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Thursday 24 January 2013

The Sluttery Guide To A Brilliant Hen Do

ALWAYS novelty drinks items, ALWAYS!
Or, "How To Throw A Hen Party Without Everyone Hating You."

There was an article in The Telegraph yesterday complaining about Henzilla madness, and hen nights that cost £200+. I laughed. Partly because Henzilla is a brilliant word, and suggestive of a giant chicken in a pink sash shooting down buildings with its booze-fuelled laser eyes, and partly because I've organised two now, a Weekend Away Hen (WAH, let's do some organisational acronyms here) and One Day Hen (ODH) and neither of them came anywhere near £200 a guest. Frankly, I would have shot myself if I'd managed to let it get that ridiculous, and I would have had some pretty stern glares from my fellow bridesmaids.

What to do?
You want to have a lovely time, with your friends, and a bunch of people you've never met and will probably never see again apart from at the wedding. So common denominator activities are a win - and let people opt out if it's really not up their street. Nobody wants to be manhandled into spending a ton of cash on something they would never dream of doing normally. And as well as forking out for things to do, think of ways to spend less money having more fun: dinner parties, games (I love games, so do forgive their prevalence here) and getting to know you activities.

If the bride says no, do not order a stripper. Ever. A straw shaped like a cock you can just about get away with. A stripper - not so much. Besides. It's more than likely that one of your party will end up doing that at some point.

No strippers or straws, but plenty of pink drinks
When to hold it?
Organising a large group of people is probably only slightly worse than organising a large group of ducks. Use to get everyone to agree on a date.  A month or two before the wedding is fine, it'll get the bride all excited, and any lasting bruises will have faded before the big day.

Again, this is teaching you to suck eggs, really. You know about budgeting. You will always have guests who are swimming in dosh and ones who definitely weren't. I worked to those who weren't, and started organising it months ahead so people could save up. I found things that people would want to do themselves: people are infinitely happier if you treat a weekend away as a proper holiday, and not just a paean to the bride. The day hen was filled with things you could opt in and out of (some guests didn't drink alcohol, some would rather die than go dancing). There were three tiers of cost, one for all three activities, one for the end party and just one, and one just for the party, which covered the cost of food and drink. 

If someone is really really skint, then you and your fellow bridesmaids might consider subbing them - although only if they're nice, the bride will appreciate it, and you can.

Craft and customise (and involve people who want to be involved)
You know this. You do this! You all know this backwards! This is our Sluttery bread and butter, but it needn't be terribly complicated. If you want complicated, head to Rock n Roll Bride and feast your eyes.
I didn't do any of this! LUCKY ME!
 For WAH (wah!), my two fellow bridesmaids were absolutely brilliant. I lucked out massively with the bridegroom's sister, who was the most fantastically imaginative, creative, and generally lovely girl I've ever met. From butterfly bunting to a centerpede centrepiece, she made and sourced all the decorations for a dinner party on our second night, and the bride's sister  made a load of fantastic extras on the day which were incredible.

The theme for the party, The Butterfly Ball, came about from a birthday idea the bride had wanted to do for her 25th but didn't manage to do. We put together a surprise 'Queen Bee' costume for her from Claire's Accessories, signed a copy of the book, everyone dressed up and it was AMAZING.

This is the bride's sister dressed as Magician Moth. Frankly, a winner.

For the ODH, one guest brought a Lucky Voice karaoke box, another had made a board game all about the bride (I felt shamed. SHAMED) and we played a shed load of ridiculous games that don't bear repeating in polite society.
Part of the amazing personalised bride board game -wow!
I also bought pretty much everything off eBay. I found beautiful sheet music paper chains, and got a pretty shabby chic sign personalised to the bride to stand on the food table. It looked very good and it didn't cost much, and was a lovely souvenir of the party for her, rather than just blurry photos and a hangover. Also: if you don't think people will notice, don't bother with it. Save the money instead.

Find a brilliant venue

For the One Day Hen, I found the most reasonably priced cocktail lessons in London, at LVPO in Soho - £25 a head including cocktails, fizz and food, and the most amazingly fun cocktail competition ever - and for a dance class we went to Pineapple Dance Studios for a Dirty Dancing group lesson (£15 a head) because - well, it's Pineapple, how can you not go there for dancing!

For the party afterwards, we lucked out by simply using a flat that belonged to the bride and booting out her brother who was currently living there (cheers Matt).

For the Weekend Away Hen, I found The Mount which is just disgustingly beautiful, and reasonably priced for 11 people staying three nights. If you were at the Sluttery Hoxton Hotel event this week, *this* is the place I was on about! A stupendously beautiful ancient house a mile out of Rye, in East Guldeford, it has six bedrooms, two sitting rooms, a dining room, a big old kitchen and loads of space.There was even an outdoors games room, with ping pong, and a tiny tricycle which the bride cycled around on, laughing manically.

Doors made for dwarves
My very tall friend Hugh and I had to crane our heads through some of the tiny doors, but headroom is mostly fine, one of the sitting rooms aside! One of our guests had to go to A&E with concussion after banging her head - take care!

It was the perfect place for our hen: romantic, adventurous, and exactly right for a weekend of food, drink and good chat. And ridiculous fancy dress, obviously.

Cater it yourselves with the help of Asda or Tesco
Tesco's cava is the absolute bomb. And having everything you need delivered to your venue makes everything loads easier. Don't make this harder on yourself by having to buy everything on your way there. THIS IS A TERRIBLE PLAN.


Excluding travel - most people carshared - but including food and drink

The Weekend Away Hen
- Friday to Monday in The Mount at Rye
- Dinner and welcome drinks on the first night (courtesy of an Asda delivery and prepped with friends)
- Vineyard tour at Biddenden Vineyards on Saturday with pre-booked minibus
- A lot of cooked breakfasts
- Fancy dress dinner party on Saturday night
- Intensive hangover nursing and a trip into Rye on Sunday
- Cars and trains home on Sunday and Monday

COST: £113 per person

The Pick 'N Mix One Day Hen
- Cocktail class at LVPO
- Dirty Dancing dance class with Dance Party Experience at Pineapple Dance Studios
- Games (pass the parcel, trivia, custom board game etc) karaoke and food at bride's flat

COST: £60 per person

Things not covered
Scandal usually occurs at a hen. If it's good scandal, it will entertain you for ages, and if it's bad scandal, it will drive you insane for a few months, before it's all passed over and will then entertain you for months. Ultimately, all you want is for a large gaggle of unconnected people to have a good time, and for the bride to have the best time possible with all her friends around her. And doing that well, however much effort, is a truly terrific feeling.

Whether you threw your friend a hen, or have had one yourself, we want to hear about your hen night! Share your tips with us and future Sluttery brides and maids of honour.


  1. I helped to organize my friend's hen do last year. Naively, we thought that booking it through a hen party website would be easier and cheaper. Oh how wrong we were. The first estimate (for one night at a hotel, burlesque dance classes, a meal and a trip to the Bierkeller) came to almost £200 per person! We decided to look at booking it all separately, and dropped the burlesque class in favor of a cheaper spa session and dressing up for the night out. Doing this, the whole price was £65 per person. This not only included entrance to and a meal at the Bierkeller, a room at a fantastic hostel and manicures at a lovely little (and VERY vintage-inspired) beauty parlour, but we were able to buy the bride's outfit for the night!

    1. Dude! YES! This is exactly what I'm talking about. I used a few of those sites when I was first planning out what to do - other than the fact they were almost universally tacky, they were whoppingly overpriced and didn't offer anywhere that felt like somewhere we would actually like to stay.

      Your friend's hen sounds amazing - how lovely to buy her outfit for her, and a trip to a bierkeller is ALWAYS excellent. What a lovely time!

  2. Brilliant -almost makes me wish I was getting married again so I could do another hen night! I went to a rock and blues festival for the weekend - £49 per ticket. Had a great weekend and also got treated to the hilarious sight of my mum and her friends trying to negotiate guy ropes and tent pegs while twisted!

    Also - Magician Moth looks amazing, but she needs to watch her back. I have my eye on that wonderful cape...

    1. Ha! You'd jump out of your skin when you saw her back - she had a skull mask on the back of it!

      The festival sounds absolutely lovely Emmy Lou, and how nice to do something with your mum too!

  3. Great article! My hen do was awesome and cheap- we stayed in a cottage by a canal for the weekend, sleeps up to 11 and gets cheaper the more people you have. This one's great, reasonable price, in the middle of the country (as in England, not the countryside!). Shops in walking distance for supplies and perhaps MOST important, a nice canal-side pub nearby. We basically holed up there and provided our own entertainment using whatever skills people had- one girl did chocolate making, another did quilling. AND we had party bags with crayons and a colouring book in. We did all our own cooking, the kitchen is really well stocked. Highly recommended for a low-cost DIY Hen Do!

    1. That's a terrific hen, quiwenneth! It sounds absolutely relaxing, and very spoiling as well.

  4. Looks fab, I especially like Magician Moth :)

    I have an afternoon tea delivery business and we're doing lots of hen parties that people have put together themselves online. In a couple of weeks I'm delivering a totally slap-up and luxurious afternoon tea with vintage china and table linens for £19.50/hd to a hen party who are renting a house in Cheshire for the weekend. Afternoon tea is sometimes less expensive than dinner or lunch or a big pub/cocktail crawl and certainly suits those who don't drink much/mums/older ladies/pregnant brides to be, either out at a hotel (stay as long as you like), at home (delivery company) or DIY (everyone bring a cake, some finger sandwiches and a box of leaf tea). You can dress in tea dresses and hats if you like (or not if you hate the idea). Vintage makeovers (hair and make-up) are another option before an afternoon tea or night out. One of my other really popular hen parties is a Crafternoon Tea Party, where everyone gets to make/sew something, followed by afternoon tea; it's a really relaxing way to spend an afternoon and doesn't have to involve alcohol, or you can pop open a bottle of fizz.

  5. Heading off on a hen do next weekend to... see the Dream Boys nooooooo! ( I did NOT organise it!)

  6. I work for a stag and hen company organiser-obviously we are a business and will add a small amount of profit on (generally £30-£35) per person but we also get massive discounts on the hotel and activities...and more often than not booking with us will be the same price if not cheaper than booking it direct. Also, written generally give the hen her place for free. We aren't all bad promise :) but yeah some companies will quote ridiculous prices. Take that quote to another company and they WILL beat it for you. There are also lots of benefits of going through a company too- your money is protected even if suppliers go bust etc, you can book the whole thing with a small deposit and they can help you organise collecting money from everyone too

  7. Hi Kat, I had arranged a hen party for my friends when I was getting married. We enjoyed the party by playing hen night games which I specially included in my party. There was lots of food, drink and fun. It was awesome and part of my life.

  8. Ooh where did you get the bridal cocktail stirers from? Love a few novelty accessories! :)


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