Girls just wanna have fun – Hen party planning

Megan Holwill’s six-step guide to planning the perfect hen night

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The hen night, swan weekend, bachelorette party, bridal shower…whatever you call it, the event to send the bride-to-be off from her single life can be as stressful to organise as the wedding itself.

Making sure that grannies, mums, best friends, pals and colleagues are all in the right place at the right time and – most importantly – having a good time is a huge task and one that typically rests on the shoulders of the chief bridesmaid. Event organiser Megan Holwill, director of Ten Events Ltd, has organised dozens of hen parties professionally and – having had the honour of being a bridesmaid six times and tasked with organising those hen parties – is the person to ask on how to make it an event to remember, for all the right reasons…

Here are Megan’s top tips for the organiser of the last fling before the ring:-

Step 1: The guest list
Check with the bride who she wants at her hen. If she is planning to let her hair down she may not want colleagues in attendance. Does she have an awkward relationship with her soon-to-be mother-in-law? Are there some old uni chums she has rekindled her friendship with that she’d like to invite?
Remember that the hen night guest list can be as political as the wedding day list, so let her guide you and if she says ‘small and intimate’ you can probably go ahead and cancel the party bus to see the Chippendales.

Step 2: Get organised
Once you have your guest list, it’s time to collate contact details. It might sound over the top but if you can pop these into a spreadsheet it will help later on. Get email addresses and mobile numbers where possible. The number of hen nights where the bride’s Auntie Betty has gone amiss between the mixology class and the dancefloor is too many to count – so have everyone’s number to hand at all times.
The real aim of the hen night is to help the hens to bond pre-wedding – and to make sure the bride has the time of her life. Lots of the guests may never have met so it is your job to make sure they are introduced and mingling. Setting up a Facebook event page is a great way for everyone to get to know each other prior to the night as even something as simple as putting names to faces is a good start. I also like to have a few funny or emotive lines from each guest on how they met the bride, or other funny anecdotes – and put these alongside pictures of them together in a little booklet that can be handed out at the start, or a day or two before the hen.

Step 3: Save the date
Once the bride has decided on a date/weekend for her bash, you should get an indication of interest in attending from guests by sending out an email invite – I love www.paperlesspost.com for this type of thing. They have great designs to suit all tastes and an easy-to-navigate website making this a cheap and simple way of finding out who is available on the date which can then help you to decide the type of activities that would be most suitable.

Step 4: Spa break or weekend in Vegas?
Deciding what to do and where to go are the hardest decisions to make, but I always find that splitting the day/weekend into sections gives people options, and in my experience, almost always makes guests happy.
Expense is a huge factor when planning a hen night, so try to keep the event to a budget. Most guests will appreciate not spending a week’s wage on the celebrations. You can cut the costs by staying close to home, helping reduce transport/travel costs. Many brides have friends in far-flung corners of the world but if you are able to keep local for the majority of partygoers, then you have a better chance at the hen being well attended and you are guaranteed to lessen the ‘moan factor’.

Step 5: Set a budget
For under £50 per person you can easily create a day/night to remember. Most cities have an abundance of good restaurants offering set menus for lunch and dinner which are competitively priced. Keep your eye out for deals on sites such as Groupon, itison and Living Social in the lead-up as this can slash the cost of dining out dramatically.
Have each guest submit a picture of themselves with the bride and print these up as place settings. Add on a fun activity such as a dance class, cocktail making, cupcake designing, mini spa treatments or a lesson in seduction. Once again, the online discount sites can be very useful; although I’d recommend phoning ahead before booking to make sure they have space, accept voucher bookings on that date and will accept a hen party.
This might be enough for some guests who can head home having had a great time while others may want to continue the night.
For £100 per person you can take the party into the evening with a couple of cocktails and tasty food platters at a bar with entrance to a club arranged for afterwards. This type of day and night can usually create memories to last a lifetime.
For £200+ per person, why not hire a log cabin or cottage in the country? This type of venue is great for a ‘swan weekend’ as everyone can really get to know one another and have a giggle. Decorate with balloons and pictures of the bride-to-be throughout her life. Plan games, organise pampering treats from a mobile beautician, hire a local chef to come and prepare dinner or ask a barman to come and mix cocktails for the evening. Little touches like a playlist featuring special songs from moments guests have shared with the bride, or a home video of the groom can make your event a success.
Small keepsakes of the event are also a nice way to remember the day. Try www.ohsocherished.co.uk for cute gifts for guests and the bride. Some of my favourite ideas are arranging a photo album of the night, or a guest book where all the hens can leave a message for the big day, or framing a black and white picture of all the hens together with the bride – all are always well-received mementoes for the bride.

Step 6: Stay calm
I’ve had so many conversations with guests and brides who haven’t enjoyed the hen party because the guests didn’t gel or the organiser was too stressed, officious or downright bossy. It is a huge undertaking and if you need help, ask. Don’t feel you have to do it all by yourself. Event organisers love taking on hen parties as it gives them a real chance to be creative and they have all the contacts to ensure you get the best deal for your group.
The important thing is that everyone feels relaxed and able to enjoy themselves. These hints and tips should help, but if it still feels like it is getting too much – call in the experts.
• Megan Holwill is a Director at Ten Events

0131 332 1002, www.ten-events.com

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