so even though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s going to be on the agenda.