Organising a hen party? These are the 18 essential dos and don’ts for bridesmaids
Organising a hen party can be a daunting task at best, and a total mind-melter at worst.
It doesn’t matter how award-winning and creative your ideas might be, unless you understand the basics of hen party planning, you’ll trip up at the most avoidable of hurdles.
Sharing these tips with your fellow bridesmaids will ensure you’re all sufficiently aware of the issues that could arise, and the considerations that need to be made. And once you’re all on the same page in that regard, then the fun part can begin!
- Check with the bride about the hen party guestlist
There’s the temptation to make the entire event a complete surprise for your bride, but trust us when we say you’re only setting yourself up for disaster if you do. By not consulting her about who deserves an invitation and – equally as important – who doesn’t, you risk offending too many individuals to make it worthwhile.
- Establish what kind of level of “fun” she (and the group) are comfortable with
As the honourable Fergie once said, “a little party never killed nobody”, and while this is true, you need to lay down the parameters in terms of what the bride is actually comfortable with.
And with that in mind…
- Factor-in the attendees
If the bride wants her mum, granny, aunts and in-laws at her hen, then you may need to reign in the x-rated antics. There’s nothing fun about strippers if they’re met with a poker-faced aunt and a weeping granny.
- Save the date
This is vital. People are busy, and if enough forewarning isn’t given then some key friends may not be able to make the event. By giving enough time you’ll increase the likelihood that people overseas may be able to book cheap flights to come back for it.
- Be firm on the RSVP and money date
This is where you need to make use of those project/ people management skills because you need to be tough on this front, without being militant. Give at least three weeks for people to get the money together, with one reminder along the way (see below point about not overdoing it with the messages).
- Get the various friend groups to mix
There are bound to be attendees who don’t know each other, so things could feel a little awkward as the initial introductions are made. Having some sort of distraction for that first hour is really helpful. Consider having a display of childhood photos of the bride for everyone to laugh and gush over. If you can source some old photos of the bride with the guests from the years gone by, all the better.
- Keep the costs as low as possible
Attending a wedding comes with a considerable price tag, so it’s worth bearing this in mind when you go to book the unnecessary (and costly) add-ons. Hummerzines, topless waiters, and bottles of Dom Perignon are all nice-to-have but essentially non-essential. About €100-€200 per person is normal, but it all depends on what’s involved.
- Be totally transparent
If people are forking out their hard-earned cash for this, they’ll want to know where exactly their money is going. Outline what’s involved, and what it all costs – it’ll reduce any potential for hassle down the line. It’s also a good idea to pick one bank account where the guests’ money will go – this makes transparency so much easier.
- Create a WhatsApp group
This is the easiest way to invite everyone and to communicate any of the finer details. Just keep the messages to a minimum.
- Dress code/ theme
This is another way to get the group to mix, and an easy way to add a bit of craic to the event. Something as simple as a “red lip” theme means that minimum effort is required, but you can get as creative as you want.
- Build excitement, put time into the invitation
The invitation sets the tone for the event to follow, so put a bit of time into it. Canva is a brilliant website that has a huge amount of templates that you can use for free. It bumps up people’s excitement for what’s to come – “if the invitation looks this good, I can only imagine what the actual hen is going to be like!”
- Pick out the “designated schmoozers”
This is another great way to get people from different friends circles to mix and it also takes some of the pressure off you. Pick the most outgoing attendees and assign titles such as “Chief Glass Filler-Upper”, etc.
- Don’t let her in on everything
Keeping a few things as a surprise will add to the bride’s enjoyment of the event, which, at the end of the day, is what’s most important.
- Don’t choose a date too close to the wedding
This is a no-brainer, the closer it gets to the wedding, the more choc-a-block the bride’s schedule will become. Even if you’re planning a relatively tame hen, it’s best to arrange it at least two months ahead of the big day.
- Don’t overdo it with the correspondence
This is a Grade A crime as far as any party-organiser should be concerned. Keep those Whatsapp messages to only what is necessary (with maybe one hype-building meme/ gif thrown in a few days before the event). Less is definitely more in this regard.
- Don’t make it all about drinking
Not everybody will want to get baloobas, and that is totally fine. There’s nothing worse than being pressured into doing something you don’t want to do, so try to stay away from that territory. This doesn’t mean you can’t play drinking games etc., just don’t make it a big deal if some individuals down MiWadi instead of wine.
- Don’t force attendees to do too much prep
A fancy dress outfit is pretty much where we set the preparatory requirements line at. Asking people to buy additional gifts or create some tear-inducing monologue detailing their undying love for the bride is annoying and unnecessary.
- Don’t overdo it on the activities
Bridesmaids often get fed the belief that a hen should be non-stop activities for the entirety of the event. Unfortunately, this can veer into “organised fun” territory. Don’t be afraid to set aside a bit of time for attendees to recoup their energy. It’s often at these relaxed breaks when the best chats are had.
- Don’t add on any extra costs
Your guests have paid the cost to attend the hen party, from here on out they should not be expected to fork out another penny. Their contribution needs to cover food and some drink, transport and the various activities. If you head out to a bar or club they can pay their own way for additional drinks, but the flat rate needs to include the basics.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
Things are invariably going to go wrong; a 100% perfect hen party is not possible. Sometimes it’s actually the mishaps and unanticipated that result in the biggest laughs and noteworthy moments, so try to go with the flow on the night. No bridesmaid-zillas here, please.
This article was originally published in July 2021.